The Royal Newfoundland Yacht Club history began one lovely afternoon in August of 1935 when Arthur and Marjorie Johnson took Max Barbour canoeing at Long Pond. The Johnson’s wanted to fully show Max this beautiful sheltered haven with its many arms just 15 miles from St. John’s, and yet without a summer home on it. According to Arthur Johnson, Max’s mind took off like a rocket and he said, “Our maritime people must have a yacht club.”
Written by Deanne Peters, April 2002, from a number of sources but primarily from the research of Mr. George Giannou and the late Arthur Johnson.
In 2002 Deanne Peters compiled an early history of the club and described the origins and evolution to the point that the clubhouse was established on the present site. This is an update to give the current membership a better idea of the efforts of the previous members and executives to make the club what it is today. Just to give you some idea of the cost of the progress, in the mid 70’s there was an initiation fee of $100 and the yearly fee was $75. This translates to $578 and $434 respectively in 2016 dollars. The initiation fee was increased to $900 in 1991 ($1400 in 2016), and remained in effect until 1993 when it was dropped to encourage an increase in membership.
Clubhouse and Pool
In 1977 the club hosted the Canada Summer Games and many improvements were made for this event. A large renovation was completed in the basement and an addition constructed in the front of the club to accommodate a new ward room, locker room and washrooms which were later upgraded circa 1988. The lockers were then removed and the area now known as the Bell Room was created as well as the washrooms as we have them today.
The south wharf construction took place in the late 60’s and mid 70’s. In 1981 a floating dock system was designed to accommodate a long waiting list for wharves. When the tendered prices came in it was equivalent to a fixed dock which would have much lower life cycle and maintenance costs. It was redesigned and tendered again. To finance the project the club set up a program to prepay wharf space whereby members had 3 options to put up the required $3000 needed. A deferred wharf account was set up for each member to be drawn down until the deposit was eliminated and then went on the current yearly fee. This practice ended in 1997 when all users went on an annual fee. The design was to extend the existing south dock by 180 feet and to slightly extend and create several slips on the north wharf. In all, 29 new slips were created.
The first 100 foot section of the original south wharf was replaced in 2010. The remainder was replaced in 2013. Between 1982 and 2013 major repairs were done including new outside piles and additional catwalks. In 2000 wharf expansion and repair projects required floating equipment and a pile driver was designed and constructed by the club. RNYC then leased it to a contractor who maintained it and did the necessary wharf work of the addiing of catwalks to many of the slips. The pile driver is still in the club’s possession and kept on the Perrin’s Road property where boat cradles are stored during the summer. The Perrin’s Road property was purchased in 1973 for future haulout area but has subsequently been used for summer storage of cradles.
The north wharf began to grow in the late 70’s with an extension of 225 feet in 1977/78. The last extension to the north wharf was done in 1986. In 1991 additional piles were placed in the channel and 12 additional berths were created just past the current security gate. There have also been several upgrades to the electrical system on the wharves. In some cases members paid for an upgrade to a standard exceeding the club requirements.
The original fuel service dock was at the main section of wharf along the east side of the parking lot. The pumps were mounted on a concrete pedestal and the tanks buried in the lawn adjacent to the present flag officers parking. In 1991 the pumps were moved to the main wharf in the channel, providing two additional wharf spaces. The tanks in the lawn were pumped dry, flushed, and filling with sand. In 1993 new, self-contained, environmentally compliant tanks were installed at the west end of the property adjacent to the channel. Several members built the floating fuel dock and designed and constructed the anchoring system and gangway. The tanks were further upgraded in 2002.
Along the channel the concrete slabs protecting the foreshore were replaced by a crib work in the early 90’s when the Travel Lift was purchased. An integral concrete base was also incorporated for a future mast lift crane. Davis Engineering did the design for the marginal wharf in the channel as well as the ramp bay for the Travel Lift. The club received funding for the materials needed for the Travel Lift bay from our then federal MP. The timber was purchased and stored until the site was ready.
