Charlottetown Yacht Club

CYC building from the water

Coming in at duskBy Katherine Stone

The Mi’kmaq indigenous peoples referred to her as Epelwik, translated literally as “Lying on the water”. When the Europeans first arrived and sailed into the Gulf of St. Lawrence they would soon lay eyes on a beautiful land, covered in red soil that they would call St. John’s Island. The French would eventually round the other side of the island to discover a sheltered bay. The settlement of Port La Joye would later be founded in 1720 and an enterprising man, Monsieur Hache-Gallant would use his sloop to ferry Acadians from Louisbourg to St. John’s Island. Alas, the British soon took over the island in King George’s War and promptly deported the rest of the Acadians that hadn’t been shuffled out three years previously. Charlottetown would be named for Queen Charlotte, who was consort of King George III. This was soon followed by the renaming of St. John’s Island to Prince Edward Island in honour of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent in 1798.

Harry’s Blog, on the history of Charlottetown, was a fascinating read and clarified that pleasure boat activity was evident in the harbour in the 1830s. What followed was a long list of clubs that endeavoured to allow the public to enjoy water activities starting with the Charlottetown Regatta Club in the 1840s. The first Charlottetown Regatta in 1843 commenced on a rainy, windless day so only the Indian canoes and rowing races were held. The wind filled in on Sunday to allow sailors to vie for a lady’s purse. This beautifully embroidered purple silk velvet purse held nearly ten pounds in prize money! I think our racing participation would increase if that were the case today!

In the meantime, the city was busy hosting the 1864 Charlottetown Conference where the Fathers of Confederation met to discuss uniting Upper and Lower Canada. The meeting resulted in the capital City being known as the “birthplace of Confederation” and Prince Edward Island entering Confederation. To facilitate the trip to the island for the delegates, the Steam Navigation Company launched the 192 foot, 1000 ton Princess of Wales steamship that same year.

By 1874 the Hillsboro Boating Club had taken over running the Charlottetown regatta. The winter of 1892 was so warm that the South End Boating Club and Hillsboro Boating Club ran a rowing regatta between the two teams in January. These clubs were mainly rowing and canoeing clubs. By 1925 the HBC had quietly slipped away and the clubhouse had disappeared from view in a 1936 aerial photo of the harbour. In the early 1900s power boating became the rage so the Charlottetown Aquatic Club was established to oversee such activities. Moving into the 1920s, sailing reemerged with very popular, hotly contested events. However, there was no club to offer facilities or foster this growth.
An editorial in the Charlottetown Guardian on September 2, 1922 proved to be a game changer!

Strangers visiting the Island this summer expressed surprise that so little use was being made of our waterfront and magnificent harbours and rivers for aquatic sports. With the most picturesque rivers on the continent, beautiful stretches of sandy beaches for bathing, it is surprising even to our selves, that aquatic sports, motor-boating, swimming contests and similar entertainments are not indulged in more than they are. An effort should be made before another season comes around to organize a yachting club, a swimming club or some sort of club for the promotion of aquatic sports….”

Weekday racingWith enthusiastic support, over 75 people crowded into a meeting held at the Navy League Building two weeks later. After reiterating the benefits for visitors as well as the citizens of Charlottetown, a unanimous vote was taken to form a yachting club in the city called the Charlottetown Yacht Club. It took more than a decade before the club was able to secure facilities on what was then a decaying and abandoned wharf. Their efforts proved fruitful as a beautiful, modern clubhouse was erected in 1937 and the club incorporated the following year.

The club was again transformed in 1993 when another new clubhouse and marina were constructed. By 2002 a new state of the art floating breakwater and 80 new marina slips brought the harbour capacity up to 114 docking spaces. The full service Marina within the yacht club is well-protected with easy access to the Northhumberland Straight. With an onsite launch ramp and 5 tonne crane, boats can be quickly launched to access visitor berths. With a depth of 20 feet at low tide, it can also accommodate yachts up to 130 feet. Another upgrade in 2002 increased electrical pedestals, dock lighting, cable television/phone outlets and wireless access. With facilities to be proud of, they are also the only fuel dock in the Charlottetown area.

