FRENCHMAN'S BAY YACHT CLUB HISTORY

Looking back 25 years - and Beyond By Jim Dike

 

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The Early Years

In 1938, 28 enthusiastic sailors formed Frenchman's Bay Yacht Club, under the umbrella of the Frenchman's Bay Ratepayers and Community Association. The membership of the club was a reflection of the character of the Bay at the time. The names such as Blenkarn, Clark, Playford, Tomlin and Usher are still familiar today.

The Bay was predominately a summer community, with Avis Dance pavilion, now Swan's Marine Supply Store, the centre of social activity. The Annual Regatta on the August Holiday weekend was a highlight of the summer activities.

The club, comprising a boathouse and a dock was located on the East Shore on property rented from Fred Scott. The Club had Active Members at a $6.00 annual fee, Junior members, a Constitution, and a Board of Directors. A change to a more permanent location was considered, but not proceeded with. Most of the club meetings were held in various members premises.

In 1938, the members undertook a boat building project with resulted in the production of 30 moth sailboats. The original projected cost of $40.00 for each moth was slightly exceeded. The Moth is a single handed one person dinghy.

The Club Burgee , a black Fleur de Lys on a triangle-shaped bright yellow background against a swallow tail-shaped black background was registered with Lloyd's Register of American yachts in 1939.

On the sailing side, weekly club races were held throughout July and August. Interclub team racing was held between Oshawa Yacht Club, Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club, and Port Credit Yacht Club. So successfully did the Frenchman's Bay Club operate that other clubs sought their advice on how to start and run their own yacht clubs.

With the outbreak of World War II, some members went off the join the armed forces and activity declined slightly. At the same time, the Ajax Munitions Plant workers

started to establish permanent residents around the Bay. This changed the character of the bay to change as these homeowners had less in sailing.

The gap was an ongoing problem even in those days, closing almost completely in 1946 and again in 1954.

 

Revival in 1958

The club became inactive in 1951. In 1958 a group of enthusiastic dinghy got things going again on a self help basis, with an undated constitution. The club operated from rented property on the East Side of the Bay with a single dock. Most of the club functions were held at the Oshawa Yacht Club. Meanwhile, the club continued to look for a permanent home, mostly on the side of the bay, before succeeding.

On the sailing activity side, it was decided to build an inexpensive one design dinghy. This was in keeping with the membership as tradesmen made up most of the membership with few professionals. After lengthy discussion, it was decided the Blue Jay Dinghy was to be the main boat for the club. In the summer of 1959 a letter was sent to Sparkman and Stephens, the Blue Jay designers in New York, requesting plans. On September 18, 1959 Sparkman and Stephens responded with plans and assigned sail numbers 2041 through 2054 to the club as well as Fleet status (#78). Over the next two winters, 12 members worked evenings and weekends at the premises of Kingston Road Lumber. 12 Blue Jays were completed. In the best tradition of fair play, the members drew lots to decide who would receive which boat. Other Blue Jays were built by individual club members.

Our Blue Jay Sailors competed very successfully over the next 10 years. One of our most successful sailors at the time was Ron Playford. Many clubs had a Blue Jay class in their open regattas at the time.

 

Our First Home

After many attempts, the club succeeded in purchasing a 50 foot lot with a cottage at the present location in 1961. The property was zoned Green Belt Residential at the time. This zoning caused some members great concern, resulting in some resignations.

Over the years, the lot to the north of the original lot was purchased with a condemned cottage, which was torn down. Following this, two additional lots on either side were purchased, giving the club its present lot size.

These lots did not give the club enough water access, so land designated Block S was leased from the Town of Pickering. Pickering subsequently sold Block S to the Metro Toronto Region Conservation Authority. During this time, extended negotiations were held with the Town of Pickering and local residents to change the zoning to allow the use of the property as a Yacht Club. One of the restrictions placed on the club was a limit of 150 members, and it was decreed that there would be no winter storage. Financing of the purchase of the property was guaranteed by some of the club members.

One of the significant decisions by the Club was to become incorporated, which would provide some protection for the members against personal liability. The members selected the directors who had to be investigated and the following became charter members. The newly incorporated club's first executive were

Commodore Len Canham

Vice Commodore Herb Usher

Secretary George McCleery

Treasurer Frank Read

Rear Commodore Power Tom Tomblin

Rear Commodore Sail Paul Shoenstedt

 

In 1966, the Board of Directors was reinstituted with the purpose of providing long range plan and guidance to the executive of the day. Also, due a lack of members prepared to stand for office, the Board now provides a slate of candidates for election purposes.

 

Intimate Cottage Clubhouse

Our beloved cottage clubhouse was a warm, intimate and friendly place, and it met our needs very nicely, until our membership started to exceed its capacity. Many interesting story can be told about the social functions held there and the nights spent sitting in front of the stone fireplace with friends.

As membership increased over the late sixties, however, it became very apparent that the cottage clubhouse would no longer meet our needs. In late 1971, it was decided to build a larger clubhouse. This action represented a significant change in the club status and not all members supported the idea. In fact, in 1972 more members left the club as a result of this controversy than in any other year.

 

An Ambitious Project

As a single project, this was undoubtedly the most expensive and extensive project the club had undertaken to that time. Don MacRae, our Commodore in 1971,

volunteered to lead the project. He kept a diary of the progress of the building of the new Clubhouse. He also spent an incredible amount of time overseeing the project. The almost-completed clubhouse was opened at our Sailpast in 1972.

