Club History

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A Profile…

Since 1871, the North Shore Yacht Club has offered pleasure in many forms:

Founded in 1871, the North Shore Yacht Club is among the foremost pioneers of yachting in America. Since 1933 it has been located on the northern shore of Manhasset Bay with a great view and protected from most heavy blows.

It was in 1951 that the name was changed from the New York Canoe Club but under the original articles of incorporation. It is one of the two oldest yacht clubs on Long Island Sound, the other being the Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club at Oyster Bay.

North Shore Yacht Club has traditionally appealed to sailing families. As often stated, the club’s red burgee with its single horizontal white stripe is simple because there were only about 35 clubs in the United States when it was approved. That led to a simple credo: Tradition –with simplicity.

The New York Canoe Club started with William L. Alden, a member of the New York Times editorial staff, who found much interest in sailing canoes. The first meetings were held at Hickman’s Restaurant on Nassau Street in Manhattan, popular with writers of Printing House Square. Colleagues included Montgomery Schuler on the staff of the World, and a cousin of the first commodore, M. Roosevelt Schuler. Alden was the next Commodore.

Canoeing was first on the Hudson and East Rivers and New York Bay, and an August 1872 New York Times carried accounts of club racing in the Narrows, long before there was a Verrazano-Narrows bridge.

In 1879, the New York Canoe Club moved into its first clubhouse on Staten Island (also Seawanhaka’s first location). Canoe racing had become very popular in the U. S. and England. The American Canoe Association was organized on Lake George, and Alden was chosen its first Commodore.

Then followed locations at Stapleton, Staten Island, 1890-1892 and Bensonhurst on Gravesend Bay, Brooklyn, 1892-1920. The Club moved to Long Island Sound in 1920, leasing the old Garrison’s Inn at Fort Totten. As at Bensonhurst, living quarters and a restaurant were provided but commercial interests outbid the Club in 1932.

Victor Ostling, whose enterprise was long to serve the Club, acquired a barge from Moran tugs which served as clubhouse at a government dock at Fort Totten until 1933 when it was towed to Port Washington and tied up at Copp’s Boatyard. (Today the site of Capri West)

The barge, with a Rob Roy canoe that is now hung from the ceiling at Mystic Seaport Museum, held to its mooring in hurricanes in 1938, 1944, 1954 and 1955. The Steward’s daughter swam in the clubroom that year, but a 1959 fire caused damage that resulted in its being demolished.

Some years earlier, Ostling had purchased property from Copp just to the East, the Club’s present address. He offered $30,000 if members would raise $10,000 for walkways and a dock with provision for a generous renewable 25 year lease. Members willingly did, and Vice-Commodore F. R. Gruger designed the present clubhouse. It was dedicated in 1960 when Gruger was Commodore.

Incorporated in the plan were suggestions from John C. Baccare and Gruger’s wife, Marge. When costs reached $36,000, members raised $6,000 in bonds.

Ostling passed away in 1988, and in 1990 members purchased the club from his widow, Linnea, with terms as generous as the lease. She died in 1992 and bequeathed $50,000 to the Club, earnings from which most recently provided new floats, a new galley, a new launch and a new gangplank.

In the early years canoes were used for cruising, sometimes overnight, and for racing. The New York Canoe Club established the International Challenge Cup in 1885, and the first challenge came the next year from the Royal Canoe Club, approved by Queen Victoria in 1873, and located on the Thames, east of London. New York won.

Warrington Baden-Powell, brother of the founder of the Boy Scouts, was a canoe designer. He represented the Royal Canoe Club the first year and in later challenges. The U. S. successfully defended the Cup in 1888, 1890, 1891, 1913 and 1914. The British won the cup for the first time in 1933, and it was 1952 before the U. S. won it again. For a challenge in 1955, the New York Canoe Club had to borrow canoes. Since 1959, the Cup has remained on the Thames, open to challenge.

Even before the Club moved to its present location, many cruisers and sailboats were in the fleet. Racing became popular, and today the Club conducts several races, and members take part in Long Island Sound and Cow Bay races.

Offered for racing are the Snyder Cup, the Borden Cup, the Ostling Cup, the Smith Cup, the Klor Cup, the Commodore’s Cup, the Freedom Cup, the Reiman trophy, the Epstein Trophy and the Rosenberg Trophy. The Loda Trophy is for distance cruising. The Matthews Service Award is for service to the Club. The annual N. S. Y. C. Regatta in June is open to all racers.

In 2002, Past Commodore Yehuda Rosenstock initiated our annual “Moonlight Regatta” overnight race to Connecticut with breakfast at the Club the next morning hosted by the winner, which has since become a perennial favorite.

Members continue to maintain the clubhouse, docks, parking lot and launches. They are asked to volunteer 8 hours a year or pay an assessment. For years their skills have been surprising. Among the volunteers are artists, editors, photographers, accountants, doctors, engineers & lawyers who serve on the Bridge and the many committees.

Several years ago, our venerable gangplank, formerly of the liner Île De France, was replaced with a wider (5 foot) new aluminum state of the art gangplank for better access from the clubhouse to the docks. A new aluminum flagpole has also replaced our original wood flagpole. In December, 2008, the Club passed an important milestone, having paid off the mortgage on the clubhouse.

During busy summer weekends two first class, almost new launches named Victor & Linnea, after the Ostlings, are operated, assuring prompt, reliable service. With the 2017 commissioning, the North Shore Yacht Club marks its 147th season with an increasing membership and fleet.

By Elyse & Harold Hecht