THE HISTORICAL (HYSTERICAL) FIRST 32 YEARS
Once upon a time there was a pupil of sailing named Dorothy Luckraft. She enjoyed the sport so much that, wanting to learn more, she took courses at the New York Power Squadron. One teacher, Dean Fuller, taught the sailing course and gave the first entertaining lecture for the Basic Boating course. When Dorothy took Dean’s course, she approached him and said: “You’re a boat owner and occasionally need crew; I’m a crew person, looking for a boat. I bet there are a lot of other people around just like us: WHY DON’T WE START A CLUB?”
Dorothy and Dean spread the word to fellow sailors in the Power Squadron that they would hold an informal meeting on April 18, 1970 at the French restaurant Les Pyrenees on West 51st St. At the first meeting, about fifty eager sailors showed up. It was apparent that there was a dire need for such an organization in New York. At a second meeting the next month, about 75 people arrived. Little by little the club grew, and with comings and goings, the total membership has been about 100 persons. The mix of people, though, has remained constant: half boat owners, half crew; half female, half male; half married, half single. The over-riding passion of the group remains: To Sail.
So. Some rules were determined. The main one resulted as an outgrowth of the Power Squadron’s desire to instruct. The idea was that if the boat owner has the responsibility and costs of the boat, the crew should be able to contribute something special: Namely, Knowledge. It has always been a prerequisite for membership that the crew-person has some formal knowledge of sailing – if not from the Power Squadron, then from the Coast Guard Auxiliary, or other recognized organization. At almost every monthly meeting, there is some instruction. In Oct. 1979, and January 1995, for example, it was a pleasure to listen to the renowned Julius Wilensky. Occasionally some naughty action by a member resulted in a review of anchoring, rafting or boat etiquette. Other meetings were purely for pleasure: sea chanties, boat flea market, milestone birthday parties, an America’s Cup party (1980), a seminar conducted by Louise Burke on “Heavy Weather Sailing” (1998); a talk from Dr. Hester Rumberg from the Slavin Foundation about the sinking of the sailboat MELINDA LEE by a large freighter (1999). In 1990, club member Hal Hamilton, gave a talk and slide show about lighthouses, and introduced his book: “Lighthouses of Long Island Sound”.
June 1991 – Nance Frank of US Women’s Challenge to the 1993 Whitbread race presented a film on the Whitbread and spoke about the rigors of the race. She was the skipper of an 80 foot Maxi with an all woman crew, the first US all female boat to be raced in the 33,000 mile global challenge. The June 1994 meeting was held on the ferry YANKEE. It is an historic vessel that has transported the rich and famous in luxurious comfort, vacationers in less elegant surroundings, as well as immigrants who were herded aboard her to take the trip from their trans-Atlantic steerage accommodations to Ellis Island.
Sept. 1992 – the speaker was Vladislav Murnikov, the Russian designer and Project Manager of Team FAZISI. The team was a joint Russian and US team participating in the Whitbread challenge. At the May 1994 meeting, Bud Clarity and Fareed (Anthony) Suraleigh riveted everyone’s
attention as they described their rescue at sea in December 1993.
The May 1994 meeting served up speaker Dan Cavaluzzi, owner of Sound Tow. He was candid with his advice on how to avoid turning a relatively minor problem on the water into a major disaster. The January 1995 meeting featured a slide show presented by famous author Julius Wilensky dealing with Narraganset Bay and the Rhode Island shore.
In March, 1995, Francis J. Duffy, noted maritime author and executive director of the Maritime Industry Museum at Fort Schuyler led a special museum tour for NYSC members. Located within the walls of a nineteenth century fort built to defend the East River entrance of New York City, the museum is part of SUNY Maritime College. It has a collection of dioramas, models, nautical photos, ships models, prints and a replica model of the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II.
In March 1996, the speakers were Greg Wright and Kelan Vorbach of the Wright Agency, Manasquan, NJ. From Commodore Peter Brennan: “Who’d a thunk a lecture on insurance would hold its audience enthralled? We can’t guarantee either the content or the quality of our programs and a dull speaker can make the most exciting of topics boring. But the good presenters that we seek can make the most prosaic of subjects exciting. You won’t know, though, unless you are there.”
The July 1996 Meeting was a special event sponsored by Sea Legs Organization, which helps handicapped sailors find their “sea legs”. They own several boats that are fully equipped to serve handicapped sailors. NYSC boats had as crew for a race folks who donated money toward the organization to help them purchase additional boats and equipment.
The March 1998 meeting was a film “Pacific Rescue” an edge-of-your-seat film about the horrific New Zealand hurricane rescue. The October 1998 meeting brought Tom Nye and Skippy Lane, two local characters from City Island giving a history of the Island’s yacht building. February 1999’s meeting featured Selig Berman, President of yacht SOFT.com, who conducted an open discussion forum about the latest technology in marine computing and instrument systems for the racer and cruiser.
The October 1999 meeting sported Tom Winslow, in all his comical glory, giving NYSC members the information they needed to view the America’s Cup Races in Aukland. Tom was a spell-binding speaker with a glowing passion for his subject, which he made very real.
