Tag Archives: Charlottetown Aquatic Club

“Every citizen should be a member.” The Guardian and the founding of the Charlottetown Yacht Club


Charlottetown Guardian 14 September 1922

Whether planted in the mind of the editor by yachting enthusiasts or arising spontaneously from the editorial pen the editorial for the Charlottetown Guardian on 2 September 1922 centred on the harbour of the city;

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. They would prove most attractive to visitors, especially to visitors from inland points to whom the sea is always a source of mystery. They can have the motoring and driving they want at home.  They go to the seaside for seaside enjoyment and in a place like Charlottetown, situated as it is beside safe and attractive sea surroundings they are disappointed if they do not find such enjoyment.

The editorial had enthusiastic support and within two weeks  a meeting was held to put the suggestion into action. Upwards of seventy-five individuals crowded into a room at the Navy League Building on Dundas Esplanade. After repeating the advantages for the people of Charlottetown and visitors alike (who in the past had been disappointed at the lack of sails in the harbour) a motion was unanimously adopted to form a yachting club in the city to be called the Charlottetown Yacht Club.

At the same meeting the first slate of officers was installed. Although the Guardian listed the head of the organization as “Commander” rather than “Commodore” it was an easy mistake as the person who filled the role was Commander W.G. Lewin, a newly arrived retired officer of the Royal Navy (about whom I will be writing more at a later date).  Vice “Commander” was T.B. Grady, superintendent of the P.E.I. Railway, with Louis J. MacDonald as secretary. The Committee consisted of Dr. A.D. Reid, Ivan Reddin, John Cameron, Malcolm Irwin, James Currie and George Buntain.  The Guardian congratulated those present on the formation of the club. “The splendid movement on the part of these gentlemen will fill a long felt want in our Province and is unquestionably deserving of generously support by our citizens.”

The organization was the latest of a long series of clubs that had existed with similar aims including the Charlottetown Regatta Club in the 1840s, the Hillsboro Boating Club  ca.1873-1925, the first (and short-lived) Charlottetown Yacht Club formed in 1903 and the Charlottetown Aquatic Club 1912-1915.  However the 1922 Club continued through the decade and was incorporated in 1938.

Although the sailing season for 1922 was drawing to a close at the time the Club was founded by the first annual general meeting held in May 1923 substantial progress had been made. By November of 1922 designs could be viewed at Reddin Bros. Drug Store for a proposed standard yacht for the club. The plans showed boats of about 21 feet in length with a sail area of five or six hundred feet of canvas. The Club believed this was the size of yacht which could be locally built at a low price. At the time the Club was considering tendering for the construction of one or more boats to be owned by the Club and sailed by its members. Included in the designs was one from William J. Roué, a Nova Scotia designer just beginning his career who had achieved fame with the schooner Bluenose which had won the first of its International Fisherman’s Trophies the previous year. Although there is no listing for a boat for the CYC in the Roué design portfolio it is known that he did design a Roué 20 which may be the designed referred to.  Over the winter nine boats were built but they appear to be of varying designs and it is not known if the Roué design was used for any of them.

Insurance Plan Connolloys wharves  ca. 1913. In the 1920s the firm of Alyward & Deegan had a coal yard on Connolly's Wharf

Insurance Plan Connolloys wharves ca. 1913. In the 1920s the firm of Alyward & Deegan had a coal yard on Connolly’s Wharf

By the spring 1923 meeting the Club had more than two hundred members. It was announced that the club had received permission to use the dock between Carvell Bros. and Alywards (part of Paoli’s wharf) as an anchorage. The area was to be dredged to form a basin and a night watchman would be placed on duty. A listing of motor boats willing to take visitors and tourists on motor boat outings was to be prepared by the Club. In addition the Club appears to have received the use of a part of the Navy League building for meetings and other activities.

The club was still pursuing the idea of Club-owned boats. A number of members had subscribed toward the funds for that purpose and a committee consisting of Messrs David Bethune, Walter Hyndman and Commander Lewin had been appointed to solicit merchants for contributions toward the purchase of two or three boats for Club members.

The Guardian noted the progress of the club with editorial approval:

When the fleet is out in full force, as is expected shortly, Charlottetown Harbour will once more present the lively appearance of those days, a generation or two ago, when white-winged pleasure boats vied with each other and with the elements for mastery in speed and skill. This new fleet will be an added attraction for Charlottetown, and we trust it will grow from year to year, both in numbers and in popularity.

The Charlottetown Yacht Club although but a young institution is growing apace. It already has a membership of about 250, with room for still more. For a city like Charlottetown, with its magnificent stretches of rivers, there are few organizations which have better opportunities to advertise and popularize the province than this Yacht Club and every citizen should be a member, and so help in carrying out a much needed work. 

