A Blue Streak 60 on Lake St. Clair in 1936
I was lucky enough to befriend one of the original builders of
the DN iceboat, Don Daller. Don was a great guy, always cheerful,
and came to every swap meet with a box full of early pictures
and articles about iceboating. When he finally got to where he
could no longer carry his iceboat to the ice, he sold me his boat
and transferred the sail number to me. I'm proud to sail with
number 46, and will always remember Don.
Later, as Don's health started failing, he asked me to take posession
of his collection of iceboat articles. For several years I brought
the binders to swap meets, but the pages were getting old and
some of the articles ended up missing. I always wanted to preserve
some of those articles, and this is a start.
What we call the DN Iceboat started out with humble beginnings
at the Detroit News hobby shop in the mid 1930's. The original
design was a collaboration between master woodworker Archie Arrol
and iceboaters Joseph Lodge and Norman Jarrait. Times were tough,
with the US in a deep depression, and most iceboats were expensive
toys of the rich and famous.
Joe Lodge and Norm Jarrait saw a need for an inexpensive, home-buildable
iceboat that could be built out of common lumber and simple hardware.
They designed the new iceboat so one person could load it on the
roof of a car, or fit it in the bed of a pickup truck. It was
Joe Lodge's idea to make the new iceboat a front-steerer. They
called their boat the Blue Streak 60.
Archie, who was the head of the Detroit News hobby shop and had
been building model yachts for years, worked with Joe and Norm
in 1936 to build the first Blue Streak 60.
Archie Arrol at work in the Detroit News hobby shop
The first Blue Streak performed very well, especially in light
wind. On the first day out on Lake St. Clair in the winter of
'36, while the big boats like Deuce, Bernida, and Flying Dutchman
couldn't move, the Blue Streak surprised the other iceboaters
the way she could sail with hardly any wind.
In 1937 a group of about 50 wanna-be iceboaters got together
at the Detroit News hobby shop, and for the sum of $32 were supplied
with all the materials needed to build a Blue Streak 60, including
a sail built by Howard Boston. In those days, $32 was a lot of
money, at the time Don Daller was working for $0.50 an hour, three
days a week. They scrounged parts where they could - the steering
was accomplished with '34 Ford brake rods, rigging was galvanized
steel from the local hardware store. The mast didn't have a halyard,
you simply cleated the sail at the top and bottom of the mast
and stood the whole rig up on the boat. The mast had a cut-off
lag bolt in the bottom which fit into a hole in the deck - no
ball and socket needed. Runners were angle iron on white oak bodies.
Unfortunately most of the boats built in 1937 broke up in the
first season due to some design deficiencies. Joe and Norm redesigned
the Blue Streak 60, and the same group of builders got together
to build a second set of iceboats in 1938. Some of the '38 boats
are still around, and at least one still gets out on the lake
occasionally. As seen in the picture below, sailors in the early
days didn't even take off the plank for transport! Also note the
front runner, the second set of runners the group built (the first
set were angles) were T-irons.
Some interesting things to note on the original "DN"
(see the picture below):
- There was originally only one sheet block on the rear deck
of the Blue Streak - a 2:1 mainsheet purchase. Later another
block was added to the boom to make a 3:1 puchase, and then
eventually a second block on the deck for 4:1 - the same as
on todays DN.
- The mainsheet went through a single turning block on the mast,
not on the boom or tiller post, and no ratchet block!
- The mainsheet didn't provide any downhaul on the luff of the
sail, instead the luff rope went through a hole in the boom
jaw and was tied to a cleat.
Over the years the design was modified at the whim of the builders,
and the name was changed to the DN 60. A group of DN sailors
got together in 1953 at Clifford Cartwright's house on Cass Lake
and outined a Constitution. The first Specifications were drawn
up on the wall of Cartwright's basement shop, where many of the
original specs are still evident today.
Note this winning Blue Streak 60 with curved deck, enclosed
cockpit, and foot steering
Bill Sarns drew up the first set of "modern" plans
and the DN class adopted them as the Official Plans. Other design
changes slowly made their way into the DN. Some changes stood
the test of time, while others faded into history, like Chuck
Cartwright's mini runner on the tail block - a solution to a problem
caused by the ultra-flexible planks favored at the time.
The next big change was inspired by Jan Gougeon - which moved
the widest point of the hull from the middle (just behind the
mast step) to the plank. The Gougeon "wedge" design
has been the basis for all other DN designs since it's introduction.
Actually Jan's design was preceded by Chuck Cartwright's "Banjo
Boat", which was narrow all the way to the front of the cockpit,
then flaired out around the skipper. Chuck won the Annual Regatta
with the Banjo Boat, but was thrown out because the design was
Here is a partial list of the first builders of the Blue Streak.
The list is not complete, but it's the only record I could find...
||Ralph Soden / Leo Kerwin
||Merle (Herb) Chandler
||Norman J Nicholl
I managed to locate a vintage set of blueprints for the original
Blue Streak 60 and scanned them. With much labor, I was able
to restore the scans to near perfect condition. For an insight
into how the original DN was built, check out the scans below...
The modern DN bears only a resemblance to the Blue Streak 60.
Under no circumstances should a DN be built in the 21st century
using these plans!
Original Blue Streak 60 blueprints
Click on the image to see a LARGE version (2 MB each)