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What's Up Magazine

Welcome to the Club

May 13, 2011 05:12PM ● By Anonymous

A familiar icon on the Annapolis skyline, the Annapolis Yacht Club started in 1883 as an informal canoe club. Two years later, the nascent club occupied its first real estate by the wooden Spa Creek Bridge in a humble building on top of a pile of oyster shells, rented from St. Mary’s Church. The Severn Boat Club was formally organized in 1886.

Across Spa Creek, the Eastport Yacht Club is a relative newcomer. Club members here are mostly old salts who take sailing very seriously yet enjoy the often-humorous rivalry between the two yacht clubs. At the EYC’s first meeting in 1980, the number of charter members attending was limited by the space upstairs at the nostalgically remembered Marmaduke’s Pub.

One of the first orders of business for EYC was the adoption of the club burgee design, which depicts the Spa Creek Bridge in an open position reminiscent of a stylized sail. A burgee is a distinguishing triangular flag of a recreational boating organization that is flown while at anchor or underway in a non-race situation.

The Eastport Yacht Club shares a fence and neighborhood with Eastport’s other sailing club, the Severn Sailing Association. With decks overlooking the Annapolis Harbor, SSA’s clubhouse and dock facilities support its half-century tradition of one-design racing, junior sailing, and hosting national and international regattas.

While SSA sticks with sailing, the Annapolis and Eastport Yacht Clubs promote the arts of sailing, paddling, and power boating in the venues of racing, cruising, education, and extending hospitality to visiting boaters. By definition, these activities in Annapolis require club ownership of some very prime waterfront real estate.

To further their missions, all three clubs have well-appointed clubhouses in spectacular waterside settings. In EYC’s early days as a mere dream on paper, the Club’s charter members made buying and building on its Severn River property a priority, and in 1992 the Club occupied its current no-glitz facility on 1st Street. The Club’s deck is the perfect vantage point for enjoying this “social club with a sailing problem” while watching the weekly EYC Friday Night “Beer Can” sailing races.

Across the Creek, the modern-day AYC building is a far-cry from the oyster shell heap shanty of the early days. With “triple decks” and multiple well-appointed dining rooms and lounges decorated in “contemporary nautical” style, the upscale Annapolis Yacht Club is a much-loved venue for posh parties, weddings, and
community events. Additional AYC facilities with wet slips and dry boat storage are found across Spa Creek at the all-business AYC Sailing Center and the nearby Junior Sailing Center. There the Club’s fleet of junior sailing dinghies lies waiting for summer fun.

Junior sailing programs are a huge part of the mission of these three clubs. SSA boasts a junior sailing school that involved 400 youngsters last summer. AYC’s junior fleet is on the water more than 250 days of the year, instilling in young sailors an early respect for other skippers, their boats and equipment, and the marine environment. Across the harbor at the Eastport Yacht Club, Green Fleet Friday each week gives youngsters the chance to informally compete in short races as their parents watch from the dock twenty feet from the start line.

By its own admission, Eastport is not “your traditional blue blazer club.” The EYC prides itself on its volunteerism, which gives the small club the capability of managing world class sailing regattas such as the Bermuda Ocean Race. Club member and 2004 Olympic sailor Liz Filter is one such volunteer who chaired the
2009 Melges 24 World Championship regatta hosted by EYC.

A member of both EYC and SSA, Filter speaks proudly of their accomplishments when she says, “The Eastport Yacht Club wants to show the world that we can host an international event that showcases our sailors and our town.” Regattas on any scale build camaraderie among sailors, many of whom have overlapping memberships and friendships in more than one local boating organization. Filter adds, “AYC, EYC, and the Severn Sailing Association each
have their own identities, but we are all on the same team with our love of sailing, the water, and the Chesapeake.”

“Casual and welcoming,” as Filter describes it, the Eastport Yacht Club is a place where the “kids can run around, the dogs are outside, and the old salts still have a place to tell their stories.”

