The Yacht Clubs and Associations of Long Island Sound: Part I

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Where are Long Island Sound's yacht and boat clubs located? A large proportion of them,  
as you might expect, are at the western end of the Sound. Manhasset Bay, on Long Island, has ten clubs, the largest number in any one place, though six are crowded at Mamaroneck into a much smaller harbor. The largest congregations of clubs east of Bridgeport are on the Connecticut River and in the Peconic Bay, Shelter island area.

Many of the yacht clubs active on Long Island Sound have a long and distinguished history.

A) The American Yacht Club (Rye, New York) (excerpts from pages: 63-68 )

Even "robber barons" took time off for yachting between cornering the gold market and ruthless struggles for the control of a few railroads. In May of 1883 when Gould was 47 years old and at the height of his spectacular career, the American Yacht Club came into being, founded by Jay Gould and a group of his friends, who became the incorporators.

In the beginning, the club headquarters were in a brownstone house on Madison Avenue and 28th Street, in New York City, but they soon moved to 575 Fifth Avenue and the membership grew to over 100 yachtsmen from New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh, etc. none from Rye. It soon became obvious that the club needed a shore station and in 1884, Charles Island, near the entrance to Milford Harbor, Connecticut, was purchased. This however, was too far from New York and after an "Excursion by Water for a Clam Bake" on Milton Point, Rye, New York, in 1886, sentiment turned in that direction. In 1887, some 12 acres were bought at the tip of Milton Point, together with the rocks and islands known as Scotch Caps. The price was $6,000 for what has become one of the outstanding locations on Long Island Sound. It was bought from the Wainwright family.

On June 16, 1888, came the Grand Formal Opening of the new clubhouse, for men only. Ladies were allowed to come to the informal opening a week later. Soon four-in-hands and their horns were familiar sights and sounds on the road leading to the Club, while large yachts came and went to the blasts of guns in salute and the lowering or raising of the Captains' gigs.

Usually members from New York came by train to Harrison or Rye where they hired a public hack for the rest of the trip. But the hack drivers got very "unreasonable'" they wanted 50 cents for the ride. So the Club bought its own white percherons and coaches, and members made the trip for 20 cents, thus saving money to pay expenses on their yachts. On gala weekends it was not uncommon to see 20 coaches along the semi-circular fence on the club grounds, while surreys, dog carts, station wagons, and other equipages were housed in the club shed.

On May 20, 1896, the Board of Trustees voted that it was their sense "that women be permitted to sojourn at the Club House," and the House Committee was given the power to establish rules and regulations to this momentous end. On July 27, 1951, the three story frame building burned to the ground, despite the efforts of firemen from four adjoining towns. One brick chimney was all that was left.

B) The Indian Harbor Yacht Club (Greenwich, Connecticut) [excerpts from Page: 69]

On July 1, 1889, under the leadership of Frank Bowne Jones, Richard Outwater, Henry S. Doremus, Charles J. Hart and others, the Indian Harbor Yacht Club came into being, rising from the ashes of the old Greenwich Yacht Club.

The particular business of such society or club," it was originally stated, "Shall be to encourage and support the sport of yachting, the art of yacht designing and building, and the science of seamanship and navigation." Later, when incorporated, the following words were added: "and to provide for the amusement and recreation of its members."

This was primarily a sailing club and Henry E. Doremus was the first Commodore, William Ross Proctor the Vice Commodore, and Charles J. Hart the Rear Commodore. At the beginning the principal office was in New York, though before long quarters in Greenwich, Connecticut, were acquired on the steamship dock, then in the Indian Harbor Hotel, and next in a small house on
Tweed Island at the entrance of the outer part of the harbor. At that time a naphtha launch was added to the club facilities. In 1895, the present site was acquired at the end of the point which forms the eastern shore of the inner harbor. From here a commanding view is obtained of traffic in and out of the harbor and the waters of Captain Harbor which are inside of Great and
Little Captain Islands.

