History of the BLYC Burgee

Commodore Steve Harris – February, 2012

I got quite a few responses to my request for ideas for the title of this Club history column.  Thank you to everyone who gave me suggestions.  And the winner is… Dave Stewart for the name “Looking Aft.”  Thank you Dave… I owe you a beer! 

This past weekend, while I was at the Club Sunday afternoon, Jean Claugus was hosting a baby shower for some friends.  The Club is a great place to host such events.  Andrea, Matt, and the staff really do a great job!  But, I digress….  One of Jean’s guests was the Commodore of Land O Lakes Yacht Club at nearby Seneca Lake.  She’s been to our Club before and, this visit, she brought one of her Club’s burgees for our collection.  It got me thinking.  As you look around the bar area, we have quite a collection of burgees – from clubs that are “local” such as Alum Creek Sailing Association, and those “not too far away” like Put-in-Bay Yacht Club – to clubs in far away places such as Seattle Yacht Club, the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI, and the Kwajalein Yacht Club in the South Pacific.  It’s been a long-held tradition among yacht clubs to trade burgees as members visit each other in their travels – and, apparently, BLYC members have travelled a lot!  One of these days, I might try to inventory them all and create a guide to help identify and explain each… one of these days.  But the real question is… why do we have Club burgees and what’s the story behind our BLYC burgee?

The first question – Why do we have burgees? – is actually pretty simple.  It is for the same reason that most of us wear scarlet & gray on Saturdays – pride.  We want to show the world that we are part of a particular Club and we’re proud of it.  How burgees are displayed though, is a whole other topic of conversation – and one on which there are many opinions.  I have personally seen burgees displayed on boats, yardarms, hanging in Clubhouses, even tacked up to the wall in the garage.  How one displays their burgee is ultimately up to them, but as with anything else, one can find a whole array of opinions.  Here are some generally accepted guidelines…

•    Powerboats usually display their burgees from a short staff on the bow.

•    Traditionally, sailboats displayed theirs from the masthead.  While this is still acceptable, modern sailboats usually have wind indicators, lights, and other equipment on the masthead.  Today, most sailboats display the burgee from a halyard hoisted to the starboard spreader.

•    Boats should display their burgee whenever underway, but sailboats usually lower them while racing.

•    Boats should only display one burgee at a time.  If you are a member of multiple clubs or boating organizations, you should display the one whose port you are nearest or whose event you are participating in.

•    On land, our Club’s burgee can always be found flying at the top of the yardarm.  However, it is also appropriate to fly the burgee of a guest from another Club, particularly if that guest is an officer or other dignitary.  The empty spot on the easternmost halyard of the BLYC yardarm is reserved for this purpose, although seldom used.

With all of these colorful and interesting burgees hanging in our bar, one might ask how did BLYC get our burgee?  The following appeared in the December, 1979 issue of the Log, from BLYC Historian, P/C Howard “Whitey” Limes….

The drawing on the left above is a drawing of the original Club flag of Buckeye Lake Yacht Club.
It was approved along with the original Constitution (which has been amended several times) at the organizational meeting of Buckeye Lake Yacht Club.  The meeting was held on Sunday, May 6, 1906 at the cottage of Mr. Charles W. Miller on Orchard Island.

The specifications were as follows: A triangular pennant, the hoist of which was to be 2/3s of the length.  A blue field extended to a line parallel to the hoist 5/12s of the overall length.  A field of red extended from this line to the tip of the pennant.

The Club emblem, consisting of an eight spoke ship’s wheel with B on the upper vertical spoke, L on the left horizontal spoke, Y on the right horizontal spoke and C on the lower vertical spoke on a field of white was centrally located on the blue field.

This burgee was the official flag of the Club until the fifth annual meeting of the Club, held 18 September, 1910.  During this meeting, under “New Business,” Article III of the Constitution was amended changing the Club’s emblem and flag to those still in use today.

My interpretation of the above specifications appears in a poster paint drawing in the Commodores Lounge.

Commodore Limes’ “Poster Paint Drawing” appears to have disappeared over time.  However, there is a hand-sewn replica of the original burgee displayed in the Commodores Lounge at the Club.  Next time you’re in the Club, stop by and see it.  While you’re at it, why don’t you pick up a couple of the current burgees to take with you in your travels this year to trade with other Clubs you may visit?

Hand-sewn replica of the original burgee currently on display in the Commodores’ Lounge
Drawing of the original BLYC burgee taken from the invitation to BLYC’s 5th Tar Social (1910)

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