LYC Moves Bayside & Becomes a Charter Member of the BBYRA
From the beginning, however, there were those whose hearts were with sailing, gunning, and fishing on the Bay, rather than the social activities on the oceanfront. Among them was the first Commodore, Charles C. Eareckson, a Philadelphia lawyer who was also the second mayor of Lavallette, serving from 1890 to 1910. In 1906 he donated a lot on the bay front at President Avenue to the club, and the Trustees appropriated $450 to build a house.
Activity at the Bay Annex, as it came to be called, flourished. A new dock, porches, screens, lanterns, and a flagpole, were added in 1907, and the Committee on Sanitary Comfort of the Members was authorized to spend $20 for construction of the necessary facilities. Formal races for members’ catboats and sneakboxes were held as early as 1908, and in 1910 the First Annual Open Race for Sneakboxes was won by Quickstep, of Forked River, with Lemonade, of Bay Head, second. (For those under the impression that women have come only recently to sailing competition it may be noted that a 1911 race for members was won by Miss Bertha Rembaugh in her 20-foot sneakbox—and this in a day when skippers of the twenty-footers were said to be recognizable by the size of their biceps).
When a winter storm damaged the beach front Clubhouse in 1914 there were few objections to the proposal that it be moved to the bay front. By July of 1915 it was in place, the annex was moved to the rear, a second-floor front porch was added, and the first-floor porch was carried down the full length of the south side of the Clubhouse and Annex. Joe Stillwell did the job for $1,922; he inadvertently set the building down in the charted path of the Bay Boulevard, but the Boulevard existed almost entirely on paper and the miscalculation went unnoticed, or at least unheeded, at the time.
Lavallette was one of the six first-year members when the Barnegat Bay Yacht Racing Association was formed in 1914. During the 1920’s and early 1930’s, when 50 to 60 fifteen-foot sneakboxes from eight clubs raced in the BBYRA’s weekly regattas, Lavallette’s fleet ranked with the best, and several skippers brought home Bay championships. As the BBYRA fleet grew more diversified, so did Lavallette’s. Over the years the club has had champions or strong contenders in virtually every class–among them Moths, Snipes, Penguins, Comets, Jets, G-Boats, M-Sloops, Lightnings, Class E Sloops, Flying Dutchmen, Lasers, Blue Jays, Flying Scots, Sunfish, Optimists, Sanderlings, Sneakboxes, and catboats of all sizes. Three of the original five historic Class A Catboats have represented Lavallette at one time or another, and all brought championships to the club.
When Lavallette’s Jet 14 sailors dominated their class, much as the E Scow skippers do today, three won national titles and both the Senior and Junior Nationals were held here. The club has been host to the Flying Dutchman North American championships; to State and Central Atlantic District Lightning regattas, to Laser District competition and to Laser Master Nationals. Lavallette’s own intra-club competition brings out more than 50 entries in a variety of classes from Optimists and Sunfish to M Sloops, Flying Scots, Lasers, and Sanderlings for the traditional Sunday races.
The Early Years on the Ocean
Swan Point is the third site for the club and its original building, which forms the core of the present structure. From 1905 to 1914 the clubhouse looked out over the ocean from a low dune on the south side of Bond Avenue, from 1915 to 1947 it was situated on the bay front on the north side of President Avenue, and in the winter of 1947-48 it was moved to Swan Point.
Formally organized at a meeting in the quarters of the R to R (Road to Ruin) Club on the evening of August 13, 1904, the club ranks as Lavallette’s second oldest institution, antedated only by the Union Church. The R to R was a weekend and vacation retreat for its members and guests – who were noted for their lively pursuit of fun. They were, however, instrumental in the founding of the Yacht Club and providing leadership, financial support, and business and legal expertise during the early years.
By July of 1905, the Clubhouse was ready for occupancy. The two-story structure consisted of four first-floor rooms topped by a single, open room. There was a first-floor front porch, barely level with its sandy surroundings.
Just why the beach front location was chosen must remain a matter of speculation; the early log-keepers did not go into detail on this point. Clearly the intention of those at the initial meeting was to build on the bay front. At a meeting of the Trustees the following March, however, sentiment in favor of the oceanfront site prevailed.
Two possible reasons suggest themselves. One, the bay front was not a particularly appealing place in those days. It was marshland, mosquito-infested and more hospitable to its sizeable population of snakes and muskrats than to humans. The Bay Boulevard was a one-block stretch of road from Reese Avenue to President Avenue that frequently was more bay than boulevard. And then, as now, it was often hot and humid when the beach front was more pleasantly cool. Two, Lavallette’s need for a yacht club might be questioned, but there was no doubt it needed a center for community activities and entertainment. There was no school, no town hall, the struggling church was housing the municipal offices, and the R to R as yet had no home of its own. Residents of the fledgling resort could not look to neighboring towns for diversion; the only link was the railroad, and it would be another seven years before a gravel road made its way from Bay Head to Seaside Park. If the yacht club was to serve as a social center, the beach front would be the better site.
