BYC Club History
Formation of the Bellingham Yacht Club, the first such organization on Bellingham Bay since the old Fairhaven Yacht Club ceased its activities in 1905, was completed on the evening of February 14, 1925 when a small group of boating enthusiasts met at Garland’s boathouse on the south side. Dr. Carl Erb who, with Mrs. Erb, had in the winter of 1922 and the early part of 1923 sailed his auxiliary ketch Thetis from Long Island Sound to Bellingham by way of the Panama Canal, was named as the club’s first Commodore. To assist him, W.J. Seaman was named Vice-Commodore and J.L. Patton Secretary-Treasurer, while F. Stanley Piper was selected to draw the design for the club’s burgee. Today our burgee remains the same as the original 1925 design.
Among others who were active in the early days of the club were Captain Orrin E. Garland, who had taken a prominent part in sailboat racing on the bay twenty and thirty years before, and whose class C sloop Garland was talked about wherever sailors gathered; Ed E. Perry,. skipper of the ketch Bonita, who later moved to Tacoma; Ralph Nye, who was killed in an accident in Alaska; Vance Eager, who moved to Roseburg, Oregon, and Dr. George Ellsperman, one of BYC’s most active members who served two terms as commodore.
Three weeks after the club was organized it boasted a membership of 50 and a fleet of ten boats, ranging from cat boats and dinghies to Commodore Erb’s flagship. Members of Sea Scout Troop I, with the ship Sea Wolf and it’s master, H.L. Morse, were taken into the club as junior members, and plans were made for a season of weekend cruises and sail and powerboat racing.
In 1928, the club completed negotiations to obtain a summer mooreage and space for a clubhouse at Camp Perfection, on Chuckanut Bay. Piles were driven for a 135 foot dock, and members gathered on weekends and evenings to build the dock and floats, and to put out moorage blocks for the club’s fleet of 25 boats. A small locker shed was built, to be replaced by a clubhouse later. By the time the moorage was ready, club membership had increased to 90.
In 1946, a vital step in the development and growth of the BYC was taken when it was decided to acquire a building at the foot of Cornwall Avenue, formerly used as the Bloedel-Donovan commissary, and during WWII as headquarters of the Coast Guard. Financed by individual members, and with work donated by others, the building was soon converted from plans drawn by Edgar Black, Jr., a designer and active member, into one of the finest yacht club installations on the coast.
In 1959 and early 1960, the Port of Bellingham began development of Squalicum Harbor to the North, and a place was reserved for the BYC. Fred Haskell was instrumental in getting the Port to build the original structure that is now the BYC clubhouse; it was called by the Port a “warehouse”. When this maneuver was discovered by the State Auditor, the BYC members were forced to purchase the building from the Port, making it necessary to raise dues from $10 to $25. The club then moved from Cornwall to it’s present location. No suitable use could be found for the abandoned clubhouse at the Cornwall site, however it still exists and is in use in LaConner, where it is now Palmers Restaurant.
In 1998, in order to save our club at a period of time when many similar organizations were failing, the club made the decision to lay off all paid employees, and become an all-volunteer association. This change, made under Commodore Chuck McCord (1998-1999) was propitious, as it saved the club from closure. Since that change to an all-volunteer organization, the club began expanding once again in membership, as well as becoming financially stable. In 2009-2010, under Commodore Pete Foti, the club underwent a significant remodel, successful in large part due to the 100+ volunteers who donated countless hours to the project. With financial security and growing programs, combined with renewed emphasis on our original boating roots, the Club is prospering with gorgeous new facilities. It’s hoped that Stan Piper’s design for the BYC burgee will long fly over Bellingham Bay and all the beautiful Northwest waters, as the Bellingham Yacht Club continues in it’s eighty-fifth year of service.