Tag Archives: Ron Atkinson

1964 – A Banner Year in the Charlottetown Yacht Club history

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.

Charlottetown Yacht Club in 1964 showing changes and improvements - photo courtesy Ron Atkinson

Charlottetown Yacht Club in 1964 showing changes and improvements – photo courtesy Ron Atkinson

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.

Post 1964 air photo of Club area showing moorings. More than 50 boats can be counted at anchor.

Post 1964 air photo of Club area showing moorings. More than 50 boats can be counted at anchor.

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.

Detail from construction plan drawn by Clive Stewart.

Detail from construction plan drawn by Clive Stewart.

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.

CYC movers and shakers I'm the mid 1960s. L-R Ian Rankin, Mac Irwin, Art Love, Ron Atkinson.

CYC movers and shakers from the mid 1960s. L-R Ian Rankin, Mac Irwin, Art Love, Ron Atkinson.

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.




When the motor boat was king

Today the fleet of the Charlottetown Yacht Club is pretty generally split between sail craft and large motor cruisers. It not always so.  In the 1960s there was another class of boats which in numbers probably out weighed both sail and cruisers. It was the hey-day of the outboard run-about.  Outboard motors had been around since before the Great War when Ole Evinrude developed the concept in 1907.  However it was not until the 1950s that  the engines were popularly adopted in the Charlottetown area. During the period prior to and between the wars even small boats were powered by inboard engines, many produced by Bruce Stewart & Co. in Charlottetown.  During the 1950’s engines increased in size with boats having as much as 35 and 40 horsepower!


Photo courtesy Ron Atkinson.

Photo courtesy Ron Atkinson. Notice the cars lined up on the Hillsborough Bridge approaches to watch the race.

Several of the club owners built their own boats, usually incorporating plywood over a frame (and since this was the 1960 some designs sported tail fins)  but some of the boats were molded plywood, a new design technique that had originated with aircraft production during the war.   Although there was some racing, the variations in horsepower played a significant role and unlike in sailboat racing an effective handicapping system did not develop.  There was a considerable amount of competition as to who had the greatest number of horses pushing their craft. Art Love was a consistent leader in the horsepower stakes. The outboard motor was a great family craft and made for quick get-aways across the harbour for a swim or up the West river to Red Gap or as far as Bonshaw for a picnic, drawing on a boating tradition which went back scores of years.

Although outboards continue to be part of the club fleet the emergence of fibreglass hulls and larger displacement has meant that the character of the boats has changed.  Few, if any, are owner-built.  Most are now small cruisers, many with closed cockpits and navigation stations,  but they continue to be family boats and are certainly among the most used boats in the club.

These photos are from the collection of Ron Atkinson. Most are reproduced from 35mm slides. I hope they bring back happy memories. Click on any of the images below for a slide show of the photos.