The extraordinarily chill image above is the work of photographer Adam T. Deen, whose solo exhibit "Hard Water Sailing: The Ice Boats of the Hudson River," is on view through March 31 at the Stewart House in Athens. The series is the product of weeks spent on the ice with the enthusiasts of the Hudson River Ice Yacht Club in early 2022, when the river blessed them with a workable expanse of ice off the coast of the town of Athens.
"The previous year, I saw them out on the on the ice and I was asking some of them about the whole thing and they were telling me how much of an occasion it is when they do get to go out," says Deen. "And so when I saw them last winter, I'm just like, I gotta go out as many days as they go out. So I tried to get out there as much as I could, just because it was very special and unique that it was happening. They definitely have that same sentiment."
Before an ice boat can catch the wind and glide, several factors need to fall perfectly into place: Not only must the ice be smooth and at least seven inches thick, it needs to have been cleared of snow by the wind, which still needs to be blowing briskly enough to fill the sails of the craft. Ice boaters do a lot of waiting, hoping, and checking. But when the glorious moment comes, it's on: Ice boats can achieve a speed of up to 70 mph.
"They're all just hooked on that thrill. I also think they really love hanging out with each other," says Deen. "It was great hearing their stories. And that moment when the wind picks up and everybody just drops whatever else they're doing—the boats are stunning in motion. Back when the whole river froze over, the ice boaters used to race the trains, but having enough ice is rare these days. You can't really plan for it, and I found myself loving the patience and passion it took to be right there in that moment."
And should you be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the boats yourself, Deen says their captains will welcome your company. "When they're out, they love it if you want to come check it out up close. They'll give you a ride—they're super excited to do that."