Sig­na­ture Edition

No one for­gets their first time, es­pe­cially on Lake Weatherby.

Sailing World - - Starting Line - 1st Time Dave.

O See­ing an ice boat fly across the ice at more than 40 miles per hour is usu­ally met with ex­cited and amazed cu­rios­ity from by­standers: “Wow, how does that work?” they ask. “I’d love to ex­pe­ri­ence that, but I don’t know how to sail” or most com­monly, it’s, “Dang that’s cool, but I know I’ll never ex­pe­ri­ence it.”

I grew up racing sail­boats in the Mid­west and com­peted on both coasts of the United States. How­ever, from an early age, I knew I wanted to live and raise my fam­ily on a Mid­west­ern lake: Weatherby Lake in Mis­souri is per­fect mid-amer­ica, where I could raise my fam­ily sur­rounded by sim­i­lar peo­ple, who would be my friends for life.

I ac­com­plished my first goal when I mar­ried my wife, Lyn, in 1985. I found a house on Weatherby, knock­ing off goal No. 2. I was con­tem­plat­ing goal No. 3, hav­ing kids, when I stum­bled upon a garage sale in the neigh­bor­hood. Bingo!

I had al­ways wanted an ice boat, and there sat an old, dust-cov­ered light-blue DN need­ing re­pairs. Michael and Jan Gunn, who had pur­chased it used from Weatherby res­i­dents who built sev­eral in the 1960s, were ex­cited to pass it on, as long as they made sure I knew what I was get­ting into. You know, the dan­gers and all.

I brought home the boat, stripped it down, made re­pairs and painted it white, know­ing I could choose an ap­pro­pri­ate color scheme and name later. Ice-boat sea­son was upon us, and ice boat­ing at Weatherby is very in­con­sis­tent. Com­peti­tors wait for thick ice, wind and no snow. We can go through a sea­son with­out a sin­gle op­por­tu­nity to race, so it’s para­mount our boats are ready, day or night, work­day or week­end. “The wind waits for no man,” my good friend Augie Gra­sis would al­ways say.

Dur­ing sum­mer, we race and beat up on each other in other craft. But as soon as win­ter ar­rives, ice boat­ing is the premier so­cial event, with all different types of ice boats: home­mades, DNS and Nites, usu­ally sur­rounded by mis­cel­la­neous ac­tiv­i­ties like ice bocce, ice golf, ice skat­ing, ice cam­pouts, ice fish­ing and even ice horse­shoes.

In 1988, my white boat had its thrilling maiden voy­age, and I was a wel­come new­comer to the club. It left me want­ing to share the ex­pe­ri­ence with oth­ers. As luck would have it, some non­sail­ing friends, Faye and Dave Southard, from Knoxville, Ten­nessee, were con­sid­er­ing a visit the fol­low­ing week­end.

I’d just fin­ished an­other moon­lit ice-boat run with Augie, and called Dave. “You’ve got to get here and try this!”

He agreed un­der one con­di­tion: “Don’t tell any­one it’s my first time.” True to my word, I didn’t tell any­one, but proudly cut and ap­plied the name in black vinyl across the boat, 1st Time Dave.

Dave was a sport that day, grin­ning ear to ear, run after run, among our ice-born neigh­bors. After a suc­cess­ful day, I asked him to au­to­graph the hull. He did so proudly, spark­ing an amaz­ing tra­di­tion that would live on for more than 25 years. Even my wife, who once con­sid­ered it “a bar­baric sport,” wanted her name on the boat after Dave’s ex­pe­ri­ence. She made her maiden voy­age and signed 1st Time Dave. By the time our sons Seth and Blake were old enough to sail and sign, there were at least 50 sig­na­tures al­ready. When new­bies see the sig­na­ture-cov­ered boat, fears sub­side.

Sail­ing an ice boat is easy. Be­cause it goes so fast, the wind is al­ways on the nose. The in­struc­tions are simple: Sail be­tween two spots (reach, reach), pull in the sheet to go fast, let it out to slow down. To stop, drag your feet and re­lease the sail.

The sig­na­tures, now in the hundreds, re­flect count­less 1st Time Dave sto­ries: “I fell in the wa­ter” wrote Adam Stul­man at age 8. Elderly Floyd Adams, a re­tired sailor, once took off down a cove, scar­ing all of us. Bob Mulhall for­got the feet-down stop­ping tech­nique. Ron Knop wished we’d pulled the racing marks be­fore the freeze. Even­tu­ally, the Seth and Blake years — filled with their friends sail­ing 1st Time Dave — put wear on the aging pine boat, while adding to its legacy. It be­came a chal­lenge to re­pair and re­tain as many sig­na­tures with com­ments as pos­si­ble.

I only wish a “per­ma­nent” marker were ac­tu­ally per­ma­nent. Our beloved DN is now mostly re­tired. We’ve had sev­eral ice boats, in­clud­ing the two-seater Nite, but 1st Time Dave was the one with a line, want­ing to sail and sign. Most ev­ery­one in our com­mu­nity of 800 fam­i­lies has their own 1st Time Dave story, but when­ever Dave Southard vis­its, he’s a folk hero. He’s the orig­i­nal

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