North Cove Yacht Club History

For some years prior to 1968 the lack of a bona fide yacht club at the mouth of the Connecticut River seemed incongruous to a small but enthusiastic group of yachtsmen whose hailing port and homes were in Old Saybrook.  The group was convinced that the area’s waterfront facilities which included a number of boat yards, marine services, a fine harbor of refuge, and a strategic location close to Long Island Sound, could not fail to win support for an association of their fellow yachtsmen.

The group had in mind an organization devoted to encouraging the sport of yachting, promoting the science of seamanship and navigation, and provision of a clubhouse for the recreation and use of its members.

The original founders of the club were J. Whittier Anderson, Everett A. Cooper, Edward W. Hildreth, and Robert B. Wright—all residents of Old Saybrook in the North Cove area.

On March 15, 1969 the first organizational meeting of the North Cove Yacht Club was held at the Old Saybrook Town Hall.  Sixty-six individuals responding favorably to an invitation to membership prior to the meeting were designated charter members.  By-laws were adopted and officers elected.

One of the first decisions of the Board of Governors was to join the North American Yacht Racing Union (now the United States Yacht Racing Union) as well as the Eastern Connecticut Yacht Racing Association and to participate, together with more than twenty other clubs in the area, in its Handicap Racing Program.  The Club’s first invitational race in that program was held in June, 1969.

In 1970 two tracts of lands were purchased by the founders for subsequent sale to the Club.  A capital assets fund was established the following year for that purpose and for the development of the property as soon as funds were adequate.  By the end of 1971 the Club had acquired eleven new members and the capital assets fund had grown enough to purchase the land and to begin its development.

From 1972 to 1974 membership grew slowly but steadily.  In 1974 the Finance Committee submitted a plan for development which included a time table for membership growth, construction of a bulkhead and a clubhouse, and landscaping.  A construction loan was obtained, permitting construction to begin during the early spring of 1975.

The dedication of the clubhouse was celebrated September 20, 1975.  Among the distinguished guests were the First Selectman of Old Saybrook, the Commanders of the local United States Coast Guard Auxiliary and the United States Power Squadrons, and the Commodores of neighboring yacht clubs.  It was a truly memorable occasion with more than 300 persons in attendance.

With the acquisition of a clubhouse, the Club’s membership and activities began to grow rapidly.  Two hundred and thirty-two individuals attended the 1975 Annual Membership Meeting and Dinner in November.  Monthly “pot luck” suppers were instituted as well as New Year’s Eve parties.  Weekly dinghy sailing races were established and an educational program for the ladies was initiated.  The clubhouse became the center of social activity for a growing number of members.

Our first anniversary of the clubhouse dedication coincided with the visitation of some 200 members of the Sailing Union of the Federal Republic of West Germany including 51 yachts.  This group was in the United States to participate in celebrating our nation’s 200th anniversary in what was known as Operation Sail ‘76.  This group accepted the invitation of North Cove Yacht Club to include us in their itinerary for a weekend of parties and racing for Little Op Sail ‘76.  With the support of the Essex Yacht Club, berths were found for all their yachts and the crews were provided showers, laundry, food, and entertainment in the homes of the Club’s members.  To climax that memorable weekend more than 500 people attended the farewell party given at our own clubhouse.

Activities of the Yacht Club which have attracted an ever-increasing member participation include, in addition to those mentioned above, pot luck brunches, clambakes, barbecues, weekend mini-cruises, annual two week Club cruises, field trips to places associated with yachting, speakers at the pot luck suppers, and beginner’s sailing instruction.

The Club incorporated a Canvas Cruising Class into the ECYRA races conducted by the Club, sponsors a Club Ladies Race on the Sound called the “Belle 8 Race”, and hosts a Thursday evening open race series during the months of May and June.

In 1979 the Club voted to close the membership rolls at 130 and in 1980 the side porch was enclosed to provide for more seating capacity as the Club grew in membership.  In 1985 the by-laws were amended to define a “member” as a “family membership” thus providing spouses with voting rights and the opportunity to serve as officers, governors and committee chairmen.

Docking facilities of the Club have been continuously improved by the installation of two floating docks and a dinghy dock with a ramp.  The Club also provides services of a steward during the summer months.

A long range planning committee was established in 1985 to determine the needs for and the means to provide for future growth of the Club.

In 1994 the Junior Sailing Program was expanded to three 2 week, all-day sessions and now employs three instructors and relies on many Club volunteers as well.

The acquisition of Club sailing dinghies, as well as the continued strong participation in Wednesday night dinghy races, prompted the building of a storage shed in 1995 to house the spars, sails, rudders and daggerboards in an orderly fashion. 

Over the last several years the Club has acquired a fleet of boats for members’ use.  At present the fleet is comprised of a launch, three utility Boston Whalers, two rowing dinghies, ten sailing dinghies, three 420s and four Hunter 90s.

In 2001 the Club sold the existing launch and replaced it with a Herreshoff Pilot 18 ft. launch.  A floating dock was also added for the Junior Sailing Program.

In 2002 the Clubhouse was expanded by sixty percent. The exterior entrance had new steps with railings and a front porch with roof added.  The interior changes included an entrance foyer with a custom-built cherry wood trophy case and a wood inlay compass rose in the foyer floor.  Also added were two foyer closets, a storage room in the main hall to store all the chairs and wall space for the Club Art Gallery.  On the roof a cupola was constructed with a light chute down into the main hall and a handicap lift was installed.  Four Hunter 90 sailboats were purchased for the Junior Program.

In 2004 the Clubhouse kitchen was completely renovated with new cabinetry, appliances, flooring and a new exterior window.  A tent for the launch’s winter storage was purchased and installed on the Club property and three 420 sailboats were purchased

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