On October 2, 1919, the clubhouse burned to the ground, an all-too-common occurrence among Long Island Sound Yacht Clubs. The present large and attractive clubhouse was erected on the same site and in the fall of 1920 Commodore Douglas Grahame Smyth reported that the membership had reached 400, with a waiting list.

C) The Larchmont Yacht Club (Larchmont, New York) (excerpts from Pages: 71-73)

"In the early evening of Memorial Day in the year 1880, five young men were warming themselves over a bonfire built in a cleft of rocks on the shore of what is now Horseshoe Harbor, in Larchmont Manor. These five loved boats and they had just finished a hard racing day. Since a bonfire is scarcely the most comfortable way to close a hard day at sea, it is not surprising that these young men fell to discussing the possibility of organizing a yacht club.

They were Frank L. Anthony; Fred W. Flint, who owned the yacht Helen; William C. France, who owned the sloop Viva; Loring Lothrop, who owned the ship called Lively Oyster, and Charles W. Jenkins, who owned the Willis....Their boats were part of a mixed fleet of jib and mainsail sandbaggers, sloops and catboats....It was decided that evening to organize a yacht club to be
called the Larchmont Yacht Club and to invite others to join.

The problem of a clubhouse for the new Larchmont Yacht Club was resolved rather quickly. Fred Flint's father, T.J.S. Flint, a successful Chicago grain operator who'd come east to live, owned most of the property in Larchmont Manor from the Post Road south to the shore line. On this property was a small union Church facing Horseshoe Harbor. The young charter members (18 of
them) made a deal with the elder Flint for the use of the church as a clubhouse. The Club was to have the use of the church every day except Sunday when the clubhouse would be opened to them only after the church services were over. It was a momentous deal, the three year rental amounting to the total of #3.00. The membership soon grew too big for the church and after first leasing several houses the club bought from Benjamin A. Carver their present site of eleven acres on the westerly side of Larchmont Harbor. This was in 1887, the year the club was incorporated, and the Carver residence was used as the clubhouse.

On April 19, 1891, William Willard Howard wrote in the New York World words of warm praise for the Larchmont Yacht Club: "By far the most remarkable club in point of rapidity of growth and racing activity is the Larchmont Yacht Club which has its headquarters on the shore of Long Island Sound at Larchmont Manor. From the original dozen the Club has grown to a membership of 575 within the ten years of its life..." "One reason for the rapid growth and present popularity of the Club, apart from the earnest work of its administration, is the convenience which it has become for yachtsmen who sail the Sound. It is a sort of haven of refuge for all yachtsmen who are storm bound, hungry, seasick or homesick. If a yacht needs supplies she can put in at Larchmont.

D) The Manhasset Bay Yacht Club (Port Washington, New York) (excerpts from pages 76-77)

In 1887, W. J. Newman of Bayside and a group of about twenty kindred spirits organized the Douglaston Yacht Club. During the following year these men met at the Hotel Brunswick in New York, with some more enthusiasts added, and raised enough money to buy an old scow, and put a house on it with a piano and a bar. The dues were modest: $5.00 a year. The scow was berthed
along the shore of Little Neck Bay, where members held races, ran aground frequently and, as Commodore Newman put it, "with renewed recklessness and daring crossed the start and finish lines in mud and water (according to the state of the tide)."

The Manhasset Bay Yacht Club was the outgrowth of this club on Little Neck Bay, for before long some of its most earnest sailors decided to break away and seek better sailing conditions elsewhere. They found them on Manhasset Bay to the eastward, and leased land at Port Washington on the eastern shore of the Bay somewhat to the south of their present site. From an old Scow
with a house on it to the present luxurious headquarters of the M.B.Y.C. is a long way. But that is the way with some of the leading Sound yacht clubs as we are seeing in this chapter.

