The year was 1945. The sun was just setting on a group of avid sailors and lifelong friends just ending a beautiful day of sailing in the secluded and scenic Brigantine bay. As they sat sharing stories of the day’s events, they dreamed of a place to call their own — where friends and sailors could come together to test their skills, enjoy the view and celebrate with food, drink and friendship. On June 7th, they held a meeting to make their dream a reality. It was exactly one month after the surrender of Germany in World War II. Japan would not surrender until Aug. 14, but the end was in sight and people were making plans for the future.
They would settle upon the name, The Brigantine Yacht Club. They had briefly considered adding “Community Boating Center of Brigantine” in small letters, but rejected it so that the club wouldn’t seem too “high hat.”
The club began its first full year with 25 members, no clubhouse, no property, wartime shortages and a tiny treasury. At the time, Brigantine was still a sparsely populated sand-dune of a city, but between 1940 and 1950 the population tripled. Soon, the word spread and their dream grew. Some came to sail. Others joined to meet new friends. Dues were $10 for senior members and $1 for junior members.
After a few years, it was time to secure a location. The original group of members exchanged the lots they owned on West Shore Drive creating room for the club’s present location at 10th and Bayshore avenues. The spot was ideal. It sat at nearly the exact center of one of the widest points of the bay, known for steady SE winds, open water and spectacular sunsets. In 1950, the club sold $5,000 worth of bonds to build a partial bulkhead and dredge and fill the lot. The women of the club organized fund raising campaigns to purchase a picnic table, benches and an umbrella so that visitors to the club’s first regatta would be comfortable. Within one year, with no clubhouse and a donated fleet, the BYC hosted a major sailing competition, the South Jersey Championship Regatta which included both Moths and Lightnings.
Lacking the money to build a new clubhouse, the membership soon arranged to purchase a one-story station house that served as a former Esso gas station connected to the famous Brigantine Light House at the center of town. The cost was six hundred dollars. The building shell was moved to the club’s property and modified to house restrooms, a kitchen and bar. It is widely believed that the club’s humble origins helped shape its reputation as a welcoming place that had little room for pomp or pretense. For more than 50 seasons, the little one-story BYC clubhouse became the hub of authentic social and sailing activity in Brigantine. Each new summer brought new generations of members to share in traditions of sailing, celebrations, dinners, costume balls, silly contests, dancing, laughing and friendship.
In the 1960s, the clubhouse included a piano which along with membership-cooked dinners kept members up long into the nights. Soon BYC’s junior sailing program began to flourish, eventually helping hundreds of girls and boys to learn a life-long love of the sport. Many of our youth sailors have gone on to become members of collegiate racing teams, and several have achieved American Yachting Association certification as sailing instructors. Several seasons witnessed the BYC Yacht Club Band playing at flag raising ceremonies and sailing events.
BYC was an early member of the South Jersey Yacht Racing Association, which in 1984 was re-named MAYRA (the Mid Atlantic Yacht Racing Association). In the 1970s a member designed and constructed the club’s first floating dock. In the 1990’s Brigantine Yacht Club joined the Long Beach Island YRA and began building a reputation as a respected competitor across a variety of fleets. From the start, BYC sailors included both men and women.. This active female participation would eventually evolve to include women’s sailing instruction and races, and the founding of the BYC Auxiliary. By the 1990s women were being elected as flag officers. BYC was one of the first clubs within our sailing associations to do so.
By it’s 60th year, the former gas station was showing its age forcing big decision on the future of the club. As luck would have it, the famous Brigantine winds made the decision for them. In 2012, Hurricane Sandy wrenched the small club from its foundation. A year later we said a tearful goodbye to our old friend, making room for a beautiful new two-story Club House that offered new views and an even brighter future.
Generations of sailors and siblings, friends and families have called BYC home. Most are still here, some have traveled on. But all take a little piece of the club with them. They are all part of the wonderful extended family of the BYC. Standing on BYC’s new second-story deck, the famous sunsets seem to go on forever. Let’s hope they will.