Club History

Club Historian’s Note:

The following “History/timeline” was derived from old documents, recorded conversations with early and present club members, newspaper and magazine articles and issues of the Spyglass.  Some items may be in contradiction with other historical renditions.  If there were conflicting accounts, the dates and details that seemed most likely correct were chosen.  Special thanks to previous historians, particularly Steve DeLay and Junius Brown III, for researching and recording our club’s history up to 2009.
Starting with 2010 there are video links featuring the sitting commodores describing the highlights and accomplishments of their tenure.  Simply click on the links to watch.

Club Historian - John Lerch


William and Mary, reigning monarchs of England, bestow a royal grant for the tidal basin known as Great Salt Marsh (now SHYC). This grant allows for private ownership of the land under the water.


The State of Connecticut, through Governor Luzon B. Morris and approved by the General Assembly March 23, 1893 transfers all land lying beneath the waters of "Old Duck Pond" from mean high water down to Henry C. Eno.

1914 - 1946

Through a series of sales and transfers the "Great Marsh Estate" property ownership went from Eno to Rice/French (1914) to M. Minard (1920) to Fred Minard (1937) to Frances & J. Anthony Probst (1946).


The Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club, Inc. is created under Articles of Association signed and registered November 18, 1958 and approved by the State of Connecticut on December 31, 1958.


Richard Beck (father of Rick Beck and grandfather of Shawn Beck - both current members) is named as the first Commodore. Seniority numbers are issued to the membership starting at #25. Lud Gru (subsequently he becomes Commodore in 1966, 1967) is assigned seniority # 50. Club meetings are held at the YMCA, as there is no heat in the old carriage house on the Club site. The building is red and had no porch. The entrance to "Duck Pond" is blocked; the water is pumped out of the pond into the sound, and bulldozers push the muddy bottom up the sides of the pond to create a new basin.


A bond drive is held to fund the installation of pilings, the construction of the first floating docks in the area, and the creation of a unique bubbler system to stave off the formation of ice in the water. As new members are admitted, docks are built for them with funds from their dues and initiation fees. Initiation fees are $250 to $350. The real "high tech" of these early years was the miracle of the bubbler system to stave off the formation of ice (in-water winter storage was a rarity at the time). 35 H.P. motors were used to drive low-pressure compressors to supply the bubbler system. One of the original compressors remains in service today. We now use more efficient axial-flow blowers for the system. Insurance companies were skeptical at first and required a visit to the club before being convinced this new process was insurable. Some of the tough winters of the sixties and seventies often produced six inches of ice in the basin even with the bubbler system in full operation.


Mrs. Probst, the wife of SHYC founder, goes to New York to a professional flag designer and has a rectangular burgee designed. The colors are blue for the water, green for the foliage on the banks and white for the Saugatuck current sweeping out to the sound. The early versions are silk screened on canvas without hemming. Quality is poor. Research of LloydÂ's registry fails to produce a single instance of rectangular colors, so the flag is re-cut to the current shape.


A lease for the water area, the lift area, the gas dock and one square acre of land, is signed between the "Club" and J. A. Probst (DBA as Harbor Properties). Terms are $40,000 annually for years one and two, $45,000 for the next three years, and $50,000 -- cost of living indexed -- thereafter. 89 members open the season. The first Clam Bake is held. Admission is $6.50 per member. The Junior Sailing Program is established.


The first Spyglass is published. All members are invited to be the "guests of the Commodore" for holiday eggnogs at the "Newly Created Clubhouse". The Club phone number is CA 7-3607. The first New Years Eve party is held. The price is $12 per couple with "favors for the ladies and canned music." Year-end membership is 82. By - Law amendments are made establishing the position of Fleet Captain and changing the term of office for officers to coincide with the calendar year.


