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Membership Info, Officers & Staff and
Open from mid-April through mid-October, Sandy
Bay Yacht Club is located north of Boston on Cape Ann, at the end of T Wharf in Rockport Harbor
where our current Clubhouse was built in 1930. A newspaper clipping from the May 22, 1885
"The Sandy Bay Yacht Club held its initial
meeting for permanent organization last Monday evening. There was a good attendance, and
the following gentlemen were chosen officers: Leander M. Haskins, Commodore; Howard H.
Haul, Fleet Captain; Lemuel Clark, Measurer; Chas. Mills, Secretary and Treasurer. Regatta
Committee - Chas. Cunningham, G.T. Margeson, Grafton Butman, Wm. Hale, H.H. Paul. A
meeting will be held next Monday evening at the Club Room, Haskins' Block."
Since that time we have been actively involved
in sailboat racing and training, for both juniors and adults.
Over the years both our one-design fleets and
cruising boats have changed and kept up with the times. Our current one-design fleets are:
Bullseyes, Club 420s, Flying Scots, Lasers, Optimists, Rhodes 19s and Stars. Racing under
PHRF rules, our cruising fleet includes numerous designs from 23 to 44 feet. Along with
our regular series racing, SBYC has hosted numerous one-design Championships, including
District as well as National Events.
Begun in the 1930s, our Sailing Program has
grown rapidly over the last several years. We now accommodate approximately 175 different
kids sailing in Optimists, Club 420s and Lasers and 35 adults learning to sail in Rhodes
19s and Bullseyes. Many of our students have become accomplished sailors and racers.
Not all of our activity is sailing around the
buoys, pleasure sailing or even chasing down that prized striped bass. There are numerous
social activities to enjoy while ashore, ranging from potluck or catered dinners to our
well attended Sunday morning coffees. Juniors also have numerous social events to choose
from, including cookouts and movie nights.
With thanks to James Runkle and Harry
Whalen, the following history is excerpted from their book "100 Years of Sailing at
Sandy Bay", published in 1985:
Cleopatra had her barge. But it was not until recent times
that many pleasure sailors had their "barges" and had a need or desire to pool
forces with other pleasure sailors. "Where did you get that aluminum mast? Is it
strong enough?" And the next day, "Hey, someone tow me back to the dock - my
aluminum mast broke!" Or to see which boat is faster - how can you race without
someone to race with? How can the race be fair without rules? And so the need grows for
some kind of organization.
"Summer cottages with an ocean view" were all the
rage in 1885 along the North Shore of Massachusetts Bay. White-collar workers of Boston,
New York and the Midwest had incomes sufficient to support their dreams of a second home
by the sea. And from these they went forth to summer fun on boats, competing in local and
inter-area regattas. Active fleets emerged in Marblehead, Manchester, Gloucester, Rockport
In 1885 Annisquam challenged Rockport to a race around
Thacher's Island. Annisquam must have had an organization to issue the challenge; Rockport must
have had one to accept it. So we say a sailing club, from which ours is descended, existed
here in 1885.
Like so many legends of the sea, the Sandy Bay Yacht Club
seems just to have appeared. Marshall Swan's "TOWN ON SANDY BAY" says on page
221 that, riding on the crest of interest in yachting during the 1870s and 1880s, it was
founded in 1885. There is the legend mentioned above that refers to the challenge from
Annisquam. By 1887 there was a public announcement of a Regatta, "Open to all Boats
entered in the Sandy Bay Yacht Club", to be sailed off Rockport Saturday, July 9th,
1887. The Second Grand Annual Regatta, "Open to all Yachts of 30 feet and under,
Sailing Length" was "To be Sailed off Rockport Monday August 1st, 1887,
Commencing at 1 o'clock, sharp."