One of the more heated discussions as a side issue of building of the clubhouse was our lovely stone fireplace. What should be done with this significant and sentimental part of our past? This issue was discussed at many general and executive meetings without being resolved. In the end, the fireplace was hit by a piece of construction equipment, and partially destroyed. It was now unsafe and had to be removed. It may have been accidental, and then again it may not have been accidental. Some of our members are not really sure to this day.

The new clubhouse was constructed in such a way as to provide for future expansion as necessary. The area now known as the Regatta Room was left open as a breezeway and used for storage until 1980. It was then closed in and the fireplace was added to bring it to its present attractive state. In order to avoid having to get a bank loan, the members paid a one time assessment to meet the cost of building.

 

Dock Expansion Program

One of our more recent major efforts has been the expansion of our slips to provide more dockage for the larger boats our members have been buying. Another ambitious project this year was the complete updating of the kitchen and bar area.

 

With the move away from the Blue Jays in the late sixties, and early seventies, keel

boats brought a much larger component of extended cruising into the club. For more than a decade many members have cruised Lake Ontario, and as a result of reciprocal privileges, visited a great number of yacht clubs. Our reputation as a cruising club has been and still is among the best on the lake.

 

Making Dreams Come True

Not only have our members cruised Lake Ontario, but many have gone further afield. The Caribbean has been and continues to be a favourite destination for our members. In 1983 Newport was also a popular destination because of the increased Canadian interest in the America's Cup.

Our racers have transferred their success in Blue Jays to Keelboats. Cliff Styles has carried the Club colours to the Mackinac race on Lake Huron. Murray McCullogh has carried the club colours with 'Sunshine' to the New York Bermuda Race and formed part of the Canadian Team in the Onion Patch races off New York. Locally FBYC has always been successfully represented in Lake Ontario events with one the high points being Jack Picketts 'Mandarin' being selected as Boat of the Regatta at Royal Week.

Our success in Lake Ontario events is continuing and we expect it will do so in the future

Not to be outdone, our Junior Sailors have been successfully representing FBYC all over North America, and it looks like it will get even better.

Our trophy cases are filled with tangible recognition of the efforts of both our racers and cruisers. For the less fortunate, who get found out, there is always the 'Bent Piling Award'.

 

Active Community Participation

The club has always prided itself on its participation in the life of the community, in which it is located. We have sponsored a baseball team in the West Shore Baseball league for years. We have held sailing outings for handicapped children and the Big Brothers organization. In some years we have sponsored a youth to go on a 10 day trip aboard the Brigantine. Currently, the clubhouse is used by the Ajax Pipe band for their practices sessions on Sunday afternoons, although we are not sure whether this will endear us to our immediate neighnours.

Our Club has also supported the sailing community over the years, with one of our most notable efforts being fund raising for the historic 1983 Canadian entry in the America's Cup 12-metre event.

One of the strengths of FBYC has been the quality of our Wednesday night racing and later in the year on Sunday afternoons. While some of our racers often win Regattas outside the club, it does not necessarily mean that the same people win in club races. This is due in part to the fact that a great many of our club racers have, over the years been very successful in outside regattas. Now they restrict their racing to club competition. In short, some of the best racing occurs in our own club races.

 

Great Help and Good Leadership

While some clubs depend on paid employees for just about everything, FBYC continues to be predominately a self-help club. Our fees continue to be very reasonable and our facilities continue to grow. How does this club continue to be so successful?

The answer is through our enthusiastic and willing membership. The leadership that has

been provided over the years has also been a great source of strength. While it is very difficult, and perhaps unfair to single out individuals among the many that have made significant contributions, our Commodores have to be given credit. Listed below are the Commodores who have served the Club over the years.

 

1938, 1939 Eric P. Blenkarn 1940 W. W. Yeates

1941 H. B. Cunningham 1942 H. J. Bennett

1943 A. Piggins 1944 Eric P. Blenkarn

1945 F. Walker 1946, 1947 J. DeFoa

1948 W. W. Yeates 1949, 1950 Tom Tomblin Sr.

1951 Joe Edwards

Not active 1952 to 1957

 

1958, 1959 Tom Tomblin Sr. 1960 Rick Blenkarn

1961 Roger Conant 1962, 1963 Len Canham

1964 Jack McInerny 1965 Tom Tomblin Jr.

1966, 1967, 1968 Bill Fertile 1969 Lloyd Dove

1970, 1971 Don MacRae 1972 Mike Kingsmill

1973 Bill Fertile 1974 Cec Turner

1975 Geoff Howard 1976, 1977 John Frenke

1978, 1979 Al Greensides 1980, 1981 Ed Davies

1982 Del Fisher 1983, 1984 Mike McInerny

1985 Alan May 1986, 1987 Robert Maidens

 

Another individual has made a very significant contribution to the successful operation of FBYC is Jim Moody. Until his resignation from the position at the end of last year, Jim had been the club Treasurer for 15 years. During this time the Club

made great progress while continuing to keep its sound financial condition.

Writing this club history has provided me with an opportunity to recall our past fortunes and I wish, in this Silver Anniversary Celebration Year to say thank you.

'Well Done' to our many past and current members who have contributed to our success.

The future is in the hands of our membership and, based on past performance, I have every confidence that it will be every bit as successful in the past.