The first bond program is established. Each member is required to purchase six bonds for a total of $1,500 bearing 8% interest per year. The 100th member is welcomed with a 21-gun salute at the July fourth celebrations. Twenty-three "new members" swell the membership to full capacity at 102. Membership is frozen and a waiting list for entry is created. Eighty-seven boats are in the club. Dues are $150. The annual slip fee is $320. A major club cruise involving most of the members -- 27 yachts -- goes to the WorldÂ's Fair at Flushing Meadow, Long Island.


A "Volunteer Work Committee" is formed which meets every Saturday from 0900 until 1300 to fix up the house and grounds prior to Commissioning Day. 15 new slips are added creating space for new members. The minimum on-season slip charge for boats under 20 feet is $240. $12 a foot for longer boats. Winter wet storage is $6 per foot.


A decision is made to build a swimming pool, build a bar, blacktop the road and parking area and improve the toilet facilities of the clubhouse. Two acres, contiguous to the club property, plus the lift area, will be purchased from Harbor Properties. A bond drive, entitled "Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club Expansion Program", is held and generates $120,000 which is the goal.


Construction of the pool and bathhouse is completed by summer. The pool is built by Wagner pools at a cost of $23,678. There are more than 110 boats in the club...over 3500 boat feet.


Membership is up to 136. A 10 gauge cannon is acquired as the starting gun for the sailboat-racing program. Twenty-two sailboats participate in the 1968 series. Twelve boats qualify for awards.


Negotiations begin with Harbor Properties to purchase the club and the existing buildings, 2.5 acres of land, the boat basin and three residential lots. A bond drive is completed at year-end generating the necessary $250,000. (Ed. Note: in 1999 dollars this would be $1,250,000)


A first mortgage of $158,000 is acquired from Greenwich Savings Bank. Closing on the purchase is held on February 15. A lease burning party is held on March 14 at the Club in celebration of the purchase. Two hundred members and guests witness the burning of the lease. A committee is formed and the By-Laws are rewritten to exclude many operating and governing stipulations in the original document, including Harbor Properties designated right to have two seats on the Board of Governors. The club roster has swelled to 154 members with slippage for up to 160 yachts. The "Queen of the Fleet" is Mrs. Florence Giffords 75-foot diesel yacht Florencia. A new annual three-race series is announced by Cedar Point Yacht Club and SHYC. The name of the series will be determined by who wins the first race of the series. Ww win– by a score of 1903 points to 1837. So it is formally called: the "Saugatuck Harbor/Cedar Point Challenge Trophy Series".


TOSCANA II, an Allied 42 XL-2 sloop finishes First in Class in the 37th Vineyard Race. WE TOO wins the Club Championship predicted log competition series, and COQUETTE wins the 12-race cruising class series. Thirteen SHYC yachts participate in a rendezvous cruise over Memorial Day weekend to Essex, Connecticut


Thirty-two SHYC Juniors participate in the Junior sailing program. Staffed by two young adults, the program meets three to four times a week, sailing in nine club Blue Jays. Badminton and volleyball provide diversion between sailing assignments. Seniority number 325 (member number 300) is assigned. A new member, seniority number 328, lands a 250 - pound shark forty miles off Montauk. Ray Gardner, a member since 1968, suffers a stroke while his boat, BEE JAY, is serving as the race committee finish boat and dies in Norwalk hospital three days later.Seventeen club boats including BEE JAY join in Mr. GardnerÂ's burial at sea.


Seventeen Happy Hours are held along with eight catered parties. In response to an Entertainment Committee survey most responding members feel the number of functions and the price per function is "just right". The price range for the catered parties is between $6 and $9 with $2 to $3 of that going for the rental of silver service, plates, cups, tables and other equipment. The average adult attendance at parties is about 35 couples. The summer dock staff size, other than the two junior activities staff, is four.


In 1976 a high tide hurricane hit the area and considerable damage resulted at SHYC. A Small Business Administration distress loan ($112,000) was obtained at favorable interest rates to repair storm damage to the hauling site bulkhead. In 2008 dollars it would be the equivalent of $400,000. The SBA loan still has seven years to run. John Fogel is the first winner of the Paul Bray Award for years of outstanding service and contribution to the club.


