Summers on Lake Hopatcong are great. But for Gerry Weiss, the winter months are his favorite on the lake and may just be a bit more exciting. The freezing temps and blistering winds that typically keep people indoors draw Weiss out and unto the lake.
Gerry looks forward to a smooth frozen lake and a 10-20 mph breeze to enjoy what could easily be called an extreme sport, ice sailing.
For Weiss, the sport has become a passion since joining the Lake Hopatcong Ice Yacht Club in 1995 to learn more about iceboats.
“They looked interesting to me. But I had never been on one until I built my own from scratch and started to sail,” said Gerry.
He was hooked on the cold sport right away and is now the commodore of the Ice Yacht Club, making sure the ice is safe for its members and seeing to it that potentially dangerous areas are properly flagged.
When the ice is deemed safe, members gather to assemble and rig their boats to race, with speeds ranging from 45 to 80 mph. If the wind is not in the sailors’ favor for racing, they use the wind they can find to cruise around what Gerry refers to as “a big playground.”
Gerry is prepared for days when the wind is not strong enough for iceboat sailing. He puts on his speed skates and sails across the lake going approximately 30mph—on a good day—operating his 9 foot high, kite shaped sail.
But Gerry Weiss could easily be called a four-season man, making the best of each season on the lake he has loved all his life.
“I’ve spent every summer at the lake since I was two. My family lived in Jersey City and my father built a summer home in East Shores Estates with my uncle’s help shortly after I was born,” said Weiss. “I remember it being so exciting when, as a child, I’d look up the lake and see an amusement park as we played in the water almost every day.”
He also noticed boats and soon wanted his own to explore the lake. Being handy, like his father and uncle, Weiss built himself a boat beginning with a piece of plywood he received on his 12th birthday. Weiss was thrilled when a neighbor gave him a 12-foot powerboat with an 18-horsepower motor.
“I was on the lake all day, every day, exploring all summer long. I have had a boat on the lake ever since,” said Weiss.
When Weiss turned 18 he headed straight for the lake and hasn’t left since. He eventually bought the lake house his father and uncle built and still calls it home. With his wife, Barbara, the two also have an island summer home retreat…on what better place than Lake Hopatcong’s Raccoon Island.
The Weisses feel like they are truly away when they leave their mainland home and head to the island for some down time.
“It’s a different world on Raccoon Island. It’s like Lake Hopatcong was in the 50s and 60s, it’s all summer homes, and everybody is on vacation. It could be a cabin in Vermont but I wouldn’t be able to go there 2 to 3 times a week all year round,” said Weiss.
In 1997 Weiss took a risk and did what many people only dream of: he left the career he had worked at for the past 32 years and started a second career—a business as a handyman, called the G.W. Weiss company—serving the community he loves so much. Many of his customers are lake house owners who need work done to their houses or on their property. No job is too small and all are equally important as are his customers, many of whom Weiss has worked for for years. Weiss maintains and makes repairs to his customer’s property, from the basement to the roof.
“The business took off and shortly after my wife Barbara started working with me. She loves it as much as I do and our customers love us. I consider myself one of the luckiest people I know," he said. "Happily married, 2 great sons (grown up and moved out), a beautiful grandson, great neighbors at both houses, and good health."