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HISTORY OF SQUANTUM YACHT CLUB

 
  Special Thanks to Hank Wessmann for the all the research that he put in to authoring this document.

In the latter years of the nineteenth century, the enthusiasm for sailing among an increasing number of residents in the Greater Boston area had led to the establishment of several yacht clubs in Dorchester and Hingham Bays.

In the late 1800’s the western shore of Quincy Bay was significantly different from today. The shore line consisted of large and small creeks which cut into what was mostly a marshland waterfront which flooded with the tide, much like the marshes that surround present day Squantum. There was no dredged channel although there was a small natural one in this area of marsh and mudflat and it was in this small natural channel where boats in Quincy Bay would be moored. In July of 1890 a small group of those who so moored their boats met and decided to form a yacht club named “North Quincy Yacht Club” for the residents of Wollaston, Atlantic, and Squantum. Initially the “North Quincy Yacht Club” consisted of twenty members but by August of 1890 the name was changed to the “Merrymount Yacht Club” to broaden the connotation of the range of the club. In 1891, with continued expansion of the membership of the club, the officers of the club began the search for shoreline property to be acquired for the erection of a clubhouse and boat landing facilities. In 1892 the club again changed its name, this time to the “Squantum Yacht Club of Atlantic” and simultaneously adopted the present design for the club burgee. In 1893, a waterfront building was leased by the club for the season but in April of 1893 the club purchased a 5,800 square foot lot with 116 feet of shoreline on Channing Street in Quincy. Also, in March of 1983 the “of Atlantic” part of the name was dropped and the club filed a charter with the Commonwealth. In 1894 the Squantum Yacht Club purchased the clubhouse of the then defunct Massasoit Canoe Club of South Boston, loaded it on to a large scow and towed it over to the Quincy shore line where it was then re-erected on the new club land. A 250’ long runway was also constructed and a large landing float was moored at its outer end. The float enabled landings on not much less than half tide for the membership which by 1895 had expanded to 96 and included 23 sailboats.

From 1896 through 1903 the Squantum Yacht Club went through some tough times. The “Great Portland Storm” heavily damaged the club’s facilities. It is believed that a membership rift led to a splintering off of the membership who then formed “Wollaston Yacht Club”. Then in 1903 the club was forced to abandon its facility since it was in the path of the Commonwealth’s new Quincy Shore Drive. In taking the Squantum Yacht Club’s site, the Commonwealth gave the club permission to erect a new clubhouse on a piled wharf. Work was promptly started and in April of 1904 the attractive new facility was formally opened. In 1904 the Commonwealth dredged a channel and basin to the club and at long last the club finally became water accessible at all tides.

 After the construction of the new piled club in 1904 and prior to the First World War the club flowered as a sailing center. Squantum Yacht Club’s reputation for producing champion sailors became known far and wide. Regattas were common with large wooden sailing vessels. Squantum Yacht Club sailors also brought national acclaim to Boston through winning prestigious racing events of the day such as the City of Boston Bermuda Cup. In its brief 20 years of existence the Squantum Yacht Club had managed to survive all of the challenges that face a start up “grass roots” operation, including the State’s taking of its facilities, and become a shining example of the regions legendary sea faring citizenry. 

SYC Fire August 5 1930 With the entry of the United States into the First World War boating became almost non existent. Submarine netting closed off the harbor and boats were not allowed outside of them. Many of the younger club members had enlisted in the armed services while older members joined the so-called “Home Guard” which had been organized across the Commonwealth. Squantum Yacht Club’s building became a “drill hall” for local units of the guard and “black out” curtains covered the clubs windows. Recreational boating was slow to emerge in the post First World War period as the cost for boats and their operation had tripled and a disastrous fire at Hanley’s Boat Yard in Germantown had destroyed some of the largest boats of Squantum’s Fleet. Smaller boats became the way of the future.

In the 1920’s sailing came back into prominence in Quincy Bay and with it came the establishment of the Squantum Dory Class Association where 21 foot sailing Emmons dories became popular for racing. Several of these were altered to “marconi rigs” and Quincy Bay’s first truly indigenous sailboat, the “Indian” class emerged. As the popularity of the “Indian” increased it became the sailboat for interclub racing in Boston. By 1926 the membership of Squantum Yacht Club had increased to 300 and the facility was expanded with an increased in size lounge, an equipped kitchen, and an expanded upper deck. Also during the 20’s the junior program for the age group of 14 to 18 was established to promote sailing, socializing, and help with the projects and functions of the club. In 1930, the 40th anniversary year of the club, a fire swept through the club and a total disaster was narrowly averted by the actions of one of the first firemen to reach the fire who was also a member of the club. The club membership responded accordingly by not only restoring the club but also improving it.

During the 30’s Squantum Yacht Club’s sailing prowess was further established in metropolitan Boston by capturing the Lipton Cup Trophy in 1931, which was a trophy presented to the Massachusetts Bay Yacht Club Association by Sir Thomas Lipton, founder of Lipton Tea, to commemorate the 350th anniversary of Boston’s founding. Squantum Yacht Club presently is the “keeper” of this trophy and holds the highly regarded Lipton Cup regatta for sailing every summer. Squantum Yacht Club’s Junior Crew continued to bring regional acclaim to Quincy Bay by winning the Finley Trophy, a trophy emblematic of the junior championship of the South Shore Junior Racing Association, five times in this period. In 1938 Squantum Yacht Club played a leading role in helping to form the Quincy Bay Race Week Association whose week long regatta continues to the present.