ASTRAEUS participates in the first bi - annual Marion, Massachusetts to Bermuda race. She finished 85th out of 120 yachts. The first Water Ballet is performed by "fifteen bathing beauties, dressed in shimmering sequined costumes" before an audience of 150.


The first of a long series of winter slide shows is held as a well attended social function.


The original docks start to lose flotation and begin to sink causing a potentially severe hazardous situation for both boats and members. The first "dock knockers" are formed. TOSCANA participates in the infamous Fastnet race (The author of Fastnet, Force 10, John Rousmaniere, was a crew member).


An "Internal Affairs" Committee is formed to enhance communications between the membership, the Board of Governors and the various other committee organizations. After losing the Trophy in 1978 and 79, SHYC wins back the SH/CP Challenge Trophy. New, circulating fans for the clubhouse are purchased from funds collected by passing the hat at several happy hours.


The LUCKY L, a sixty-three foot SHYC power yacht, is lost 115 miles off the Florida coast. An ocean - going tug rescues the skipper and his crew of five. Smoking in the clubhouse is confined to the ground floor. Dock Knocking becomes an official winter activity at the club. New docks are designed and a continuing cycle of construction, maintenance, enhancement and replacement begins. Sixty members attend the first SHYC Super Bowl Sunday party.


There are 171 members in the club. 108 attend at least one social function. The most popular event is Commissioning Day (74 member families) followed by the Clambake (69 member families.) The least supported event is the annual Water Ballet which will be discontinued in 1985. Name tags and live music become part of the social scene. The first SHYC Single-handed race is held.


Hurricane Gloria blows through the club with 68 mile an hour winds at C Dock. Damage is minimal due to the prior preparations of many club members and staff. The first SHYC Deep Sea Fishing tournament is held in August at Block Island and Montauk Point.


Not to be out-done by the "Dock Knockers", the "Wall Bangers" replace the menÂ's and womenÂ's showers in the pool house. A record turnout of 176 attends Commissioning Day. The Certificate Program replaces membership bonds. Rehabilitation of the fuel and hauling site begins. The clubhouse interior gets new furniture and a copper bar. SHYC loses the SH/CP Challenge Trophy Regatta for the fifth straight year.


A new "Marine Travelift" is acquired. The Spyglass reports a turnout of 171 at Commissioning Day ceremonies. Two SHYC boats, SEA SHANTY and SERENADE, cross the Atlantic Ocean


The club acquires an original "Square" Burgee. It is given a place of honor on the North wall of the clubhouse.


The club settles out of court a "legal issue" with one of its neighbors involving the use and abuse of the hauling site. New rules are imposed regarding hours of operation and the use of power equipment. The SHYC Fish Committee is officially formed and its chairman becomes a member of the Board of Governors. Little "Can One" becomes big "Georges Rock Buoy 1" thanks to the dedicated efforts of an SHYC member.


Westport Zoning Board of Appeals approves SHYC plans to renovate the clubhouse. The "Entertainment Minimum" is raised to $200 per member. A new club mooring is placed in ZeiglerÂ's Cove. A memorial to SHYC members buried at sea is established in the Club gardens near the gate. Club members who choose to be buried at sea are eligible to have a bronze plaque inserted in a Belgian Block, which will become a permanent part of the memorial setting.


The completely remodeled clubhouse is commissioned on Commissioning Day. A record 215 club family members turn out for the ribbon cutting. Mike Plant, single-handed circumnavigator and skipper of the BOC boat COYOTE, gives a talk to club members. (Mike is subsequently lost at sea crossing the Atlantic). Seniority numbers 583 through 592 are issued to the new member class of 1992. A "Young Adult" membership program is initiated to encourage adult children of members to join SHYC.


The Board of Governors requests that there be no cigar smoking in the clubhouse at any time. New membership initiation fees are increased from $2500 to $3000, and annual dues and CIF (Capital Improvements Fund) are increased by 4.5%.


