In the summer of 1963 a small group of boaters from Sailor's Boat Basin got together and talked about fixing up some idle space at the basin for a clubroom where they could have parties, play cards or watch a ball game on television. With a handful of people doing the work and the landlord providing the materials, we soon had our clubroom. The story doesn't end here. Once they saw what a fine clubroom they had, the idea of organizing a yacht club began to take form. On December 13, 1962, a planning meeting was held in Findlay, Ohio. It was decided to invite the entire population of Sailor's Boat Basin to attend a meeting if they were interested in such a project. On February 15, 1964, fifteen people gathered at Lehmann's Lodge in Fostoria, Ohio to organize and lay the groundwork for a yacht club. The club name was selected, officers elected and an outline for a Constitution and By-Laws approved. In April, 1964 we were incorporated as a non-profit organization. We had six members that year!
By the end of 1964, the club had 44 members, a club burgee, a monthly newsletter, printed Constitution and By-Laws, money in the treasury, the clubroom had new furniture and a bar was in operation for use by members. In addition, we had made formal application for affiliation with the Inter Lake Yachting Association. Sailor's West Harbor Yacht Club was really on the move. On February 12, 1966 we had our first Annual Meeting and Dinner at Lehmann's Lodge in Fostoria, Ohio.
During the summer of 1966, we acquired 41 new members and plans for expansion of the club's facilities were approved. We added to the furnishings and participated in three cruises to other yacht clubs. In 1967 and 1968, a new addition to the clubhouse was completed. Activities and membership increased. In 1969, we became recognized as an active member of the ILYA.
In 1972, due to the loss of our lease at Sailor's Boat Basin, the membership decided to move the club to Gem Beach were quarters were rented in two units of a motel. This proved to be a wise move both for the club and the Gem Beach organization. At the annual meeting in 1973, the members voted unanimously to change the name of the club to Catawba West Harbor Yacht Club.
By 1974, with a new name and burgee and new facilities, the l0th anniversary was celebrated with a feeling of accomplishment and an eye toward the future. The club needed more space. After exploring many possibilities, the entire building was purchased on a 15-year land contract in 1975. The gift shop on the south end would become the bar room and we continued to lease the three north units to the canvas shop. During 1976 and 1977 the members continued to work on the interior of the club adding a ladies restroom, and remodeling the kitchen, adding a grill and fryer.
At the end of 1978 the entire building was available for our use and the work and planning began in earnest. During the next three years over 1,000 man hours (by the club members) were invested to completely remodel the entire building. We accomplished a project estimated to cost between $20,000-25,000 for $9,000-10,000! The showers and restrooms were installed, the new kitchen and dining area completed and the clubroom carpeted and decorated. In 1982, an addition to the bar and glass doors in the bar entrance were installed. This expansion put us at the limit of usable ground level space for this property.
In addition to our continued membership in the ILYA, we also became members of the Associated Yacht Clubs (AYC) in 1984. 1984-86 were again remodeling and renovating years. The concrete walls in the clubroom were paneled and a new ceiling installed. The louvered windows were removed and replaced with large one way glass windows and the current main entrance doors were installed. Some furniture was recovered and other pieces were replaced.
In 1987 and 1988, the louvered windows in the dining room were replaced and several unused outside doors were covered. New showers and central air conditioning were installed.
In 1989 we were 25 years young had 150 members and were proud of it! We celebrated with a big party following a decorated boat parade. The highlight of the Commodore's Ball in 1991 was the burning of the mortgage! The building was ours!
The Catawba West Harbor Yacht Club Chapter of the International Order of the Blue Gavel was formed in1993. Our Past Commodores and their Ladies remain active within our club and within Districts 7 & 9 of the IOBG.
In 1994 extensive interior renovations were undertaken again. The clubroom was moved to the south end of the building, and the bar was re-located to the center. This allows us to expand into the dining room for large functions and some large storage areas were created. New carpeting and bar furniture was also installed. The same year a deck was added to the south end of the building with a new flagpole as the focal point. The roof and sophist of the building was replaced in 1997 and the trustees began a program to update all of the electrical wiring in the building.
In the last few years we have increased our activity and visibility within the AYC. This includes hosting and attending various Regattas, Poker Runs. These cruises in addition to our own Club Cruises have generated new and memorable experiences for many of us.
Well, we are past the millennium and we have survived. This year brought a lot of changes. What has been accomplished (sometimes by just a few) has resulted in an organization and facility of which we should all be proud.
Throughout our rich history, along with great ideas and hard work, our Club has grown and prospered because of the good times and fellowship within the walls, on the docks, and on the lake.
There have been corn roasts, Luau's, annual meetings (now Commodore's Balls), chicken bar-b-ques, Halloween parties, steak roasts, breakfasts, fish fry's, Christmas parties, Derby Days, regattas, cruises, meetings, potlucks and many a "great night" at the bar. Our membership continued to rise steadily (some are second generation members).
On the morning of June 14th 2003 the membership of Catawba West Harbor Yacht Club lost their club house to fire. Many of the members watched on that early Saturday morning in disbelief as firefighters from the surrounding communities battled the blaze. The west end of the building containing the kitchen and the new shower areas were saved through both were fire and smoke damaged. The rest of the club house was totality destroyed. Emotions were evident as members found it difficult to leave the site. Historical documents, financial statements, photo albums, clothing burgees, pictures of our past Commodore’s…. all were lost in the fire.
Despite our loss the members knew "it was only a building… the people make up the real heart
There was never a doubt that the club would be rebuilt. So began a long summer, fall and winter
of planning by the Board of Directors and by the Building Committees. Zoning meetings were
attended, alternate sites were looked at and discussed, floor plans and designs were studied. The
decision was made early in 2004 to rebuild on the current footprint. A contract was signed with
Golden Giant to erect a two story steel building. During the month of May 2004 construction
began on the new clubhouse.
July 2nd 2005 was move-in day for the new clubhouse. We had wall-to-wall members waiting to
get to work. In one day we had a new home and the history of CWHYC continued. The kitchen,
dining area and recreation room were on the 1st floor while the bar/lounge was on the second
story. The view of West Harbor from our balcony was impressive. We had many visitors from
affiliated clubs who were interested in viewing the new clubhouse. Parties, cookouts and
weekends “at the club” resumed.
Despite all the hard work, CWHYC struggled to maintain its membership numbers for several
years. The increase in expenses to maintain a year round club proved to be impossible with
decreasing membership. The hard decision was made in late 2013 to deed the building back to
the bank. In January 2014, members showed up once again at the building…this time to move
contents into storage.
While CWHYC currently does not have a facility, it continues to operate. We have maintained
all our affiliations and our membership has grown to nearly 100. Docktail parties have replaced
many of our larger events and the friendships between the members remain strong. We are
dedicated to the core beliefs of our Constitution and stand strong behind our new slogan…”Good
Friends – Great Boating”.
Researched, written and updated by Sue Pelton, 2001.
Updated by Shari Brello 2004, 2017.