Skaters' Wings




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By Dan Beard

Skimming over the glassy surface of an ice-bound river or pond, propelled by the wintry blast blowing against artificial wings of cloth, is but a degree removed from flying.  The friction of your skate runners upon the ice is so slight that it is not difficult to imagine that you have left the earth and are soaring in midair. 

Every boy who has had any skating experience knows what hard work it is to skate against a stiff wind, and almost all who ever fastened skates to their feet must have enjoyed the luxury of sailing over the ice before the wind with a spread coat or open umbrella doing duty as a sail. 

For some time back people in widely separated parts of the world have made more or less successful attempts at transforming themselves into animated ice-yachts, and in Canada, Norway, and other cold countries, men with sails rigged on their backs or shoulders have "tacked," " come about," and "luffed" themselves in a novel and highly entertaining style, but lately, for some reason or other, this sport has been allowed to almost die out, and we are now indebted to two or three writers for reintroducing skate-sailing to the public with original suggestions and improvements. Mr. Charles L. Norton, editor of The American Canoeist, was, I believe, the first to call the attention of the public in general, and the boys particularly, to this delightful sport. 

In an article published in the St. Nicholas Magazine, entitled "Every Boy his Own Ice-Boat," Mr. Norton describes a new and original device, consisting of a double sail, which is so simple in construction, and yet so strong, light, and easy to manage, that it is sure to become a favorite rig with the boys, both large and small. 

Following in the footsteps of Mr. Norton, and adding to our information on this subject, comes T. F. Hammer with an interesting article published in the Century Magazine, in which this gentleman gives some personal experience as a winged skater and a detailed description of the Danish skate-sail.  

Among the many reasons given by skate-sailors why this new and highly exhilarating pastime should come into general favor are these: skate-sailing can be practiced and enjoyed on ice too rough for ordinary skating, and a light fall of snow that ruins the ice for the common skater improves it for the winged yachtsman.  Salt-water ice that is too soft for one to enjoy a skate upon affords a better foothold than smooth, hard, fresh-water ice, and is preferable on that account. 

Wherever you can skate there you may sail, and when the skating proper is ruined, it often happens that the qualities of the ice are improved for sailing. There is no record of a serious accident happening to any skate-sailor, although one may attain, literally, the speed of the wind , the higher the rate of speed the less danger there appears to be, for in falling a person will strike the ice at such an angle that he is merely sent sliding over the surface, and little or no damage is done.

For additional information on how to Skate Sail, see:

How to Skate Sail

For How to Build Skate Sail Rigs, See:

Skate Sail Plans

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Last modified: October 15, 2016.