Richard Davin, Tim Malloy and Graham Buschor of the 106th Air Rescue Squadron, Westhampton Beach, NY are some the men made famous by the novel and movie “The Perfect Storm” by Sebastian Junger. If you are ever in serious trouble between Iceland and Bermuda, these are the folks who will risk life and limb to rescue you. In 2000 they spoke to NYSC about the events and activities in the perfect storm and about their combined fifty years of flying and sea rescue activities. They founded a company called “SURVIVE IT” that is dedicated to creating awareness of impending life threatening situations, and what you should do and have available when they strike. The speakers were funny, enlightening, and incredibly touching. Graham said his role in the movie was played by Danny DeVito. (Ha Ha!) We can hope a “perfect storm” never happens to us! For the June 2001 meeting, Richard Davin instructed about man overboard techniques, via videotape and a live, on – er – in the water demonstration. It happened to be a beautiful, calm evening in Eastchester Bay, but it made the attendees wonder what things would be like at 3:00 AM under horrific wind and wave conditions.
THE QUEST FOR ASSEMBLAGE ESTABLISHMENTS
As the club grew, it became necessary to find a place to meet every month. In 1971 and 1972, the club met at the Hotel Royal Manhattan and the Press Box. In those days, it was easy to find an affordable place to meet. After all, bread was about 25 cents a loaf, club dues were $5 and the burgees were only $3.25. In February 1971, the balance in the checkbook of club funds was a whopping $17.32. For many years the Change of Watch Dinner was held at Sardi’s, and cost a budget-breaking $11 per person. Inexpensive dinners and good meeting places have gone the way of wooden boats and affordable housing!
In 1974, the club held meetings at the Hotel Lexington. It again moved to the Roger Smith Hotel (1978); the Doral Inn and the Quiet Man Pub (1979); Rosoff’s (1980); The Chemists Club (1981); the Vanderbilt YMCA (1982); The Bombay Palace (1985), the Williams Club; the Liederkranz Club (1982-2000), and other boatingesque places: The New York Boat Show; The Central Park Boat House; Stuyvesant YC; City Island YC; Harlem YC; South Street Seaport; Newport Marina, Jersey City, NJ; New York YC; Governor’s Island; the Clearwater; Flushing Meadow Pond with TASCA; the PIONEER; Ferryboat YANKEE; and 79th Street Boat Basin.
There are two types of persons in the club: Boat Owners, and “Corinthians”. The dictionary defines Corinthian as: an amateur yachtsman. Dean, being a writer, didn’t want to propose a title as mundane as “crew”, so opted for the title “Corinthian”.
THE ORIGIN OF THE BURGEE
A year after the first meeting, the club held a burgee designing contest. One of the charter members, Albin Elskus, is a stained glass designer. The flag is made up of the international code letters N (blue and white checks) and Y (red and yellow stripes) symbolizing: New York. It is one of the few burgees in four colors listed in Lloyds Register of American Yachts.
As early as 1973, the New York Power Squadron held an annual picnic in Oyster Bay and the Sailing Club used to attend. The Squadron stopped having the picnic, so the Sailing Club maintains the traditional event. It was originally called the “Mrs. Vanderbilt Eat Your Heart Out” picnic (1977), but in 1978 Dean suggested calling it the “John Mahoney Memorial Picnic”, because that year Mahoney was organizing it. It usually works out very well, even though folks are not assigned to bring a particular dish. Contrary to popular belief, there weren’t 16 different kinds of baked beans. The picnic is a covered dish affair, and it gives gourmet cooks in the club a chance to show their wares. People can come by either sea or land. In attendance, are the usual major clouds, thunder showers, torrential downpours and monsoons that have graced the picnic almost every year. On the morning of the picnic, Mahoney would pick up a keg of beer from his local distributor in New Jersey, throw it unceremoniously in the back of his car, bounce over NYC potholes to Long Island, drop the keg onto the hot sand, and roll it down the beach, saying to the early arrivals: “Oh, Shoot, I forgot the ice.” When the keg was tapped, nothing came out except warm foam. Since 2000, the picnic has been held at the Hempstead Harbor Club.
HART ISLAND BREAKDOWN RACE
Fleet Captain Don Bryan kept his boat SAADALSUUD at Harlem YC. He figured that about two weeks before Memorial Day was a good time to have a breakdown – er – shakedown trip. So. He invented the First Annual Round Hart Island Race in 1974. In the early days, the club’s racing program was informal, so there was no official committee boat for the Hart Island Race. The boats would mill about in the vicinity of the starting “area”, someone would yell: “OK, let’s go!” and the boats would head out, with any and all sails – clockwise, or counterclockwise, around Hart Island, depending upon which direction they were facing at the time. The one to wind up back at the bar first was the winner (or so the legend goes). Some sort of trophy was given to the winner. In 1982, when Mahoney was Fleet Captain, it became “a race for a case”.
CHANGES OF WATCH
Every year the club holds a Change of Watch dinner in December. The event is usually held on a Saturday night and is more festive than a regular monthly meeting. Silver is presented to the winners of the season’s events. Occasionally, gag awards are handed out to folks who were either naughty, did something stupid, or in general, screwed up. The new board is then introduced and the outgoing Commodore passes the gavel to the incoming Commodore. These events have been held at various venues around New York.