Ron WhiteOffering beautiful grounds, an informal atmosphere and a quiet location, it is a short four block walk from the club to easily secure groceries and other essentials to bring back and enjoy. However, if you don’t feel like cooking aboard, Captain Jack’s Bar and Grill offers delightful food and drink with indoor and outdoor dining, highlighted with the best view of the Charlottetown Harbour in the city.
Past Commodore Jim Thompson, put it succinctly when he pointed out that, “CYC has become the public’s premiere access to the waterfront and harbour for a variety of activities beyond boating, including a junior sailing program, rowing, kayaking, paddle boards, social events and charity events.” You can rent kayaks and paddleboards by the hour or by the day to explore the waterfront and watch wildlife. The Rowing PEI group also operates out of the CYC and is accessible for both members and non-members. Added to this is the beautiful cruising available to St. Peter’s Island, Governors Island, or across the strait to Victoria Harbour for dinner on the wharf and a play. If none of these ring your bell, you can sign up for a sailing tour of the harbour on the 35 foot SV Saga sloop with her crew, to relax and let someone else handle the muscle power and the ropes!

Besides cruising, the bigger boats wanted more long distance racing so they organized an overnight race in 1964 that would start at Shediac and finish at CYC. Rear Commodore Helen Blake, recounted her exciting adventure of this race. “We motor sailed on our Ranger 26 to Shediac for the start of the Northumberland Challenge through nice calm waters. Coming home on day 2, leg 2 from Summerside to Charlottetown was a whole different story! At 8:45 PM, after going under the bridge, the wind blew up and the A fleet was out of sight. Can you image doing this at night, under the bridge with the spin up and the wind close to the nose!”

These islanders love their sailing as they are not only active during the summer with Monday night white sail races or full on spinnaker keelboat races on Wednesday nights, but also have an active DN ice boat fleet that sails throughout the winter months. They continue the time honoured tradition of hosting Charlottetown Race week, which they have done now for over 30 years. This year this event will also host the Farr 30 Regionals, J24 Canadians, J29 North Americans and the J70 Canadian Atlantic Championships. Added to these events, CYC will also be hosting Sail East – where junior sailors from across the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, Ontario and the US will participate in 2 days of training and 2 days of racing in club 420s, 29ers, lasers, radials and optimists.

Lining up to round the weather mark. Credit: Ellen McPhailThe Charlottetown Yacht Club has a reputation for generous hospitality, great racing and a tradition of excellent sail training. The Junior Sailing program utilizes Lasers, Optimists and 420s to train over 120 children each summer, between the ages of 5 and 17 years, to become water-wise and proficient in their dinghies under the Sail Canada programs. For the adult newbie or wanna-be racer or cruiser, to offshore personal safety courses, club member Ellen MacPhail offers an accredited on-the-water sailing school aboard the SV Picture Perfect . Besides safety as the top priority, Ellen’s crews are known to laugh louder, rather than sail harder, as it is all about fun! These grassroots programs are certainly the mainstay of supplying great sailors for Charlottetown Race Week as well as the NSTYA Strait Challenge.

2017 will be an exciting year for CYC as they mark their 95th anniversary celebrations along with the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons National Conference and AGM (hosted by the CYC Blue Heron Squadron). Why not head to the land of perfect beaches that go on for kilometer after kilometer, Anne of Green Gables, potatoes, red soil, the longest bridge in the world, Cows ice cream, and most importantly, no place on the island that is more than 16 km from the sea to offer fabulous sailing, power boating and seafood! Come for a visit and you just might end up staying for the summer.

Sailing CharlottetownCharlottetown Yacht Club; P.O. Box 1024; Charlottetown, PEI C1A 7M4; 902-892-9065

Photo Captions
Photo 1 – Coming in at dusk from evening racing.
Photo 2 – CYC building view from the water.
Photo 3 – Weekday racing.
Photo 4 – Ron White, honourary commodore at age 80 up the mast.
Photo 5 – Lining up to round the weather mark. Credit: Ellen McPhail.
Photo 6 – Sailing Charlottetown


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