Yacht club has long history in Escanaba

Deborah Prescott | Daily Press Bob Yin, left, and his crew prepare for a race recently on Little Bay de Noc on his boat Dolce. The Escanaba Yacht Club holds races during the summer months.

ESCANABA — The Escanaba Yacht Club (EYC) was established in 1934 and has been located across from the Sand Point Lighthouse ever since. Since 1934, a lot of things have changed in the area, but not the reason the club was created. The charter members of the EYC wanted to create a place for like-minded people who enjoy cruising, sailing, racing and social activities to meet. Currently, the public club has approximately 60 families as members. People are encouraged to join — even if they do not have a boat. The membership fee is $75 per year.

“We are a club for everyone in the community who like to enjoy social activities and living by Little Bay de Noc,” said Vice Commodore-Sail John Anthony.

The members run outreach programs with scouts, sailing, radio control boat races, dingy races in the harbor and an annual open house July 20.

If you ever wanted to test your sailing talents, the EYC Open House on Saturday, July 20, will provide the opportunity. The annual “Come Sail Away” event provides the public a one hour ride on a sailboat or a powerboat. Register to reserve a spot on one of the boats by calling 906-280-4644. There are three time slots — 10 and 11:30 a.m., or 1 p.m. The event is weather dependent.

“The Bay de Noc is a fantastic and unique location for sailing and all water sports,” said Anthony. “During races, we have spectators who enjoy the race and picturesque Sand Point. We have a unique and beautiful area here.”

Sailing has always been prevalent on Lake Michigan, but in the early 1900s sailing was not as popular after the gasoline engine was adapted for use on smaller boats. At that time, a number of motor boats filled the harbor in Escanaba. Around the time of the Great Depression, 1934,

sailing came back to the area. Some say due to no money and a lot of time available to many. In October 1934 the EYC was organized, the same time a club in Marinette and Menominee (M&M Yacht Club) started. Together they planned boating events on Green Bay.

Before the yacht harbor was created, boats would get covered in coal dust while anchored to the No. 2 ore dock slip. Owners would haul the boats out of the waters using a rail system. The Escanaba Yacht Harbor started to take form in 1936. The harbor entrance was between government property and Sand Island — now Sand Point and man-made Aronson Island — and the area of the sand bar was developed.

During World War II, sailing time became restricted. The Coast Guard Temporary Reserve was organized with eight members of the Escanaba Yacht Club and grew to approximately 50 men. The unit assisted the U.S. Coast Guard in guarding the ore docks. After the war, the Coast Guard Temporary Reserve disbanded. In the mid-40s, sailing was enjoyed by many people again and the Cruising Race Fleet became popular. In 1948 members of the EYC started work toward a clubhouse and through a few ups and downs finished it 17 years later. (Source, ‘A History of the EYC 1934-1959’ by John Mitchell).

The city of Escanaba does not provide funding to the EYC and the club is separate from the harbor, though they work together when needed.

Members of the EYC race two classes of sailboats, spinnaker and cruise, Wednesday nights in June and August on Little Bay de Noc. The pleasure class participates, but it doesn’t compete.

“The Pleasure Class is non-competitive. The class enjoys a beautiful evening on the bay and the club event,” said Anthony. “There is no start, finish, or results, just a pleasant evening.”

The spinnaker and cruise classes race concurrently after a course is plotted using wind and weather conditions before each race. Usually the course is five miles long. Two websites assist in determining the course, www.sailflow.com, for the sail flow wind forecast, and www.wunderground.com, for a marine forecast.

“The race start line is at the end of the harbor on Sand Point near the water plant,” said Anthony. “A great place to enjoy the race and the waterfront.”

Every year, the EYC offers a 4th of July brunch and take golfers from the Symetra golf tournament for a ride on a sailboat. The Inland Seas will use the EYC while visiting Escanaba, Aug. 1. The Inland Seas Education Association is a non-profit association inspiring Great Lakes stewardship and passion. Students of all ages on board the traditional tall ship schooners learn STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities through hands on experiments. Every year about 5,000 students sail and learn about the Great Lakes on the science-lab equipped school-ships.

The friendly competition of Wednesday night races will resume Aug. 7. Other dates of interest during the summer are, a Midsummer Race July 17, and Marina Fest and EYC Small Boat Fest on July 27.

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