Help Solve an Ice Boat Mystery
Mystery Ship: Please Help Us Solve the Riddle of this Unusual Metal Iceboat
The NEIYA has been asked to help solve a mystery involving the type, age, provenance, usage and ownership of an aircraft fuselage-style metal-skinned iceboat found in the basement of a bank building in Bridgeport, CT in 1990. The bank staff had no knowledge of the boat or how it came to be located in the basement. The boat is part of the non-public small boat research collection of the Mystic Seaport, located in the Rossi Mill building across the street from the north entrance to the Seaport. The collection will be viewable during the Wooden Boat Show June 29 to July 1 and is available for private viewing at other times. The collection includes two Great South Bay Scooters and two other iceboats in addition to the Mystery Ship.
The metal boat in question is 18’ 3” long, 4’ 4” wide and is made of heavy timber strakes supporting a wood frame sheathed in tin in the rear and fabric-covered aluminum in the front. It appears to be a stern steerer. In one of the pictures, a possible (double) runner can be seen. The purpose of the large steel ‘A frame’ atop the bow is unknown, but is presumably related to the rigging. The plank is an aluminum strut with a foil shape. There are four additional metal struts from 8’ to 13’ long. Note that in the pictures, the bottom of the boat is unsheathed. No sails were found with the boat. An examiner in 1995 noted that the construction and materials used suggested that the builder might have had experience with aircraft and suggested a build date in the 1920s or 1930s. Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. has been located near Bridgeport since 1929.
A major effort was made by the Seaport in the mid 1990s to learn more about this iceboat, with no luck. Hopefully the collective knowledge base represented by the NEIYA membership will produce a happy outcome. Please send a link to this article to your friends in other iceboat clubs. Reply to me with any questions or suggestions and I will summarize the responses at a later date.
Peter N. H. Burrow
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