Following hard on the end of the sailing season the docks at the Charlottetown Yacht Club have been taken out of the water or moved to a safer location to protect them from the ice movement. Repairs have been carried out and the Club has been gradually “put to bed for the winter.” The chairs for the old geezers have been taken off the verandah and even the geezers themselves have been moved to winter storage.
The process is a time-honoured tradition which goes back to the original clubhouse built just before the Second War. The present clubhouse, built on the site of the original, mirrors the architectural style of the original but is very different. Few photos exist of the interior of the building but it was much more of a humble structure with boarded walls and exposed studs.
What the photos don’t capture is a very necessary feature of every yacht club at the time – a sail loft. Before Dacron and other miracle fibers for sails everyone depended on cotton sail cloth – a cheap and dependable canvas which held up well if properly cared for. And proper care meant ensuring that sails were not put away wet which could lead surprisingly quickly to mildew and rot – and sometimes nesting rodents. The sail loft provided a place where sails could be hung before being packed away.
By the early 1960s when I, as a young lad, first began to hang about the Charlottetown Yacht Club the sail loft was no longer used for sails. Instead, in my memory, it housed a huge collection of vintage copies of “The Rudder” and “Motorboating” dating from the Great War to the late 1930s. They probably had belonged to long-time honourary commodore Mac Irwin. I well remember curling up in the loft on rainy summer days and paging through the photos and plans of the sloops and yawls and speedy runabouts and flush-deck cruisers (not unlike the Restless and Roamer) of the time of yachts past.
It was not long before the sail-loft was turned into the club bar and I suspect that the magazines and old trophies and lots of other souvenirs of the old club were thrown out. One of the few surviving remnants of the old clubhouse can be seen in these photos. The verandah chairs were reputedly built using lumber from shipping boxes coming into Charlottetown wholesalers. And well-built they were, as several of them, having been repainted, repaired and repainted over and over, still serving on the verandah of the present club building.
I don’t remember much else about the old building except for the fireplace, which worked a treat and was probably the only source of heat for the building. As the photo shows the fireplace was constructed of beach cobbles. At an event at the Pictou Yacht Club I was discussing the clubhouse with a member of the Pictou club. He had fond memories of the old building. In those days before everyone had boats large enough to sleep aboard the club played another role. The finish of the annual Charlottetown-Pictou race alternated between the two clubs and with the prevailing wind the trip to Charlottetown always seemed longer. After crossing the line on a particularly cold, wet, and long race many of the participants rolled out sleeping bags in front of a warming fire in the Charlottetown and passed the remainder of the evening in reflection and dialogue.
Although the club was the site of many social activities with corn boils, bean suppers, lobster boils and other events (mostly catered by the long-suffering and much-missed “ladies aux”) the photos above mystified me (who are these people and what are they doing?) until I noticed the pumpkins on the fireplace mantel. So this is a timely posting of a long-ago Halloween at the CYC.