BLYC’s First Season

Commodore Steve Harris, October, 2018


That was the headline in the The Ohio State Journal the morning of Wednesday, April 25, 1906. The evening before, approximately 40 men from Columbus and Newark men met at Leachman’s Chop House in Columbus to discuss the prospects of forming a yacht club in the Columbus area. Presentations were made by officers of the Maumee River Yacht Club and I-LYA. By the end of the evening, 15 men had elected to join the start-up effort, Lawrence Sackett of Columbus was elected as the first Commodore, and committees were established to draft a constitution & bylaws and to select a name and emblems for the new club. But where would they sail? The only logical choice was the old “Licking Summit Reservoir” of the defunct Ohio Erie Canal. (Hoover, Alum Creek, and other reservoirs around Columbus wouldn’t be built until decades later). They set a second meeting date of May 6 on Orchard Island in the reservoir, about 30 miles east of town.

While an admirable venture, the news was not necessarily well received – neither in the local communities around the lake who enjoyed their secluded  and peaceful fishing paradise, nor in the yachting community. Two days later, the Toledo Press came out with its story about the upstart club, recognizing the longstanding rivalry between Toledo and Columbus in everything… except yachting. Now, seeing the potential for further competition, the story concluded, “To show Columbus sailors their hearts are in the right place, members of TYC will arrange to ship reservoirs of water to the capitol during the late summer months that the croquet ground of the Columbus club be flooded to a depth sufficient”… for its… “yachtsmen to continue their sports.” Obviously, the opinion of these big water sailors of sailing on the old Licking Reservoir was not nearly as optimistic as those of the founding members of the Club.

In the eleven intervening days, the officers, directors, and committees were very busy, not only preparing for their particular assignments, but also with the goal of attracting additional members. The press was very cooperative and published several stories about the upcoming meeting on Orchard island. The day of the event, the  Journal published a photo of the Commodore’s sloop, Buckeye. But, although designated as a public park “to be known as Buckeye Lake” by the Legislature years earlier, and likely out of habit, the press still referred to the lake as Licking Reservoir.

By meeting day, May 6, membership had grown to nearly 40. Aboard members’ boats, 60 members and prospects traveled by boat from the Park to  Charles Miller’s home on Orchard Island. The meeting was convened and the name “Buckeye Lake Yacht Club” was adopted, along with the Constitution, flags, emblems, and fees. Dues were set at $4.00 per year with an initiation fee of $2.00 for those joining after July 1, 1906. Regattas were planned for Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day of the 1906 season with the first Annual Meeting to be held, and new officers elected, in September.

Columbus Citizen – May 7, 1906

The press again enthusiastically touted the efforts of the new Club. This brought new, favorable attention to the lake and an increase in tourism and visitors. This, in turn, stimulated business around the lake and, together, the lake and the Club developed rapidly. Following this first official meeting of the Club, the press seldom, if ever, again referred to the lake as Licking Reservoir. Buckeye Lake had been born!

The morning of Memorial Day, 1906 was promising. It was a sunny day with light breezes starting to fill in on the lake early. In order to arrive in time for the day’s festivities, Columbus members had to catch the 7:00 am Interurban train to arrive at the lake by 8:30. Upon arrival, they would be ferried over to Orchard Island to ready their boats for a scheduled 9:00 am boat parade – not much time to spare. At 9:30 – one half-hour late due to the Interurban – the squadron parade got underway leaving the island with nearly 40 boats decorated in bunting and loaded with members, relatives, and guests in their best holiday attire. Fanfare of gunfire from the leading boats announced their progress as spectators lined the shore.

With the parade over, 23 torpedo type Mullins steel boats powered across the starting line. The race was a “free-for-all” over a 2-mile course to determine handicaps for subsequent races. Only those that completed this race would be permitted to participate in the cup race – less than half finished!

Eleven boats started in the powerboat cup race over a 9.8 mile course with the first boat finishing in 59 minutes
and 47 seconds. The last boat finished nearly six minutes later with two boats withdrawing – coming into Orchard Island with engines smoking.

Given the delays of the Interurban and time it took to complete handicap computations, it was nearly 2:00 pm before the yachtsmen got around to breaking out the picnic baskets and refreshments for lunch.

This photo is believed to have been taken on Orchard Island, possibly at BLYC’s first regatta, Memorial Day, 1906. Club burgees are visible on the docked boats

The “Sail Yacht Race” finally started at 3:20 pm. Seven boats started the race in considerably stronger winds with spectators lining the shores to watch the excitement – and that’s exactly what they got. From Kyle Armstrong’s Story of Buckeye Lake Yacht Club

Just having gotten well underway, one lost a crewman. Amid shouts from Island and main shores, he managed to scramble aboard again. Then, as the craft filled away vigorously raider a sudden puff, there was a rending crash as her mast snapped and sails and rigging tore into the water. One out—six still in!

Another skipper was sailing his new craft single-handed. While on her first lap, a gust reached under her heeled-up bilge and turned her over. Her skipper found a resting place on her centerboard until a club powerboat came to the rescue. Two out — five going!

A third boat, manned by three, apparently was weathering the young gale without difficulty. All aboard confidently expected to come in for a trophy. Then the mainsheet fouled and wouldn’t start under a  knockdown. Over she went, her sailors clambering for centerboard and topside. Three out — out of seven starters!

A schooner, owned and sailed by a crew from Buckeye Boat Club, really was an interloper. She had no business in this regatta, anyway. Her skipper, reconsidering the weather and her status, pulled her out of the race at the end of her first lap.

With only three contestants left for the finish, all were trophy winners. For the “9 mile” race, times respectively were 56:37, 61:12 and 79:15 — not bad!

The Club held two more regattas that year – July 4th and Labor Day. As BLYC was still without a permanent home, they were held at the Lake Tourist Hotel at Shell Beach. It would be the following year, 1907, that a group of BLYC members would form the Buckeye Lake Building Company, take out a lease on the island, and begin construction of the first BLYC Clubhouse. More to come…

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