Spousal Equality amendments to the SHYC By - Laws are passed providing equal rights to both men and women in the club. A record 140 members and guests turn out for Awards Night. The By - Laws are modified to reflect formally the creation of the "Young Adult Member" Category. At the time of the amendment there were six young adults who had been members for several years.


The club is granted permission to place a mooring in Block IslandÂ's Great Salt Pond. A womanÂ's organization -- CATCH THE SPIRIT -- is created within the club to provide support, education and training towards better seamanship for women.


After several years of planning and bureaucracy the US Army Corps of Engineers and the Connecticut DEP approve a proposed SHYC Dredging plan. Dredging starts on Christmas Eve. By - Law changes are proposed to modify the process by which Club Officers are nominated and elected.


The dredge leaves in January after removing 15,800 cubic yards of material but is scheduled to return in December to complete the job. The poolhouse gets a major renovation. A yacht burns at the dock from a faulty electrical fixture. TARA participates in the Marion to Bermuda race with an all-SHYC crew. The CommodoresÂ' Ball is held at the Maritime Aquarium in Norwalk.


Dredging is completed in January. The CommodoreÂ's Cup Series is reinstated. The board votes to end the refundable certificate program for new members starting in 1999 and replace it with a nonrefundable capital improvement contribution. The "Debtknockers" program is initiated to allow members to anonymously forgive their $3000 certifcates. A new class of membership, the "Senior Social Member" is established. WATER MUSIC wins the 1998 Commodore's Cup. SON VIDA takes first place in the John Lind Memorial Offshore Fishing Tournament.


The Dock Knockers build and install seven main dock sections with new white metal towers. The pool gets its first major renovation in 32 years. The Club designs and builds its own web site. The 40th anniversary is celebrated at several events.


The area around the bar was rebuilt and the bar repositioned to provide more space. New aluminum ramps began to be put in place beginning with C ramp. A junior Optimist sailing program was initiated with a regatta in October.


An excessively large assessment valuation was successfully negotiated with the town saving a large part of the increase in property taxes. SHYC wins the Block Island Race team trophy. A and B ramps are replaced. A committee is charged with examining the feasibility of expanding usability of the clubhouse and workshop.The Publicity Committee is renamed the Communications Committee incorporating a major facelift to the two year old web site.


Spyglass, the club newsletter, goes on line - in color in addition to the printed edition. The Dock Knockers complete the replacement of all 80 electric towers on the docks - multi-year project. The Dock Knockers and House Knockers replace the shop roof, renovate the menÂ's pool house, re-deck the A-extension docks and refurbish the fuel dock. The job of automating the basinÂ's bubbler system gets underway with the digging of a 900-foot trench to accommodate more than 3,000 feet of electrical conduit. The project will also provide for a more sophisticated security system and high-speed wireless internet service to the docks. SIMBA wins its class in the Block Island Race; CABADY wins the Greenwich Cup. The Heritage category of membership is established to encourage senior members to remain in the club family.


The winter is one of the longest and coldest since '95-'96. Our kitchen gets a major overhaul with new cabinets and granite counters - all work done by the House Knockers. The four year old web site gets its second major redesign. The club builds a 172-foot steel bulkhead, replacing the existing wooden one that failed. The new bulkhead is designed to last at least 50 years. The fuel, electrical and environmental infrastructure is also upgraded. New fuel dispensers are installed. Total cost: $270,000. The club refinances at historically-low interest rates and regular member dues are increased by $90 per year to service the debt. Electric meters are installed on dock towers to bill members for winter electric use. The $13,500 investment is expected to pay for itself in the first year. A new keycard security system provides all members access to the clubhouse as well as the gate. Using donated equipment members install a state-of-the-art high-speed wireless network allowing members to browse the internet and use e-mail on their boats and in the clubhouse. The service is free of charge. The club purchases a life-saving defibrillator. The entire staff and some 20 members are trained in CPR and the use of the new device. More than one hundred members attend the Commodore's Ball at Riverside Yacht Club.