The Manhasset Bay Yacht Club was organized under that name in 1891 and incorporated in 1892. William J. Newman, who had headed up the Douglaston Yacht Club, became the first Commodore of the new organization. In 1902, while Commodore Stephen W. Roach was in office, the club purchased its present site and built a new clubhouse of Colonial design, which remained the club's headquarters until 1929, when the present clubhouse was erected, during the administration of Commodore Floyd Carlisle.

E) New York Yacht Club (excerpts from pages: 50, 78-81)

The oldest yacht club in the United States and the best known is the New York Yacht Club which was organized on July 30, 1844, and incorporated on February 16, 1865 "for the purpose of encouraging yacht building and naval architecture and the cultivation of naval science."

John Cox Stevens invited eight other yachtsmen aboard his schooner Gimcrack to organize the New York Yacht Club. The yachtsmen who assembled aboard the Gimcrack, while she lay at anchor off the Battery, may well be considered the founders of organized yachting in America. Their names were John Cox Stevens, Hamilton Wilkes, William Edgar, John C. Jay, George L. Schuyler, Louis A.
Depau, James M. Waterbury, George B. Rollins and Captain James Rogers. John C. Stevens had been elected the first Commodore.

In 1849, at the request of the Secretary of the Navy, the New York Yacht Club submitted a design for a United States Yacht Ensign. This was approved and the well-known flag with the foul anchor came into being. In 1859 the club sailed its first real ocean race, a race around Long Island, starting off the , clubhouse at Elysian Fields, passing by Sandy Hook, and along the south shore of Long Island, ending up with a trip westward on the Sound to Throggs Neck.

In November, 1872, the club established headquarters in Manhattan, where it has been ever since, in several locations, ending with its present one at 37 West 44th Street to which it went in 1901. J. P. Morgan had donated the land and the new clubhouse was built specifically for the purpose. The yachting world owes much to the New York Yacht Club.

F) North Shore Yacht Club (Port Washington, Long Island, New York) formerly the New York Canoe
Club) {excerpts from pages: 82-83]

The New York Canoe Club was organized in 1871 and despite its change in name and residences has been in continuous existence since that year, sharing with the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club the distinction of being one of the two oldest yacht clubs with headquarters now on Long Island Sound. The New York Canoe Club put canoe sailing ,cruising and racing on the yachting map and
under its new and old names has had a large part in keeping them there ever since. The change in name to the North Shore Yacht Club came in 1951.

"About 1951, the members tried to change the name to the New York Canoe and Yacht Club, but the Secretary of State advised that this name conflicted with a name quite similar which was already being used by another organization. Thereupon, the members incorporated the North Shore Yacht Club (1951). The members of the New York Canoe Club resolved very briefly that the By-Laws of the New York Canoe Club would constitute the By-Laws of the North Shore Yacht Club and that the officers and trustees of the New York Canoe Club would constitute the officers and trustees of the North Shore Yacht Club. The North Shore Yacht Club has therefore continued the New York Canoe Club or vice versa."

In the beginning, the club used English Rob Roy canoes but soon switched to a "Nautilus" design of an Englishman and veteran canoeist, Warrington Baden-Powell, whose canoes proved better suited to the turbulent waters of New York Bay. These were long sailing canoes, with a rig of jib, mainsail and mizzen, with plenty of freeboard, a strong sheer, handsome and fast. The canoes were stored at different boathouses about Manhattan and on Staten Island and the club was very much of a family affair, enjoying its dinners at Hickman's and later at the old Cafe Hungaria on Union Square. The first half-dozen years of the club's existence were devoted to cruising-the "true function of the canoe."


Website: The History
Article Name: The Yacht Clubs and Associations of Long Island Sound: Part I
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


Bibliography: From my collection of Books:  Long Island Sound
Author: Fessenden S. Blanchard; Publisher: D. Van Nostrand Company, Inc.-Princeton, N.J. Copyright: 1958
Time & Date Stamp: