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January 21, 2020

Ice Scooters of the Great South Bay

We have the utmost respect for those who find a way to get out and spend time on the water -- even in the colder months. In fact, with the right outlook, these months can be the most pleasurable and rewarding of all. Just ask a member of the South Bay Scooter Club. Since the early 1900s, these folks have been racing Scooter boats on the icy Great South Bay every winter. Read their take on the history of Scootering, originally published on the SBSC website.

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The evolution of the Scooter is not well documented. It did not evolve from a designer’s drawing board nor was there a class association. It evolved out of necessity. Something like this. Take an old duck puntie and add runners. A mast, sprit sail or gaff and a pike pole to steer her. Angle the runners to bite into the ice and to prevent the boat from sliding sideways. Add a jib to balance the main sail and a bit of rocker to the runners to increase steerage and you have a Scooter.

By the early 1900’s the Scooter was used almost exclusively for hunting and sport. Most of the early boats had two rigs. A small sprit-sail, which was used during the work week for hunting and fishing and a larger gaff sail rig used on the week-ends for racing or taking friends out for rides. As the boats begin to carry larger and larger sails, short lee runners were added to prevent the boats hull from scraping on the ice as the boats healed.

The scooter, unlike other iceboats is rudderless. She is steered by her jib. By trimming or slackening the jib one can change course. To head up, ease the jib and trim the main. To bear off, trim the jib and ease the main. Shifting your weight forward or aft accordingly accelerates the process.

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The first organized Scooter race occurred on February 23, 1903 off Patchogue New York and eventually Blue Point became the center of racing activity and the meeting place for Scooters. They came from as far away as Bellport to the east and Bayshore to the west. Betting on races was heavy and many local horseracing enthusiasts turned to the Scooter races for some out-of-season action. Extensive printed coverage of the Scooter races was provided not only by the local papers but also the New York City newspapers. Racing led to larger and lighter boats with more sail area. No longer could the boats sail or easily be rowed through open water. But, the water was still there. Instead, the fast new boats begin to jump the water holes and a new pastime was born.

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THE ARCHIVE

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