With the Second World War, the Squantum Yacht Club’s activities were again curtailed for the war effort and with many of its younger members in the service. As the war ended, membership was again on the rise and the “Hustler” class sailboat became the second class sailboat developed at Squantum. The “Hustler” quickly became a popular Quincy Bay boat and by 1952, 39 “Hustlers” sailed from Squantum Yacht Club. In 1952, the Yacht Racing Union of Massachusetts established the Benson Trophy for the Senior Men’s Championship, and it was won by one of Squantum’s better “Indian” and “Hustler” skippers, Jim Bonney. The popularity of Squantum’s sailing fleet extended to other non-Quincy Bay developed sailboats including the “Thistle”. In 1961, of the 33 interclub “Thistles”, 11 sailed from Squantum.

In 1961 disaster again struck the Squantum Yacht Club’s piled facility. Quincy Bay had frozen over and a storm with strong easterly winds created sufficient ice pressure to snap off the pilings under the front of the clubhouse and its verandas causing them to collapse into the bay. But the members of the club rose to the occasion; cutting back approximately one third of the building to the ridge line, driving new piles, and reconstructing the building.

Building Sabots uptairs 1954 Squantum Yacht Club strongly rebounded from the devastating disaster and this was particularly evident in its sailing. Squantum soon had the highest participation in the Mass Bay Yacht Racing Association Regatta. 1965 marked the Diamond Jubilee of the club and it hosted the National Championship regattas for “Tiger Cats”, “Thistles”, and “Day Sailors. Additionally, regattas included the indigenous “Indian” and “Hustler” class sailboats, as well as the newer boats including “210’s”, “420’s”, “Turnabouts”, and “Flying Scots”. In 1966 the Squantum skipper Jim Bonney, who had won the first Senior Men’s Championship of the Yacht Racing Union of Massachusetts in 1952, went to compete in the “Little America’s Cup” and in 1967 was awarded the “Unesco” award in Paris, France. Another Squantum “Indian” sailor, Lee Van Germet, crewed with Ted Hood in the America Cup trials and in 1975 he won the Newport to England Trans- Atlantic Race. 

On Washington Birthday in 1976, Squantum Yacht Club suffered probably its biggest disaster when the clubhouse burned to the pile line. The fire boats were forced to retreat as the blaze burned as the tide receded due to the lack of dredging. The building was a total loss. The will of the membership to rebuild was unbroken even when it was determined that the pilings, which were hoped to be reused, were found to be unsuitable. But, plans were drawn up, new pilings were driven, the North Bennett Street Industrial School of Boston framed the shell of the new building for a training project for its students, members did the plumbing, electrical, sheet rocking, finish work and painting, while Wollaston Yacht club opened its doors as the temporary home to its brother members, and, on May 5, 1978 the building was dedicated at its annual opening night ceremony.

The celebration of the reestablishment of the clubhouse was short-lived when in the winter of 1979 Quincy Bay froze over all the way out to Long Island. During one night again the winds blew hard from the East and the pilings again under the front deck were crushed. The ill timed disaster was particularly devastating to the club in that it had no funds as a result of the 76 fire but a member assessment was immediately approved, a piling contractor employed, and the members pitched in and did the carpentry. The work was completed in time for the opening night ceremony in May of 79.

During the 1980’s the club continued to rebound. New floats were constructed, the junior sailing program which had been displaced by the rebuilding effort from the fire was reinstituted and strengthened, and the 2 day Lipton Cup regatta was organized and instituted. In 1988 Squantum Yacht Club was named “1988 Yacht Club of the Year” by the Yacht Racing Union of Massachusetts Bay. Also in 1988 Squantum Yacht Club gained national notoriety by having been awarded the “Yacht Club of the Year in One Design Racing” by the United States Yacht Racing Union.

In the period from the 1990’s to the present Squantum Yacht Club has continued its long and proud traditions. The Lipton Cup Regatta is the premier sailing event of Quincy Bay. New “Opti” sailboats have been purchased and are utilized for the Junior sailing program which is open to all junior members of the public at large. Facility improvements keep the appearance of Wollaston Beach as a desirable place to attend. An annual fishing tournament, open to all, is sponsored by the club. The second floor function hall is opened for rental to all and opened for free to the schools of Quincy for several functions, while the “Friends of Wollaston Beach” use the facility for their meetings. The Office of Homeland Security maintains a wind/weather station at Squantum and the Quincy Police as well as the Coast Guard use the facility and its floats as a shore access point for emergencies since there are no others. Squantum Yacht Club has evolved as a grass roots organization for the interested citizens of metropolitan Boston for well over 100 years

Although its history speaks for itself, Squantum Yacht Club’s purpose is best summarized by its founding preamble to its Constitution: 

“Since it is our desire to perpetuate an organization to foster and promote yachting in Quincy Bay and surrounding waters, to provide a common meeting place for yachtsmen and their friends, where good fellowship may prevail and harmony reign supreme and to encourage the youth of our organization to emulate the above principles, this organization is therefore founded, with the trust that it will be a benefit to the community.”

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