The Regatta of July 9, 1887, listed two classes, with the
provison that "Two boats must compete in each class or no race. Three boats must
compete or no second prize." The first class consisted of yachts measuring 20 and
less than 30 feet, with the first prize the Harwood Cup valued at $40, and a second prize
of $10. In the second class were "Yachts measuring less than 20 feet," with the
first prize $15 cash and the second $10 (presumably also cash). The club course was about
six miles, with both classes going over the course twice. There is a note that PROTESTS
"must be made to the Judges within one hour after the races. Judges' decisions will
According to Swan, in August 1883 four yachts had raced
around Tha(t)cher's Island. By July 1886 "The club had 35 boats with new ones to be
added." And in 1887 a Sailing Dory club was formed. The ADVERTISER commented that
"Few clubs along the coast can or will show a better lot of prizes than Sandy Bay has
now on exhibition." Robinson's HISTORY OF MARBLEHEAD mentions a regatta in Rockport in
1885; a framed placard at the Yacht Club advertises a special regatta from Sandy Bay to
Newburyport for the Cunningham Cup in 1886. Fliers similar to this have been found in
Yacht Club archives announcing regattas in Rockport.
1885 is the same year they began work on the outer breakwater
that was to provide a "Harbor of Refuge" large enough to contain the entire
Atlantic Fleet. Some years later, Teddy Roosevelt's 'Great White Fleet' would indeed
anchor there. Photographs of that time show all the sailboats gaff rigged, with a bowsprit
and a straight stem. So we have a good idea what our earlier club members' boats looked
Since the nineteenth century, of course, fashions have
changed in hulls and rigging. As various types of racing craft have been developed,
pleasure sailors of Rockport have kept up with them. The Club has provided classes to keep
all the racing compatible and according to rules. And, in testimony to the interest and
vigor with which Rockporters pursued their boating, we note that in 1905 the "Law and
Order League" was vexed that Sunday yacht racing was increasingly common.
We have this degree of documentation as to the founding and
existence of our club. But until 1930 details of sailing at Sandy Bay are incomplete and
unreliable. the yacht club organization lacked formality; interest seems to have ebbed and
flowed like the tide. The result is that few written records have been found, and that
even the remarkable memories of our ninety-year-olds cannot be expected to stretch back
farther than 1910.
We must rely on what information can be gleaned from a study
of these other yachting club histories and a close examination of the old photographs of
Rockport Harbor, which gives us a fair picture of racing sloops of the time. Few of these
boats were exactly alike, as we would expect today of the boats in a racing
"class". "Official measurers" and "handicaps" were the lingo
of standard operating procedures. Just as with racing horses, racing sailboats were really
the hobbies of the well-to-do. And naval architects emerged as the creators of these
"rich man's toys", Herreshoff and Crowninshield being two of the famous.
In the original regattas sponsored by Sandy Bay in 1887,
entries were limited to boats under 30 feet in length, usually in two or three classes.
The first class included boats of 24 to 30 feet; the second, 21 to 24 feet, and the third,
boats under 21 feet. When the owner of a boat found that he and his paid skipper
consistently came in last, it behooved him to get a new skipper or a newly designed boat.
After 1915 boats of a given design were being built according
to the same specifications, so that the results of races would be based on the skill of
the skipper and crew in sailing a standardized craft over a clearly marked course and
under the same prevailing conditions of wind and weather. As the Star class and Bird class
proliferated in Sandy Bay, the club measurer had to concentrate only on the measurement of
sails. The very early Star boats had a gaff rig, which soon gave way to a marconi, which
still had a short mast and a long boom. It is generally thought that Homer Clark's 'Sans
Souci' introduced the new modern design which has proved very successful through the
Massachusetts Bay 18-footers were the early "I"
class boats. According to Myron Brown, after a substantial fleet of these boats had been
commissioned at Manchester by well-to-do owners belonging to the Manchester Yacht Club,
the boats took on the Manchester "I" title. Although yacht racing with paid
skippers and crew seemed to be the vogue in Manchester at that time, we have no record
that this substitute for horse racing occurred at Sandy Bay.
Our Sandy Bay sailors were not entirely leisure time sporting
sailors, so to speak. Retired Captain Frank Pierce, for instance, Star boat skipper and
noted cribbage player, had sailed stone sloops up and down the coast carrying granite
products from the Pigeon Cove quarries. Stories have been passed down of how those craft
were loaded until the decks were awash, with only the bow, hatch and stern showing above
water, leading to the moniker of "floating ledges". Old Salts claim that there
are still piles of granite cobblestones occasionally found on the bottom along the East
Coast, as all that is left of overladen stone sloops from Rockport. And, of course, there
is the story of the stone sloop overdue and given up for lost after the 1898 storm in
which the steamer PORTLAND went down with all hands off Race Point, when, a couple days
late, she made her port: "Mighty big blow", said her skipper.
