Point Judith Yacht Club
Lat 41° 25' 42.04" N Long 71° 29' 44.73" W

Club History- as recalled by Robert Harrison and Irwin Silverstein

As nearly as can be determined, that which originated as the Wakefield Yacht Club in 1926, was founded in 1923. The sailing boats were Cape Cod Knockabouts Boats and they were kept in what was then Captain Rose's Boatyard which was later taken over by Louis Hanson where Stone Cove Marina now stands. Races were held on Sundays and Wednesdays. Members met in a shed in Hanson's lent to them for the purpose.

There was a split in the old club prior to 1924-1925 over keeping the Knockabouts, a strict one-design class, and about six energetic members who were local residents broke away and formed their own club. A gentleman by the name of Jack Wood designed new rigs for their boats consisting of taller masts and larger sails. These made the boats so much faster that the others were not allowed to race with them. The other group, mostly summer residents, continued to function, and for many years there were two yacht clubs.

As closely as memory serves, there were about 25 Knockabouts during the prewar period. Between the 1938 hurricane, which completely devastated the area, and World War II, the yacht club, for all intent and purposes, ceased to exist.

In 1947, the club was reactivated and had 14 members including Betty Potter, the Schocks, the Denison, and the Greenes. This group assumed the charter of the old PJYC and was able to convince the bank of the legality of this move, to the extent, that they took over the club's bank account in the old Wakefield Trust in the amount of $303.91. Betty Potter became Secretary/Treasurer in 1948 and, thank the good Lord, kept the job until 1974.

In 1948, a permit was obtained for the present Yacht Club buildings. It was purchased for about $600 raised from the members, and moved to its first location east of the present site of the URI sailing club. The building was formerly a canteen building at the Kaiser Shipyard at Field's Point and was moved to this site by flatbed trailer.

Historical Update

Until recently, the early history of the Point Judith Yacht Club was unrecorded in Club records and was mostly represented through the recollections of two long time members: Robert Harrison and Irwin Silverstein. Arvid Johanson provided much of the current history after 1990. However, recent research through historical societies, the RI Higher Education Library Information Network (HELIN) and area libraries has uncovered information that dates the Club much earlier than other histories of the Club. Much of this information was gleaned from Narragansett Times microfiche held by URI and the South Kingstown public library. As an aside, much credit must be given to Kay Hearn, a past librarian for the Westerly Public Library, who personally indexed the Narragansett Times from its founding in 1855 through 1897. Her work considerably eased research into the Club's early years. For those interested, additional information on her work and others is available at the URL:

http://www.uri.edu/library/reference_databases/ntimes/background.html.

This history must be considered a work in progress and all readers are encouraged to contribute to its further development. Recollections, articles and pictures are welcome and will be appropriately credited, preserved and returned if requested. Contact the PJYC Yearbook Committee with your contribution.

The Wakefield Yacht Club, reformed and renamed years later as the Point Judith Yacht Club, was created on August 23, 1892. On that late summer Tuesday evening, 12 area boaters gathered at the office of Dr R Robinson, a local physician, and discussed formation of a boat club. At that meeting, they established the club formed, elected the first officers, and appointed a committee to develop by laws and submit a name for the new organization. An aggressive group, the meeting went so far as to schedule the new Club's first race for the coming Saturday and identified both a silver cup and a $25 prize, both donated by member Lanman Robinson. The cup would be owned by the first Club member to win 3 races, not necessarily successive.

In its September 2, 1892 issue, the Narragansett Times reported on the newly formed Wakefield Yacht Club's first sponsored race. Run on a triangular course 9-2/3 miles long, this first race was conducted while winds blew NNE at from 38-45 miles an hour! It had to have been an exciting race. The article went on to name the new Club's officers and list winners of the first race. It is interesting to note that the Club announced in the article that "Any person who desires may become a member of the club.