During its decade on the beach and for so long thereafter as was needed, the club performed this function admirably. It provided the town with dances, dinners, and entertainments throughout the summer season; housed meetings of all types; and for at least one summer was the home of the Sunday School classes of the church.
The Club Comes Home to Swan Point
The move to Swan Point was precipitated by the revival of plans to construct the northern section of Bay Boulevard, which would slice through the Clubhouse. The need had been foreseen; in 1943 the Club acquired title to the easterly portion of the sedge islands at the northern end of town, bordering on Great Swan Pond—better known locally as “The Ducky” for $866.34 plus accrued taxes. In order to help with the cost the Trustees voted to raise the dues of family memberships to $25.00 and Junior memberships to $10.00.
The addition of the Commodore’s Gallery with a new front entrance in 2003 created a dramatic trophy room to show the history of the Club while approaching the R to R room. The growth in facilities was more than matched by the expansion of activity. Social functions became more numerous and varied, and the season was extended at both ends. Today, the Club is open from May through October. A comprehensive junior program has been developed with social as well as sailing elements. A fleet of training boats was acquired, and Club launches were purchased to serve as towboats, patrols, and committee boats.
100 Years of Sailing
In 2004, LYC celebrated its 100th Birthday. A special history book was published with pictures and memories of both senior and junior members. Living up to its motto “100 Years of Sailing”, the Club held the East Coast E Scow Regatta and the Opti State Regatta in addition to the junior sailing series on Wednesdays and the LYC Championship series on Sundays. The Club had adult sailing lessons and a special fun series for sunfish on Thursday nights. The members also volunteered their boats, expertise, and hospitality for a day on the water for disabled people.
There were many social events with a birthday theme. The Club hosted the BBYRA Commodore’s Ball Dinner Dance and Fundraiser. On August 14, the 100th dedication party was held. The members dressed in clothes reminiscent of the past and shared their old photographs, scrapbooks and newspaper articles. The Ocean County String Band played and the juniors did a special historical skit that ended with a parade of lighted birthday cakes.
In 2012, LYC became a member of the National Sailing Hall of Fame. Under the coordination of PC James Maida, the membership donated the necessary $10,000 to join as a founding member. Many of the other clubs in the BBYRA have since joined the NSHOF.
Rebuilding After Superstorm Sandy
In the summer of 2011, Hurricane Irene blew into town and caused the Yacht Club to cancel the BBYRA Regatta Day. There was minimal damage to the club and, although some members' boats sunk or broke free from their moorings, for the most part the storm damage was minimal. In the summer of 2012, the club was struck by a July micro burst during the Caribbean Sunset Event. 80 mile per hour winds swept all tables, chairs, centerpieces, and food off the deck. Everyone huddled inside until the storm was over. When the skies cleared, members ventured out to survey the damage. Commodore Lopus reported that the awning on the upper deck and several tables had blown into the marina and that the roof had sustained damage and would require repair. The membership tidied up as best they could and set back to its top priority of making the best of it and continuing to dancing on the patio, now to a much larger dance floor.
Those storms were a mere rainy day by comparison to Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall on October 29th of 2012. The force of the “Frankenstorm” had an IKE of 140 terajoules, which is more than twice the energy of the Hiroshima Atomic bomb. The size of the storm was immense. Sandy made landfall in Ortley Beach at a seasonally high tide, during a full moon. Superstorm Sandy was measured at 940 millibars 27.76 inches. It had the lowest barometric reading ever recorded for an Atlantic Storm. It left 7.5 million Americans in 15 states out of power; many of them were in the dark for over a week. Lavallette and the other shore communities were in the dark for much longer. The Route 37 Bridge was damaged and a new inlet had formed running parallel to the Mantoloking Bridge. The area was accessible only by those brave souls who ventured out in their boats. Isolated and without power, or gas for heat, those that stayed with their homes faced a daunting task of survival and clean-up. The National Guard was called on for security and many law enforcement agencies from a variety of states stepped in to help keep the peace and facilitate the cleanup efforts.
The Yacht Club suffered a great deal from Sandy’s wrath. Water came into the building and was deepest in the R to R Room. The floors were damaged, the heating and air conditioning and all outdoor refrigeration units were all damaged. The outdoor bathrooms were damaged. The walls in the club were compromised. Boats in the yard were all swept up against the entry road fence in a massive jumble. The marina was in shambles and all water and power stations were compromised or missing. The stairs to the club were also among the missing items.
Just two days after the storm, when the Garden State Parkway was again open to southern bound traffic, Commodore Lopus, PC James Maida, Paul Magno and Dan Driscoll braved the flotsam and jetsam littering the bay and, traveling by boat, surveyed the damage to the club in order to put a preliminary report and work plan together. With November 1st, the incoming Commodore Scheyer took over the reigns and began the long road to recovery.
The club was closed to members during the cleanup and repairs. Hearty volunteers aided in the demolition and rebuilding projects. The spirit of volunteerism shown brightly during the darkest days of our history. LYC emerged better than ever and ready for the 2013 season!