As far as a club house is concerned, Hosea Pierce says that
Yacht Club members kept their boats year around in the corner of the harbor where the
breakwater meets the end of Bearskin Neck, and behind "Gum Drop" or
"Haystack" rock. He says a wooden staircase went down to the water's edge at the
granite wall. Another legend says that the "United Nations" house at the end of
Bearskin Neck was possibly the first Club House. In light of the story of the wooden
stairs, this might be possible. The Historical Marker says it was a survey site for the
outer breakwater. Although photographs prove that it existed by 1910, June York, 92 years
of age, says she doubts it was a club house for the yacht club. We shall see later that
1931 was the critical year concerning our present club house.
Our Certificate of Incorporation is dated in 1930. Old-timers
remember that the club was "re-organized" in 1931 and went into the business of
a new clubhouse with a mortgage which was largely underwritten by Lindley Dean and paid
off in two years by club members. The spring after the reorganization the first race was
held in March, to Thacher's and back. The wind freshened so that skippers were reluctant
to jibe, and one boat went skidding ashore at Pigeon Cove. A lighter side of the history of
our clubhouse refers to what some of the sailors did all winter, every winter, after the
building had been constructed in 1931. From that time on a devoted group of members played
cribbage there until 1961, when Steward Arthur Swanson retired and the building was shut
down to save fuel. After that they continued their cribbage competition in Hosea Pierce's
basement on Atlantic Avenue for the next five years. And with rugged names like Hosea
Pierce, Musty Somers, Fooey Davis, Polo Cooney, Spooksy Grover, Fuzzy Hawley, Dyke Brown,
and Duffy Blatchford on the roster, how could this yacht club fail to succeed?
Leadership of the club, again, has not been too clearly
spelled out in the records. Myron Brown tells us that our first Commodore, Marion Cooney,
elected in 1931, was a great promoter of boating safety. The "pun'kin seed"
boats, such as the Fish and the Bird classes, supposedly stable, with a centerboard for
adaptability to the shallows of the Annisquam River, for instance, and sailed at Rockport
in 1930, he considered to be unsafe for our conditions on the open Atlantic, and under his
leadership members approached John Alden, the prolific yacht designer of Massachusetts
Bay, to draft up two rugged and seaworthy boats especially for Cape Ann Atlantic waters.
These emerged as the Sandy Bay class and the Pilot class. It is said that when Bent Story
was sailing his new "Sandy Bay" from the Marblehead boatyard to Rockport, by
happenstance he was overtaken by John Alden in one of his schooners. After sailing a
circle around the slower Story, Alden was heard to comment, "I guess I should have
made the mast three feet longer".
Commodore Cooney urged that every boat be entered in every
race. If an owner or a skipper had to be absent, a substitute was found to bring the boat
to the starting line, which was always off Bearskin Neck. During the race, the mooring
area was empty of boats. And during Marblehead Race Week, the harbor was empty for the
entire week, with the "fleet" all in Marblehead for the "big" regatta
of the summer.
By 1935 we know that the Sandy Bay Yacht Club had been
formalized, with incorporation in 1930, Constitution and Bylaws and an energetic year of
building and putting out floats etc. in 1931, and a lease taken out for the property where
the Club still is today. In fact, in 1931 a daily log was kept for the entire year, with
details of the rapid development of the facilities, the weather, and many seaside events,
as can be read in excerpts printed in the body of this book. From 1935 onward, our Club
was an organized, recognized yacht club with its own clubhouse and floats.
By 1940 we know from the records that there were 38
registered boat owners. In 1941 Rockport fishermen and yachtsmen formed a local United
States Coast Guard Auxiliary. In 1976 a Boat Parade was organized in honor of the 200th
anniversary of our United States of America.
But the story of the more recent years is best told through
the many illustrations, lists, and descriptions of One Design boats that have made up our
"fleets" over the past half century. Many Sandy Bay Yacht Clubbers will remember
the names, the boats, the scenes. And they will find so much of what they know firmly
rooted in the past that other photographs record. They will see the usable harbor grow and
many buildings around it change; marconi replaces gaff; hull shapes change to enhance
speed; even the "correct" racing attire is different. This compilation is to
please you, to interest you, to inform you - and to leave a record for those in 2035 to
see us and our forebears.