The first officers of the Wakefield Yacht Club were:
Commodore: Lanman Robinson
Vice Commodore: C. H. Armstrong
Secretary and Treasurer: F. C. Olney
Regatta Committee: H.M. Knowles, B. W, Case, B. W. Palmer, R. R. Robinson and Lanman Robinson

Captain Knowles won this first race in his boat Diana. He and Diana proved to be formidable competitors in the years to come. The judges and timers for this first race were: E. W. Cross, T. H. Bell and Edmund Walker.

Membership in the new yacht club doubled the following year when the Club approved twelve new members. The number of boats in the club more than doubled to twenty nine and included 3 classes: First class (over 16 feet), Second class (12-16 feet) and Mosquitos. The first race of the second season was held on July 4th on the upper pond on a ten mile course with the first buoy located in Billington's Cove. Mrs J. P. Robinson hosted a "shore dinner" at "Robinson's grove" for Club members prior to the race. As for the race itself, the Times reported more than 500 spectators at this new , and obviously popular, event. In the July 14, 1893 issue, the Times comments: "The interest in boating in Salt Pond continues to grow and the already large fleet promises to to be considerably increased before the season is over. It is a sport, unlike some others, that is in no way injurious to those who participate in it and it is worthy of encouragement. The TIMES hopes that the Wakefield Yacht Club is a permanent organization, and that with each year it will grow in membership. By another season the club ought to have a commodious and comfortable boat house on the shore of the pond. Perhaps by next winter the members, by some means, may secure funds for such a structure."

The Club held at least two races and a regatta during the 1893 summer season. The second race was held July 22nd and was open to non Club boats. The Wakefield Yacht Club's first annual regatta was held on the Saturday of the Labor Day weekend. This event also permitted non club boats and was viewed as a race to determine whether Wakefield Yacht Club boats and captains measured up to other area race teams. Extremely light winds during the race left most believing this was not to be a test of skill and the race committee awarded the first prize of cup and $25 to Atalanta and second prize to the new Wave. In the second class, Idler and Surprise took first and second, respectively. A Captain Browning (not known why he is not shown in the membership boat listing) took first in the Mosquito fleet with Ibis finishing second.

During 1894, the Wakefield Yacht Club hosted boat races every Saturday afternoon during the month of August. The second annual regatta, again held on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, was a windy one causing several of the Mosquito class boats to be swamped. Captain Knowles, who had not raced his Diana since 1892, was 4-1/2 minutes late in hearing the starting gun but, nevertheless, proved Diana was still the boat to beat. He outdistanced his competitors and easily won the race. During these early races, the smaller sized Mosquito fleet raced a five mile course while the larger First and Second Class boats raced a longer 10 mile course.

After 1894, no other records or references to the Wakefield Yacht Club have been found until August 5th and 12th, 1921, when the Narragansett Times ran two brief articles announcing that the Wakefield Yacht Club was disbanding and selling its interest in Plato's Island where the club had apparently built a club facility. The island was acquired by the Irving Corporation of Providence and all Club furnishings and fittings sold at auction. Plato's Island is located in lower Point Judith Pond, and is the southernmost of the two small islands off Camp Fuller. The circumstances of the island's acquisition by the Club and when a facility was constructed is unknown. It is interesting to note that the Point Judith Pond was also known as Lake Narragansett during these early years of the Club.

In his book, A Stroll Through Memory Lane, Oliver Stedman recalls an interesting incident reported in the Providence Journal at the time and that occurred during the Wakefield Yacht Club's annual July 4th race in 1906. The race had become very popular and was where to be if you lived in or around South County. Everyone who owned or could borrow a boat was on the pond to enjoy these races. During this particular race there was quite a wind blowing and challenging many of the boats that were out that day. Two enterprising Wakefielders, the Messrs Blacksmith and Mooney, rigged a skiff with a makeshift sail and out they went. It wasn't long before the skiff overturned and both found themselves held under water by the sails. Mr Blacksmith was soon rescued but 20 minutes or more went by before Mr Mooney was recovered unconscious. He apparently remained so and was transported to the home of a friend, a local undertaker J Horace Slocum. Later that night, Mr Mooney came to and immediately thought he was attending his own wake. Some wondered what and how much these two local characters took along with them that day as liquid refreshment.