The late spring of 1923 saw the first yacht racing in many years as at least fourteen boats from the Yacht Club participated….More on that in a future posting.

An update on the Charlottetown Aquatic Club

In my note on the Charlottetown Aquatic Club I stated that there seemed to be no news of the club after the outbreak of the Great War.  Now I have located a couple of more items that suggest that the club activities continued for at least another year.

Guardian 3 July 1915 p.5

Guardian 3 July 1915 p.5

Clearly there has been some difficulties for the Club, which, for some reason needed to be “re-organized”.  The appearance of four trophies suggests that the level of interest was high. Two of the cups were put up by the Charlottetown Aquatic Club and two brought back by Edward Irwin from his recent trip to Boston.

That the club was very much a motor-boat club is clear from the news of the first activity planned for the organization. Two weeks after the Guardian announcement about the club re-organization the first of the races was announced. This was to be a trial race for boats of two cylinders and those of one cylinder to establish handicaps for the rest of the race season. Many of the boats would have been equipped with engines manufactured by Bruce Stewart and Company which had begin production at its plant at the head of the Steam Navigation Wharf in 1909.

Ad for Imperial engines Guardian 17 March 1917 p.2

Ad for Imperial engines Guardian 17 March 1917 p.2

There was a clock-wise course starting from a line defined by the judges boat and a flag buoy, thence to Government Point Black Buoy [now Middle Ground Green] leaving it to Port, thence to the Messervey’s Point Buoy,[I’m not sure where this is but am guessing it is the Langley Beach Red]  thence to the flag buoy off the Railway Wharf and back to the start line. Twice around for two-cylinder boats, once for one-cylinder boats.   While the is little doubt that the races were held only  the results for the second race in the series have been found.  Bruce Stewart’s Imperial led the A class of seven boats  while A. Aylward took first in the B Class. Of the dozen boats listed I have been able to find a photo of only one – Hal Bourke’s “Flirt”.

It is worth noting that among the Aquatic Club officers were Hal Bourke and Mac Irwin, both of whom were to become very important when the Charlottetown Yacht Club was established in 1922. Hal’s Restless and Mac Irwin’s Roamer  were still very much in evidence in the early 1960s when the current crop of CYC “mature” members were youngsters and many of us can remember trips on these two boats.

Motor-boat racing a century ago

MOrto Boar "Flirt" as Connolly's (later Paoil's) wharf ca. 1913

Motor-boat “Flirt” at Connolly’s (later Paoil’s) wharf ca. 1913

The summer of 1913  saw a burst of  activity in Charlottetown Harbour as the Charlottetown Aquatic Club organized a number of events.   The first of these was a grand parade of all the motorboats in Charlottetown leaving the Navigation Wharf for Victoria Park at 7:00. The Guardian reported thirty actually took part.  The event was described as follows:

“What with the rushing boats gaily flying flags and pennants both aft and for’ad, the toot of whistles, the sounds of the exhaust explosions, the merry parties of people on board, and the echoes of their merriment, the scene was one full of life, and only served to accentuate the fact that the boating and sailing facilities of Charlottetown are unsurpassable…”

Some 1000 to 1500 spectators lined the Victoria Park Shoreline to get a glimpse of the boats. Competing in the speed boat class were Frank Hennessey’s Dixie Girl, C.L. Grant’s Vixen, Frank Stewart’s Ruth and the Fox owned by Mr. Hobbs.. After three heats over a straight one mile course ending in front of the Park the winner was Dixie Girl. The other race of the evening was an out and back race which saw all boats race away from the starting line for seven minutes and on signal, turn and race back. That race has an inconclusive result. The Guardian editor praised the Aquatic Club for their initiative and success:

“The animated appearance of the harbour with its forty or fifty motors on Tuesday evening will not soon be forgotten by those who witnessed it and nothing could be better designed to demonstrate to visitors the comparative comfort – if not wealth- the friendly co-operation, the capacity for healthful recreation, and above all the splendid facilities available in Charlottetown for such recreation.”

For the second evening of races, held about two weeks later, there was a race for speed boats, for “semi-speed boats” (this probably refers to non-racing motor boats), an open class  and, in partnership with the Hillsboro Boating Club, rowing races.  This time the course was a circular one to a marked buoy and back.  The speed boat class consisted of the same boats as the earlier race, with the semi-speed boats being MacMillan Bros. Imperial, J.A. Webster’s Imperial II, Harold Burke’s Flirt (seen above). It is not clear if the races continued for the rest of the summer.

Clearly seen on the stem of the Hal Burke’s Flirt is a burgee carrying the letters “CAC”, most likely the burgee of the newly organized Charlottetown Aquatic Club. Also in the background of the picture in the famed “Houseboat Doris” which was a fixture in the harbour for many years.

The photo was probably taken at the now-eroded wharf situated west of the current Charlottetown Yacht Club.