The domestic water supply was provided by a deep well drilled near the main door and a storage tank was erected in 1976 near the fence by the present Sailing School. There was also a playground there with swings and a sandbox. In the 1980’s the Town of Conception Bay South extended the water and sewer lines down towards the club and in 1986 the club was able to fill the storage tank with a hose from a hydrant. In 1989 a permanent connection was made. The club is now serviced by municipal water eliminating the need for the deep well and the storage tank, which was removed.
The club needed space for boat storage and with the rezoning of the adjacent area which is now our upper lot, there was a high potential of this property becoming building lots. With dedicated work by some members an offer to purchase was negotiated which had to be ratified at a special meeting of the membership. The support from the vast majority of members including some founding ones made possible the purchase of that piece of land from Dr. John Butler for what was perhaps a slightly smaller price. It was landscaped and drainage installed and is till used for boat storage and overflow parking.
The flagpole that was placed in 1977 for the Summer Games was originally placed much closer to the club and needed to be moved. A new base was built by several members and erected in its present position in 1991. On the club grounds a lot of effort has been put in by a few members to enhance the landscaping and flower gardens. Some members still contribute to the upkeep.
As mentioned above, the upper parking lot was paved n in 1997 as part of the Canada Summer Games and major repaving has been done as part of a maintenance program over the years. Security gates were installed in 2008 on the wharves and another mast rack added on the upper lawn. In 2001 garbage bins were placed adjacent to both docks.
In 1977, after a breach of the breakwater in front of the club, the channel was dredged to a minimum depth of 12 feet by Small Craft Harbours (SCH) who had jurisdiction and responsibility for its maintenance. A severe storm in the Fall of 1992 created a breach in several places with the worst one adjacent to the east end of the marginal wharf. There was a large power boat berthed there and the debris from the breach very nearly pinned it to the wharf. SCH subsequently had the necessary remedial work done. One side note is that the winter before the breach there were 33 boats that remained in the water. The following year there were less than a dozen. This was not the last time this happened. Two years later another storm caused another overtopping and part of the beach ended up in the channel a little to the east of the earlier one. In 2008, 2011, and again two years later several breaches occurred and once again the remedial work was done by SCH. Dredging was done by the club in the channel near the old service wharf in 1990. Over recent years there has been pressure on SCH to divest itself of the responsibility of maintaining the channel and they approached the club at times to take it over. The club considered this option but decided against it. In April of 2016 the Town of CBS became the custodians.
The club has hosted several major national regattas and events. In 1983 there was a flotilla that sailed from Ontario to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the colonization of Newfoundland. In 1987 a group of over 40 boats from the Cruising Club of America (CCA) cruised to Newfoundland. The CCA sailed to Newfoundland again in 1999. The club hosted Sail East in 1993, 1997, and again in 2004. In 1993 the club hosted the Canadian Keelboat Championships and in 1997 the club was visited by the Matthew as part of the Cabot 500th Anniversary celebrations. As part of that celebration there were over 70 boats that sailed from Ontario, some of which remained at our club when it was over. In 2015 the club hosted the International Sailbot Competition which was won by our local team from the MUN Engineering school.
Racing has always been an important part of the club and moved from snipes to larger keelboats as they became a part of the fleet in the late 60’s and early 70’s. There were traditional club races such as the Bean Crock which was the last race of the season and the previous winner cooked the beans in the trophy received that year. The Newfoundland Cruising Club sponsored the Discovery Day Race from St. John’s to Long Pond and also the Confederation Cup in September which included a mark off Brigus. Race Week began in 1980 and in 1983 Grand Marnier was secured as a major sponsor. When Grand Marnier gave up the event in 1989, Bill Matthews Autohaus came on board until 2009. Iceberg Rum carried on until 2012 and BMW took it up until 2015 and it is somewhat in limbo and we are working on obtaining another long term sponsor.
Participation was at its peak in the 1980’s when there were 4 full racing divisions and also a white sail division. For a typical race week back then there would be between 20 and 30 and sometimes more boats consistently on the line. However, participation was down to 12 boats in 2016.
In the Discovery Day Race of 1986, the one in the picture in the Bell Room, there were 40 boats including participants from the Holyrood club. There was also a very successful Ladies Series from 1989 to 1996 which had a fleet of boats sailed by ladies only with the exception of one male on board who was not allowed to handle the wheel or any lines but who could coach and act in an emergency.