According to some Club member's recollections, the Wakefield Yacht Club was reformed in 1923 and became the current Point Judith Yacht Club in 1926. Boats sailed were Cape Cod Knockabouts. Boats were kept in what was then Captain Rose's Boat Yard and later taken over by Captain Louis Hanson. Today, the property is our neighbor, Stone Cove Marina. Races were held on Sundays and Wednesdays. The members met in a shed at Hanson's, lent to them for the purpose. As reported in a September 18, 1925 Narragansett Times article, Captain Hanson was a major supporter of these races and sponsored one of the winner's cups, the other sponsored by Kenyon's. Captain Hanson registered the boat entries for these races and was recognized for his personal contributions in helping area youngsters in their pursuit of sailing. As the TIMES reported, "It has been a pleasure to have a young man like Capt Hanson show the interest and to help the young people out with their boats at Salt Pond, and already talk of a new class of sailboats for next season is being heard."

Apparently, this talk of a new class of sailboats, vice keeping the one design class of Knockabouts, had some strong local feelings. As a consequence, several local residents and members of the Wakefield Yacht Club split off and formed the current Point Judith Yacht Club. The Wakefield Yacht Club continued to function for many more years with a membership consisting mostly of summer residents. The design of this new class of boats with rigging that allowed taller masts and greater sail area is credited to Jack Woods. Thus a new and faster racing class came into being. It is believed that about 25 of these newKnockabouts existed during the prewar period. What remained of the PJYC after the 1938 hurricane, which completely devastated the area, ceased to exist with the start of World War II.

Shortly after the war, in 1947, PJYC was reactivated by 14 initial members that included Betty Potter, the Schocks, Denisons‚ and the Greenes. The newly reformed club adopted the original club's charter and succcessfully petitioned Wakefield Trust to assume the financial assets of the original club which amounted to $303.91. Betty Potter became Secretary/Treasurer in 1948 and continuously managed the Club's finances until 1974, an astonishing and impressive 26 years!

Two years later, in 1949, a permit was issued for the present PJYC building. After raising $600 from the membership, the former Kaiser Shipyard canteen at Field's Point in Providence was purchased and moved to a site just east of the current location where the URI Sailing Club now sits.

In 1946, future Commodore Edson Schock designed a 131/2-foot sloop, to be known as a Narragansett Sea Scout. After discussion with sevearal PJYC members, Professor Schock extended the the boat plan length to 15 feet. The first boat of this class was built in Providence by Zenas R. Bliss, a PJYC member and 1956-57 Commodore. Soon after, during the winter of 1948-49, large scale production was started in a Quonset hut owned by Charlie Perkins, PJYC Commodore 1953-54. Several enthusiastic members of the Club participated in the construction of these boats, including Denny Greene, Betty Potter and Charlie Perkins. A total of seven boats were built with all mistakes blamed on the effects of the uneven dirt floor of the Quonset hut. Since the boats were built by a team of club members, ownership was determined by a lot drawing. As late as 1969, at least two of these boasts were still around the club: The Greene's Sharon Potts and the Dufoor's KeeHoTay.

During these early days, one design racing, day sailing, picnics and moonlight sails were the principal activities of the club. Until recently, sailing and sail racing was clearly the primary, principle focus of the club. For many years, PJYC's primary racing boat was the Point Judith 15, or PJ15. The first 73 models were built of plywood at Bill Schmid's Ram Point Boat Yard during the 1950s and 60s. Beginning with hull number 74 in 1972, PJ15s were constructed of fiberglass and built by Glastech from a mold derived from hull number 46. About 50 of these fiberglass PJ15s were built over the next few years. A dwindling fleet of Cape Cod Knockabouts raced until 1983. During the 1980s, Lasers, Javelins and Snipes were added as well as a miscellaneous open class. The 410 class, a sailing yacht then commonly used in collegiate racing, was added in 1986.

