The Muskegon County Museum has photographs of ice boating in West Michigan dating before the 1930s.
In 1954, Paul Eggert, brothers Ed and Larry Tickner, Charlie Jacobson, Jim Spencer and Vern Bolling got together and built six DNs to sail on Spring Lake. “Ed Tickner made eight boats himself during the 50s,” said Eggert.
From the earliest days, club members have been interested in racing their ice boats. Eggert finished third in the first International DN Ice Yacht Racing Association (IDNIYRA) Annual Regatta on Cass Lake in February of 1954. Then in 1956 on Lake St. Clair, he won the William E. Scripps trophy, an award donated by the Detroit News newspaper to promote early interest in DN racing.
In the 1960s, Gordon Torresen, Bruce Wathan, and Tom Freye built DNs. They sailed and kept them in front of Joe Schiller’s house on Muskegon Lake next to the Yacht Club. Joe Schiller sailed an Arrow. Jerry Bakke bought a boat from Gordon that was built from a kit supplied by Mel Holman of the Toledo Ice Yacht Club.
In the 1970s, Don Fisher’s house on Peninsula Point on Mona Lake was the center of club activity. Jerry Bakke and Neil Tighe owned a DN together. Paul Wickland bought one of the original Gougeon Bros. boats, which at that time sold for $800 complete. A lively group of sailors made the most of the conditions on Mona Lake, and the hospitality at Fisher’s house. Austin, Dave and Tim Freye, Dave D’Alcorn, Chip Sawyer, Bruce Wathan, Larry Price, and Steve and Joe Schiller were among the crowd. Sailors from Grand Rapids and Jackson showed up to race.
With Chip Sawyer moving to White Lake in 1975, the sport of ice boating began to blossom there. He brought one of the first of many Stern Steerers over from Wisconsin in about 1977. During the 1980s, good conditions for ice boating were enjoyed on area lakes. Chip along with his sons Erik and Richard sailed Renegades. Ice boaters always enjoyed Chip and Sue Sawyer’s hospitality when sailing at White Lake.
Brothers Bill and Jim Westover bought Skeeters in the early 1980s that were originally built for Chris Smith in Holland, Michigan. Smith was one of the founders of the Chris Craft boat works. The Westover brothers promoted ice boat club activities and gave many people Skeeter rides in the backs of their two-seater boats.
A few members of the club were serious about actively racing in organized regattas. In 1973, Jerry Bakke learned about the first DN Gold Cup held on Gull Lake north of Kalamazoo. Jerry participated in the inaugural DN World Championship. In 1986, the DN North American Championship was sailed here, and Muskegon Yacht Club was the headquarters.
Many ice boaters got their start in the sport with a ride in one of the Sawyer’s Stern Steerers. In the early 1990s, Chip Sawyer, Tom Mallory and others from White Lake went to Wisconsin and bought a few Skeeters at a swap meet at Lake Geneva.
In the early 90s, Art Balzer saw Randy Rogoski’s DN on its trailer during a chance meeting at the Wesco gas station in North Muskegon. About the same time, John Fredericksen introduced his brother Marty to the DN. Art and Marty traveled together to the 1992 DN North Americans in Madison, Wisconsin, and from that trip a most productive boat building collaboration began. They built jigs and fixtures, a plank mold, a composite mast mold, and other tooling for shaping hulls and runners. They turned out, together with other club members, many hulls, planks, masts and runners for DNs. In the new millennium, boat building activity was centered in Allan Dake’s workshop. Club members who built boats include: Art Balzar, Al Balazovic, Bob Baglein, Jerry Brichan, Mark Burns, Allan Dake, Bob Duplissis , Mike Cook, Don Jones, Stan Jones, Mike Meneau, and Paul Wickland.
Club members who regularly competed in DN regattas during the 90’s and 00’s included Randy Rogoski, the Jones brothers and Vince Labozzetta, who beat 51 other boats to win the first Silver Fleet race at the 2002 DN North Americans in Minnesota. Randy Rogoski also served as the IDNIYRA Central Lakes Rear Commodore from 1998 to 2001, and he was the Regatta Chairman for the 2001 DN World & North American Championships.