GHOSTS AND GOBLINS
The capper to the year’s events, is the Hallowe’en Sail. The NYSC held its first one in 1978. The club dons costumes and runs organized raiding parties to sack and pillage the local villages. Spiced cider liberally laced with Mt. Gay rum is served, as well as fish chowder, chili, spice cookies, candied apples, among other fall delights. It is a fine way to end the sailing season.
An early Club Cruise consisted of trying to reach Block Island and back in two weeks. Maybe the boats were smaller or slower then, because these days fast boats and ambitious sailors head for Maine and other distant areas.
The following are some highlights of the 1974 Sailing Schedule, from Fleet Captain Don Bryan:
April 27: Got the spring Blauzes? Sail them by on the 1st Annual Hart Island circumnavigation.
July 13,14: Bastille Day Corinthian Club Cruise
July 28: (part of the club cruise) – East End Mt. Sinai Harbor (Rick Allmen will autograph copies of his book, if out. If not, will accept any drinks offered.)
July 29: Joshua Cove, North of Sachem Head (watch out for “*” as they can spoil cocktail hour)
July 31: Thru gut to Cherry Harbor. Anchor, go ashore and get shot at by Lord Gardiner’s private army. On second thought, best to stay rafted and plan for another day.
August 4: Dinner ashore Greenport, informal racing, drinking, boat cleaning. Watch your F.C. fix his head for the nth time. Learn profanities in several languages.
August 9: Sail thru fog to Cuttyhunk.
August 10: Hadley Harbor – invite Malcolm Forbes over for Scotch Whisky.
August 15: Menemsha – Watch Walter Wrow Ashore Whilst Drinking On The Lido Deck.
September 2: 3rd Annual Labor Day at Duck Island. Race for Silver, Rum Swizzle Party – Mysterious Midnight Swyms – 2nd Annual “Where did I sleep last night?” mystery. Headaches.
For several years, club members have organized winter charters in the Caribbean, and other warm climes. The first one was in 1977 to the BVI, with 18 members. Three boats were chartered, with informal races held in Sir Francis Drake Channel. The members decided that the club should acquire Sandy Cay in the name of NYSC. In 1977 and 1986 members chartered in St. Lucia and cruised St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In 1978 and 1986 more BVI trips were organized. Edna & Jim Black chartered in St. Martin, and cruised St. Barts, St. Kitts and Nevis. In 1989, Frank Taranto and Karl Schoelch chartered in Baja, CA, to either gale force winds, or dead calms. The highlight of that trip included sightings of whales, sealions and other fauna.
In 1976, many members worked on Operation Sail for the July 4th NY Harbor Festival. Sid White was named Vice-Chairman of the Nationalities Committee and had the grand opportunity of sailing on the Spanish training vessel, JUAN SEBASTIAN DE ELCANO. Various NYSC members worked on foreign relations committees. OP SAIL’s General Manager, Frank Braynard, said that no other single organization had made such a remarkable contribution in time and effort to that gala event.
ALL I WANT IS A STAR TO STEER HER BY
In July 1992 there was an Op Sail Parade to honor Columbus’s discovery of America. The parade went past a viewing stand with the NINA, PINTA & SANTA MARIA, after ghosting along in the fog from Sandy Hook, N.J. Several NYSC members sailed on the Russian Tall Ship SEDOV (the largest sailing ship in the world at 392′). It was mysterious and exhilarating to see only the masts and sails of Tall Ships ghosting along under the Verrazano Bridge, reminiscent of days gone by.
IN CLOSING: THE CLUB SONG AND TOAST
On one ancient club cruise, it was Walter Allweil’s birthday, so the club cheerily sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Since the club did not have a club song, as a result of that trip, it became “Happy Birthday Dear Walter”. In 198, there was a contest to develop a new song. Before the meeting there was a lot of hoopla about the contest, but in subsequent newsletters, nothing was said about the results. Perhaps “Singing In The Rain”, “La Commedia è finita”, “Help”, etc. don’t quite make the grade. Short of Christopher Cross’s “Sailing”, there could be nothing more appropriate to describe the diverse, unique nature of The New York Sailing Club than:
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEAR WALTER
Because of the eclectic nature of the club, the traditional toast has become:
Cheers, L’Chaim, A Votre Santé, Salud, Nostrovia, Prosit, Stolat, Salute, and
GOD BLESS THE NEW YORK SAILING CLUB!
In sum, The New York Sailing Club is devoted to sailing. Learning about it, talking about it, writing about it, doing it. It is an unwritten rule that the Corinthians should go “overboard” for the Skippers, not literally, of course. But to try to learn as much as they can, to be able to cook, supply food or booze for the boat, to help in spring fitting out, to clean the boat during the season, and, in general do whatever else is necessary for a well-oiled boat. In April of 2002, the club celebrated its 32nd anniversary, and it is in this spirit that this missive has been written. Keep up the good work, and HAPPY SAILING!