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Ice Boating in Bellport, 1963

by Paul Craig
(Martinez, CA)

Bellport Marina

Bellport Marina

Bellport Marina

I took this picture during a fantastic winter in Bellport.

I was doing physics research at Brookhaven Laboratory. I eventually ended up as a professor at the University of California in Davis, from which I'm now retired and living along the Sacramento River in a little town called Martinez.

I'd been a lifelong sailor, and loved the Great South Bay. I had a small cruising boat -- a Schock-22. I frequently sailed over to the Old Inlet Club in the summer. Loved the Club and the beach. I wonder if the Club's still around.

A group of us built 14-foot Windmills under the guidance of Ed Laviano, who lived in a lovely house at the very foot of South Howell's Point Road in Bellport. I lived up the way from him at 58 S Howell's Point Road

When I learned about Scooters, I wanted one. Someone pointed me to an ancient wooden one, which I bought and learned how to sail. Occasionally I borrowed a DN, which was also fun.

I broke through the ice on more than one occasion, and had to hoof it back for haul-out help. I never managed to do the kind of leap from ice-to-water-back-to-ice which I was told was possible. The Scooter design did let me sometimes break through and remain dry while climbing onto the ice.

My most memorable adventure involved my pregnant and visibly bulging wife. There were three of us on the boat. She was sitting toward the stern. I, the skipper, was by the mast. We hit a bump in the ice and I managed to drop the jib control line (it probably has a special name, which I don't know. It somehow seems wrong to call that line a 'tiller').

Anyway, the Scooter bore away fast, and ended up doing a couple of 360 turns. In the process my wife was centrifuged off the stern. I have a strong visual memory of her bouncing across the ice.

I have an even stronger memory of her mood-- her refusal to get back aboard, of her hike home across the ice, and of family tension for a few days thereafter.

The kiddo came out fine, and these many decades later has a kid of his own.

The Scooter didn't do so well. I stored her on her side up against a tree. Winters were warm, summers wet, and the carpenter ants or termites active. After a few years I discovered she was riddled with holes. Unsalvageable.

She was sure a lot of fun while she lasted.


Editor's note: Ice boating is alive and well on Long Island. Check out the Lake Ronkonkoma Ice Boat Club for more information. -Bill

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Nov 05, 2017
Good old days on LI and Benicia
by: Anonymous

thanks Don!
Paul Craig

Nov 05, 2017
I was also there in 1963
by: Don Burbach

I grew up in East Patchogue(Patchogue Shores) and also traveled in these same circles in the early 60's. I never had my own boat, but my best friend had a DN ice boat, and another friend had a 14 foot Windmill.

It's funny that Paul Craig(OP) lives in Martinez, CA.... I just moved from Benicia, CA after 20 years. I had a water view and could see Martinez across the Carquinez Strait. My first crush lived on South Howells Point Road, Bellport NY.

I've just retired from boating in San Francisco Bay after 26 years, and another +20 in NY.

Good times for sure! Don Burbach, Wilton CA

Nov 16, 2011
by: Bill

That's a great story, Paul. I have a similar memory about a girlfriend bouncing across the snow after falling off the back of my snowmobile. It was quite a sight!

Sorry to hear about the Scooter's demise. I guess nature was reclaiming what was hers to begin with.

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