Squam Speaker Series: Ice Sailing & Beyond with Martin Kimbell

Wednesday, February 5, 2020 - 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Our Squam Speaker Series is held once a month on Wednesday evenings. Join us for this month's talk, on Wednesday, February 5th to learn all about ice sports from Martin Kimbell. The lakes region offers so much beauty year round, and many people gather here in the winter to play. The ice is used by many from ice fisherman, skaters, nordic skaters, snowmobilers, 4 wheelers, cars & trucks, airplanes, snowshoers, dog walkers, hovercraft, otters, photographers, to ice sailors.

Ice sailing has been a long standing tradition here on Squam Lake and throughout the Lakes Region.  Even today, many ice boats still hang in the rafters of old camps around the lake. The majority of the boats are DN ice Boats, constructed from wood, on a triangular tripod with a mast, up on 3 skate blades with a hand held arm for steering.  The DN ice boat came about from an article in the Detroit News to start a competition for who could build the best ice boat, easy to make, and offer the public one design to support fun and sailing on the lakes of North America.  This came at a time in WWII when morale was low, and winters were long.  It spurred a resurgence of winter recreation, that is still alive and well today. The ice sailing history has a rich past and has attracted many people to the sport over the last 2 centuries, and beyond. 

Martin will discuss how ice sailing and ice sports have evolved over the years including his own journey in the sport. Martin was one of the original members of the Squambats, a local group of ice sailors who used hand held sails with ice skates or skis. Kiting doubled the season days on the ice in that it allows folks to sail on lighter wind days. Martin has plenty of stories and photos to share from ice boats, kitewings, kites, nordic skaters, ice skaters, to safety equipment. 


About the Speaker:

Early in his life, around 8 years old,  Martin Kimbell began sailing on Squam Lake with borrowed sunfish and catfish sailboats. His first time on a sunfish was in Sturtevant Bay at a Junior Squam Lakes Association (JSLA) gathering.  Soon after, he was invited to sail a catamaran with Dr. Henry Crane from the Three Sister Islands and Martin has been addicted to sailing ever since.  In 1984, his mom was given a 16’ Daysailer and she needed to learn to sail.  After being gone for 10 years (college and western life in Montana), Martin returned to the area to bring back his Custom Sewing and Boat Cover business to Holderness and to teach his mom his favorite sport. The sailboat stayed in Livermore Cove for half the summer and then moved to the Sailing Center (future SLA) for the other half of the summer and most of the spring & fall.  Martin kept many sailboats and catamarans at the SLA cove over the years and watched the evolution of the SLA and JSLA. 

A fellow catamaran sailor and good friend introduced Martin to the local ice sailing scene on Lakes Waukewan, Winnipesauke and Squam around 1992.  A large group of DN ice boats gathered regularly early in the winter season to sail the wonderful new black ice. It was the fastest, easiest sailing he had ever done. Martin was instantly hooked, and was given the chance to solo sail a DN ice boat on the first day of introduction.  Yeehaa!  Within a few years he acquired a stock production of a sunfish sail ice boat and was off and running.  First ice, for many years was on Lake Pemi in New Hampton. On foot or with ice skates, sailors scouted the ice for safety before each session early in the season. Using an ice awl, ax, or chisel, they chipped away at the new ice to check on the strength, quality, and thickness. The best ice is the newest ice before it cracks and comes alive with movement and ice ridges, with the smoothest blackest ice in the beginning of the season. While scouting the ice for holes and hazards, the first sailors usually mark any obstacles with pine or fir tree bows so that they are easily seen. Martin is quick to remind anyone venturing out onto the ice for fun and games that ice safety is paramount.  Each boater must bring a life preserver, ice picks with handles, and a rescue rope. 

About 14 years ago,  Martin was introduced to hand held sails that could be used on the ice with skates or skis.  He began using a Kitewing and solo sailing from the Grass Strip by the SLA on RT 3 out onto the ice.  His good friend who introduced him to ice sailing, came out for moral support and curiosity.  Well, he was soon the next kitewing sailor, sharing Martin's wing, giving them each a rest form holding on to the wing in all kinds of wind and ice and snow conditions.  Over the years they added a few more ice sailors to the group, catamaran sailors, and attracted a few more windsurfers and alpine skiers. They became known as the Squambats, a play on the original Skimbat name of the Kitewing origins.  In 2014, Martin's friends acquired the Kitewing company from Finland, and moved the operation to NH on Lake Sunapee.  In 2015 Martin became a dealer for the company, basing operations on Squam Lake, housed at Kimbell Designs by the Squam Bridge Landing.


SLA is located at 534 US Rt. 3 in Holderness. Click Here for a Google Map