In Prince Edward Island “the centennial” meant only one thing. Notwithstanding how many other 100 year anniversaries were held there was only one year that really mattered – 1964. The whole of Canada partied in 1967, and in 1973….. well 1973 was a bit of an afterthought and the shouting and tumult had died.
While the rest of the province celebrated the activities of top-hatted politicians, the Charlottetown Yacht Club was having the biggest and perhaps most important year in its history. A late October storm in the fall of 1963 had shown how vulnerable and fragile the club facilities were. Already for 1964 the Club was committed to running a brand new junior sailing program, serving as the finish location for the inaugural Shediac-Charlottetown overnight race, and hosting a national Boy Scout Regatta . Major repairs were required for both Lords Wharf and Pownal Wharf which were in poor repair, the last major repairs having been undertaken more than 25 years earlier.
At the time the Club was home to 13 sailing craft and 63 power boats and had more than 100 families on the membership roll. With hardly an exception the boats were on moorings in front of, and to the west of the club. At the time the club was blessed with a very progressive board who undertook bold steps to move the club forward. The new commodore was a youthful Ron Atkinson but he was able to call on a host of experienced members including, but not limited to, Honorary Commodore Mac Irwin and Past Commodore Percy Simmonds as well as Clive Stewart, Art Love, Murray Lusher, Bill Rix, Don Smith and Ian Rankin. Atkinson and other board members made a direct approach to K.C. Irving, then still very much leading the Irving Oil Company. They presented a detailed proposal which included cost estimates provided by engineer Clive Stewart. A copy of the proposal can be found here CYC Irving001. The ask was for a loan of $20,000 and a grant of $8,000 (a total of nearly a quarter of a million dollars in todays funds). In exchange Irving was to get repayment of the loan over 20 years and exclusive right to provide a marine fueling facility at the club. By 11 May the deal was done and after approval of the mortgage agreement by the club members work commenced.
Completed by 7 August 1964, in time for the finish of the Shediac – Charlottetown race, the work saw the club transformed. Lords Wharf was capped with steel piling, filled and leveled. A float at the head of the wharf was supplemented by a new float and launch ramp for the junior sailing fleet on the east side of the wharf. On Pownal wharf a new gas dock was built giving deep-water access. The wharf was squared off to the west with concrete fill and a new launching slip was added to the west side of the wharf. A dinghy ramp with rollers was available at the top of the basin between the wharves. The club grounds were cleared up and covered with white chip gravel. The assemblage of lockers which had long been an eyesore and were mostly used by the outboard fleet was moved behind the clubhouse and the whole area surrounded by a neat white picket fence.
A major change was also made to the clubhouse where a 15 foot addition was built to the west end of the building for a ladies lounge, men’s and ladies’ locker rooms, renovated washrooms and an outside sun-deck. The kitchen was completely re-built giving, in the words of the commodore; “a facility that any housewife would be proud to own.” Much of the work on these projects was done by club members.
The physical work on the club was only one chapter in the year’s annals. The hosting of events such as the finish for the Shediac Charlottetown race (where 1000 chicken dinners were served), the first junior sailing program which provided training for 60 youth and the National Boy Scout Regatta all depended on participation and contribution from club members.
In future postings I hope to provide more information on these events. Thanks to Ron Atkinson for providing much of this background.