The dock knockers start their season in stiff winds and 4 degrees Fahrenheit weather. The annual SHYC Bowling challenge is initiated. Early in the year, boaters in our area face a challenge from Mariculture LLC , a company that wants to start a commercial oyster farm between the bug light and G1/R24. The club joins with state and local politicians and other boaters to fight this threat. By October, Mariculture gives up the fight and the oyster farm becomes a clam bed. Major renovations are started on the junior club house and the youth sailing program starts acquiring lasers to provide a growth option for those moving beyond the optimists. SIMBA joins the elite group of SHYC yachts to have crossed the Atlantic . The admissions/membership process is modified to place more responsibility on sponsors, and Issue number 223 of the Spyglass is published. With most members having an internet connection, all flyers are switched to email and the web, while three quarters of the membership volunteer to receive the Spyglass online. Photos are no longer included in the print or pdf versions while links to event photos are provided in the web version.


A new automated bubbler system is installed. Building committee replaces windows, installs recessed lights, and baseboard heaters in the Junior Clubhouse. New C dock mains/electric towers are installed. Spyglass goes E-Mail. 18 taller pilings are replaced throughout basin. We start developing our legal defense against the developer 15 Duck Pond Road. Wi-Fi introduced at the Club. The first SHYC Charity Night raises $40,000 for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation in honor of Former Commodore 1992-1993 Stephen M. DeLay. Ben Townsend is elected the 25th Commodore of SHYC for 2006.


The Long Range Planning Committee (LRPC) is established. Commodore Townsend dies suddenly in March. Steve Knapp becomes the Club's 26th Commodore. The Broadwater LNG project advances. CT Attorney General Richard Blumenthal visits the club to describe the state's opposition to the project. The Hurricane Planning Committee is established. The Town of Westport expresses interest in installing a sewer pump house on SHYC property. The legal process over the development of 15 Duck Pond Road (The Vetruvian Case) continues. Legal expenses are becoming significant. Ten SHYC Boats participate in the "Swim Across the Sound" cancer fund raiser. Dock Knockers' projects include new roofs on the junior and main clubhouses, a new Belgian Block border by the front gate, three new finger docks and two on-land storage systems


The Fred Miller workshop is restored and converted into a Dockmaster's Office. Five new finger docks are built. As a result of an LRPC project the Capital Asset Reserve Fund is established.

The Board of Governors approves a plan to meter the remaining slips and charge individual members for their summer electric consumption. Newly installed compressors are up and running on B Dock and C Dock. SHYC starts receiving regular Friday visits from the Sound keeper Pump Out boat. Walt and Evelyn Paul return to Saugatuck Harbor Yacht Club aboard Nefertari, from a 13-year tour of the Atlantic Ocean and its adjoining seas and ports. Legal fees surge well beyond our budget, which puts the club into a deficit situation for the year. Richard Noonan is elected as the Club's 27th Commodore.


The House Knockers remodel the clubhouse office and the Dock Knockers complete 7 new dock fingers. A Slip Assignment Committee is established under the Marine Committee. Rules changes are put in place to control the number of yachts with LOA greater than 53 feet, and a waiting list system is established for assigning large slips when and if they become available. Some break-ins and thefts force the club to become more vigilant.

Dan Conron (Member #233) is granted Special Membership in recognition of his 41 years of service to SHYC. Eighteen male members of the club have their heads shaved to support member Lenny Merullo in his battle with cancer. CABADY wins her class in the 2008 Newport to Bermuda Race and also takes first overall in the New York Yacht Club's Onion Patch Regatta. The Club challenges its Westport Town Real Estate Tax assessment and goes to court. The Judge reduces the assessment by nearly fifty percent and Westport threatens to appeal.


The Club celebrates SHYC's fiftieth year Jubilee with many banner events and cruises. Electronic distribution becomes primary method of communicating with members. Spyglass, club news and event annoucements are all sent via email. Over 50% of members elect to "GO Green" and receive minimal club communications on paper. Joseph Breault is elected as the clubs's 28th Commodore at the annual meeting in October.

2010 & 2011