In 2014 the racers were treated to a visit by the newly crowned America’s Cup skipper, Jimmy Spithill from the Oracle syndicate. Speaking of royalty, Prince Edward visited the club in 1978 and had a day on the bay.
One last bit of racing history is that the marks we conveniently use in the bay were placed as navigation marks by the Coast Guard in 1992.
The power boaters have also been active and have organized annual events such as the Poker Run. Other events have included such things as the Predicted Log Race and a Scavenger Hunt.
The Labour Day Cruise has been a perennial combined event for the sailors and the power boaters with destinations including Middle Arm, Bay Roberts, and Brigus, It is the culmination of the season and includes the Commodore’s Cocktail Party. When the weather is inclement or at the discretion of the Commodore of the day, the event is held at the club.
The club initiated its own junior sailing program in 1978. The Newfoundland and Labrador Sailing Association (NLSA) provided instruction for junior dinghy sailing over the years at various locations and in 1984 gave the club its fleet of sabot prams. In 1994 the NLSA moved the Learn to Sail operation to the club and arranged to have floating docks constructed and placed on Mr. Phil Keeping’s property to the east. Subsequently the club bought the assets in 2001 and the next year operated the program. In 2004 the concept and planning for a dedicated building for junior sailing was initiated with plans drawn up in 2005 and in 2007 the club did a major fund raising project and the club began the construction of a new Junior Sailing Center. Past Commodore Christopher Pratt made significant contributions with the donation of some of his prints to be used for fund raising for this project as well as other events. Mr. Phil Keeping was very generous with donations to the program and made his own property available for boat storage and operations and constructed a dedicated dock for this purpose. The new building was subsequently named after him at a dedication ceremony in 2009. In 2010 a Hinterholler 28 [Mireille Soucy] keelboat was added to the sailing school fleet by its donation from Pierre DeRuelle. In 2015 a Grampian 26 [Go For It] was also added. These boats are now used for the very successful adult Learn to Sail program.
The club came into the age of the Internet and a domain name was selected and registered and the initial site was constructed and went online in 1999. The site has been modified and updated several times since. A weather station was added in 2004 and soon after was linked to the website. The following year came a webcam and in 2009 Wi-Fi was added with access from the wharves.
There have been several attempts at a newsletter, initially published in 1980 with the next being the Plimsoll which ran from 1984 until 1996 followed by another newsletter in 2000-2001. After a hiatus came Spindrift in 2010 which ran until 2015. All were an important means of communicating and are missed when not continuous. There was a major facelift of the website in 2014 in association with a local IT company, Triware. The site has since been upgraded to accommodate mobile devices.
The club was formally incorporated in 1976 and the first members’ handbook was published. In 1989 a review was made of all the club minutes available and from it came the revised club handbook now in use. Since then there have been periodic updates as required and as such it has become a living document. In 2004 the handbook and constitution were placed on the club website.
Work on the constitution and bylaws was precipitated in 1988 by the introduction of the Companies Act by the Government of Newfoundland. The constitution was rewritten and formed By-Law 1 under the new Companies Act. Part of a major revision to the constitution done in 1993 included the structure of the Flag Officers and Executive.
The original constitution provided for a Fleet Captain, Rear Commodore, Vice Commodore, and Commodore. Each position moved up the ladder to Commodore. This was changed to eliminate the Fleet Captain and allow for 3 Rear Commodores, any one of which could be voted into the position of Vice Commodore, depending on personal circumstances at the time. As membership categories evolve and other fine tuning done on our rules, so does the constitution.
The club got its first female Commodore in 2008 when Janet Organ was elected.
As a club it is important to bring forward the members’ desired visions how the area will be both maintained and evolve to meet the current and future need of the members.
As can be seen, to get the club to the current situation has been a true effort of many hands both seen and unseen. Further efforts with both sail and power vessel training courses, and potentially with other water craft can lead to greater comradery and events for the enjoyment and benefit of all boaters.
The challenge in the future is for all newer members to support the club and help it develop and improve.
Ted Laurentius November, 2016