EYC is also known for hosting the annual Lights Parade, a holiday event in which festively decorated boats parade on Spa Creek loaded with colored lights and jolly crews, all to the delight of thousands of shoreline spectators.

Despite the frivolity, the EYC folks think of themselves as the no-frills sailors in this town, while the AYC folks prefer to keep a polished and sophisticated persona in the yachting community. Whatever the personality of the clubs may be, the sailing world views the three Annapolis clubs as the home of many extremely accomplished and competent yachtsmen of all ages.

As with most yacht clubs, volunteers led by a Commodore run these three organizations. AYC and EYC engage paid staff to handle the day-to-day details of keeping the food and drink coming in these favorite watering holes. At the Annapolis Yacht Club, the scale and variety of activities is enhanced by professionals who include a waterfront director, dockmaster, business manager, and events planners. Each club offers social and professional networking, family activities, the camaraderie of shared interests, great food and drink, and a warm dry waterside venue for sharing sea stories.

Warm and dry are especially desirable features during AYC’s annual Frostbite Series sailboat races. Through the winter, hardy sailors with the fires of competition coursing through their veins don layers of foul weather gear to compete in below freezing temperatures. This series is just one of many races and regattas hosted by AYC, including the Annapolis to Newport Race, the Rolex Farr 40 North American Championship, and the familiar Wednesday Night
Races, a tradition since 1958. Every Wednesday evening through the summer, 150 AYC yachts compete in a range of handicap and one
design classes, followed by the traditional after-race “picnic supper” that marks the official beginning of the weekend for many.

AYC General Manager Brian Asch adds that, in addition to competing in the array of regattas, sailing teams composed of AYC members are participating in the “ever-growing team competitions with other yacht clubs”. AYC’s team is headed to the 2011 New York Yacht Club Invitational Cup, where amateur
sailors are tested against each other to get members involved in the competitive sailing community, which Asch says is “AYC’s main mission.” Asch is proud to say that AYC will host the 2011Corinthian Cup between the Annapolis and San Francisco Yacht Clubs, when each Club’s best amateur sailors will compete against each other for “bragging rights.”

Overnight cruising is another essential part of the AYC and EYC missions. Judging from the size and majesty of some of the visiting multi-million dollar vessels seen regularly docking along the “t-dock” at AYC, world-class cruisers and their crews choose the Annapolis Yacht Club for dockside comfort when they are in town. Most yacht clubs have “reciprocity agreements” which permit their members to have docking and dining privileges when cruising to other clubs.

The many year-round AYC, EYC, and SSA racing events finishing in the Annapolis Harbor, showcase the talents of the sailing community that is the backbone of this town. On both shores of Spa Creek, boat wrights, sail makers, and marine tradesmen join doctors, lawyers, and other professionals in the time-honored quest for the regatta trophy and the recognition it brings in the sailing world. Between races, the hardy boaters of Annapolis follow tradition—-They drift ashore to recap and reminisce with friends, family, and fellow crewmembers on the decks of their waterfront clubhouses.

The Chesapeake Bay and its many rivers certainly do not begin, nor end, in Annapolis. Outside of city limits and in the upper reaches of Anne Arundel County’s major river systems— Patapsco, Magothy, Severn, South, Rhode, and West included—there’s a multitude of yacht and cruising clubs, many rich with history and
camaraderie. Here is a sampling:

Belvedere Yacht Club
Established: 1952
Home waters: Magothy River

Bodkin Yacht Club
Established: 1952
Home waters: Bodkin Creek

Herring Bay
Yacht Club
Established: 1954
Home waters: Herring Bay

Indian Landing
Boat Club
Established: 1906
Home waters: Severn River

Podickory Point Yacht & Beach Club
Established: Early ‘80s
Home waters:
Magothy River

Selby Bay Yacht Club
Established: 1947
Home waters: South River

Rotary Yacht
Squadron of Chesapeake Bay
Established: 1954

West River Yacht Club
Established: 1930
Home waters: West River

Ann Powell is a boater who enjoys cruising on the family yacht First Light. She writes from her home on Mill Creek in Annapolis