The junior sailing program of training and racing has been active since the 1960s. The early program was run by Marion Harrison. During the 1970's, Suzanne Marchetti and Peter Greene developed an active sailing instruction program for juniors that is the model upon which the current program continues.

During the 1970's, many former one-design sailors and members acquired cruising class boats, both sail and power. This was the beginning of a membership trend that extended the purpose of the club to include non sail related boating activity and supporting social functions. By 1981, about 15 PJYC members were carrying out cruising group activities organized primarily by Bancroft Henderson and later by Kenneth Munroe. About this time and in order to improve facilities for this new class of cruising yachts, a club mooring was placed in New Harbor, Block Island.

In September 1981, a Building Committee was formed to consider building a new clubhouse and docks. The committee was initially chaired by Buzz Henderson, followed by John Spence and Paul Schurman. During April 1982, the committee and Board of Trustees proposed that the clubhouse, then still located east of the URI boathouse, be moved to its current locatoin on land owned by the Town of South Kingstown. As part of the move, the building would be refurbished and docks built to berth some of the cruising class boats. The plan, approved by the membership, was initially developed by Bill Schmid then further developed by Paul Schurman and Peter Greene. It was initially presented to the South Kingstown Town Council during its May 1982 meeting. Over the next two years, the Building Committee and Board of Trustees, lead by Commodore's Robert Harrison, John Spence and Peter Greene as well as other club members worked to meet the needs of the town, Coastal Resources Management Council, and Army Corps of Engineers. Subject to successful negotiation of a lease, the Town Council approved the plan on March 24, 1983. On the recommendation of Irwin "Hook" Silverstein's Finance Advisory Committee, the membership authorized the Board of Trustees to obtain capital funding through a $35,000 bond issue. The project was commenced during the winter of 1984. Paul Schurman served as the general contractor and Peter Greene supervised construction of the docks. The current basement and deck was added as the clubhouse was moved and the new clubhouse opened in June, 1984.

Joe Viveiros and Joe Connolly added water and electricity to the docks during 1984 and Joe Connolly added lighting during 1985. Soon afterward, the two were called upon again to replace both the water and electrical systems as a result of extensive damage caused by Hurricane Gloria in 1985. The clubhouse interior was redone and a kitchenette added in 1986 primarily through the efforts of Donald and Nancy Bessette and John Haigh. The new and improved facility attracted many new members and club membership doubled over the next 18 months.

During the Spring of 1990 the Building and Grounds Committee, then chaired by Tom McHugh, proposed to replace the aging windows in the Clubhouse. Club member Arvid Johanson, also a contractor, offered to help and save the club considerable money on the project. His aggressive price negotiations resulted in dramatic savings to the club and high quality Anderson windows which were later installed as a club "self help" project. The spirit shown by club members on the window project is just one example of many projects undertaken by many different club members that continue to make positive and progressive change in the club. Whether special equipment is needed or the skills of a professional, tradesman or technician, club members who can have stepped forward and done what they can because they can. Some contribute their social and organization skills, others offer their boundless energy and positive attitudes that infect all. This eclectic combination of people with a common interest in boating is what makes Point Judith Yacht Club the dynamic and progressive club that it is today.

Over the winter of 2001-02, then Commodore Rob Lavallee championed a new concept of a point system whose purpose was to encourage a more balanced participation by the full membership in club governance, maintenance and social activities. Working from other yacht club models and with the active participation of the Board of Trustees, a system was developed and implemented the following year. It has proven successful and has so far shown to have had the desired effect of encouraging and rewarding participation in all facets of club activities.