Table of Contents

BYC Clubhouse and Property Development 1929 - 1946

P/C Bob Wheeler

If you step out onto the clubhouse deck in front of the Lounge and look around, and if you are in a pensive mood, you might ask yourself; "How did all this stuff get here?" "Where did this clubhouse come from and why do we have a park and why are we the only yacht club on Puget Sound to have a marine railway?" "Why doesn't the clubhouse look like the artist's concept?" (Did you know there even was an artist's concept?). Why, why, why? And when, and how?

As you are no doubt aware, we are in the midst of commemorating and celebrating our 75th year. And what, you might ask do we have to show for all this time other than ten to the sixth by-law revisions?

Well, our founders were an industrious group, and as followers, we still are! But to start with nothing and end up with something is a good thing and not come by easily. So boys and girls, read on and find out from whence we came. It's a bit of a slug trail around Bremerton's waterfront but worth telling and showing.

Wayyyy back in 1929 a small group of overachieving boaters led by a fella named Floyd Phillips decided they should start a yacht club. They talked it up real good down at the post office and after hours (and after several libations, I suspect) down at Harold Kuett's "Charleston Club". The more they talked and the more they imbibed, the better the idea sounded. And in spite of being handicapped by owning a boat, they actually called a meeting at the Holman residence on May 25th 1929. 26 men from all walks of life showed up and this is where the arguments started about how to run the Club and they continue to this day!

But they did decide they needed a place to meet regularly and they needed a burgee. So off they went to petition the City Commissioners. They were rewarded with use of the old ferry dock and building at Charleston (close to where the Mighty Mo used to lay). Underline the word OLD and add, dilapidated, planks missing, windows broken out and a large sign that read "Condemned". Also add to this the city dog pound that shared the same pier and had to be passed to get to the "clubhouse". Undaunted, our overachievers called the first of many "work parties" the following Saturday. Pretty soon there was a gangway to a float where boats kept at anchor could load up and a dance floor and rooms and all kinds of fun. Not surprisingly, membership grew rapidly. Regular meetings were held every Monday night with an Initiation Fee set at $10.00 and annual dues set at $.50 per month in advance! There is no known picture of this clubhouse.

It didn't take long to outgrow the Charleston Dock clubhouse and by March 1930, the hunt for a suitable piece of property was under way. It is recorded that at one point we actually bought the island adjacent to our existing park which was promptly sold when it was discovered there was no right of way for road access. Just imagine that argument!

All attempts to find a new home for the growing BYC were scuttled by lack of money! Sound familiar? Finally, Mother Nature had had enough of the squabbling and took things into Her own hands. On Oct 21st, 1934, a 90 mph wind out of the SW blew almost all boats up on the beach and all the docks away. A few docks were salvaged by the CG and stored in Phinney Bay. This was the start of the end of the Charleston Dock site. No one would moor their boat there anymore and in Feb. of 1935, the Club gave up the dock. All properties were stowed in a rented garage and meetings were held wherever.

Things stayed this way until June 10th when a piece of property on Ostrich Bay was purchased with a $10.00 down payment. The floats were moved there and the boys made an attempt to turn a rundown shack there into a clubhouse. Only one meeting was ever held there though and a combination of another big blow and some unhappy neighbors prompted another move. (The minutes show numerous attempts to purchase property in both Oyster and Ostrich Bays and this reader wonders if sometimes the secretary didn't get them confused. No matter. The end result is the same). 1935 was a busy year for property prospects but, alas, it was to end with no home for BYC.

It was at this point in March of 1936, and under these circumstances where the property at "The Head of The Bay" was purchased after much blood letting.

This is Gorst Bay we are talking about, almost adjacent to the old rock quarry. By June, piling had been driven and floats were started with a gangway obtained from "Gorst Airlines" for $10.00. But there was no clubhouse! Money was the bugaboo for quite some time, but with a legitimate club site, gangway and floats, interest stirred and lots of new members joined. Someone developed some clever creative financing and, voila, a clubhouse was contracted out and with members helping, completed in February of 1938.

BYC Clubhouse at "The Head of the Bay" (1938-1944)

The first official meeting in the new clubhouse was held March 7th, 1938.

There was a huge party to celebrate this event. Yachting life for BYC settled down; a caretaker was found, berth rates were set at $2.00 per month; a piano and furniture was purchased for $450.00 and the newly organized Skipperettes made the drapes. A tidal grid and a flag pole made the facility complete in the summer of 1938. Shortly thereafter a new four lane highway came thru and "donated" a nice new parking lot too. Life was good for the boys; and the girls too. BYC was on a roll!

And so the Club went about its business surviving the War and rationing and all of that until February of 1944 where we see the first mention of a railroad coming right through the property. This possibility prompted our Founders to go looking for land one more time. This time they found and purchased 475 ft. of waterfront for $4,500.00 (which included the tidelands) located on Phinney Bay! Then, on July 4th, 1944 the Club was served notice to vacate within 30 days! Work was begun immediately on the new site but after 30 days and no sign of a railroad, things took on a more normal pace. With no payoff from the RR in sight, development of the new site would have bogged down had it not been for Dr. Ray Schutt who lent the Club $10,000 so it could proceed. And proceed it did.

By November of 1944, the old clubhouse had been barged around to the new location on Phinney Bay. The first official meeting at the new site was Dec 4th 1944 in a clubhouse not completely in place. It seems that in moving quickly, the contractor who did the basement mistook the outside dimensions of the clubhouse for it's inside dimensions so when it arrived it would have fit neatly inside the foundation. The notes are not clear on how this problem was solved but a careful inspection of our foundation might reveal some clues.

On February 11th 1945, the biggest work party ever disconnected all of the floats in Gorst from piling, power and water and every boat in the club began the long tow to Phinney Bay where it was reconnected to the new piles, power and water. They worked all through the night to get it done. It wasn't perfect but it was all in one place at one time and it worked!

All that year work parties labored to put in a better dock, better connecting floats to the dock; a porch was added and glassed in and, gas and water lines were run to the floats. All of this was funded by the membership in an effort to get a quality facility up and running. In 1946 the clubhouse was added onto to accommodate a caretaker's apartment. This addition is thought to have been another building moved in from nearby Sinclair Heights and "joined at the hip" so to speak but the records aren't clear. All this and still no settlement from the RR.

Needless to say that with a new facility and the war over, the Heavy Weather Regatta for Feb. 1946 was a "Doozy", to use a term of the era. Improvements big and small were made right and left and on June17th, 1946, almost two years after a "30 day notice", the payment came through from the RR. It was $13,250.00! Dr. Schutt was promptly paid off on the note he held so patiently and given a Life Membership which he so richly deserved. BYC was once again on a roll!

Our next segment will cover 1947 thru the Present where our clubhouse was built anew with subsequent basement, galley and apartment remodels; numerous head remodels; fuel system rebuild; new marine railway; new shop; new waste water processing system; the park and the bulkhead surrounding it! It was an exciting period.

P/C Bob Wheeler, BYC Historian

BYC Clubhouse on Phinney Bay 1947