The following excerpt from the Sheboygan Yacht Club - The First Fifty Years best exemplifies the rich heritage of the club and the reason for its unparalleled success.
"The history of the Sheboygan Yacht Club is one of building - brick by brick and board by board - one of the finest facilities on the Great Lakes. It is a history of personalities, projects, parties and problems - all of which made unique contributions to the overall growth and strength of the organization. Most important, it is a history of a group of men from all walks of life who have lent their time and their skills to the creation of an organization which values its members for their efforts rather than for their wealth or social standing. Hundreds of people have participated during the first fifty years, and hundreds more will replace them in the coming decades - all joined in the common bond of a love for boats and a desire to further the purposes of their Club."
The first yacht club in Sheboygan was informally established as early as 1887, when a group of boat owners and amateur boat builders banded together to enjoy their sport. That group incorporated and received a charter from the State of Wisconsin in 1901. Membership numbered approximately twenty, and a clubhouse was erected on stilts near the fish hatchery located on the site of the present YMCA. By 1916 the original club had quietly disbanded and local interest in sailing waned.
Necessity led to the formation of the Sheboygan Yacht Club in 1931. “We had three large boats among us and no place to store them,” first Commodore Dick Baker recalled. Large sailing vessels, in the Depression days, were available at bargain prices, and several had been purchased in partnerships by young local sailors during the early ‘30’s. Once in Sheboygan, these boats needed a home.
The group of owners and their friends first gathered on September 10, 1931, in the dental office of Hilary Anhalt, and the eight men present wasted no time in establishing the framework of SYC organization. A bylaws committee was formed at the first meeting and bylaws, adapted from those of the Columbia Yacht Club in Chicago, were approved one week later.
Within a month, the group had selected a burgee design, accepted their first “new” members, established dues at $10 a year, and elected their first officers. The slate selected at the October 22 SYC meeting included Richard Baker, Commodore; H. P. Anhalt, Vice Commodore; and Roger Bierman, Secretary-Treasurer. The six-man Board of Directors was composed of John Balzer, Jr., Clarence Kuether, Karl Mehlberg, Walter Lieske, Henry Scheele and William Schmidt. The group was a cross-section of skilled craftsmen, professionals and small business owners: a carpenter, machinist, welder, insurance man, dentist, hardware store owner, monument-maker and advertising men were listed among the Charter Members.
By the fall of 1932, the new Yacht Club had secured a $1 a year lease from the Reiss Coal Company on a riverfront plot at 7th and New Jersey Avenue, gained permission from the City to establish a boat storage yard there, and had purchased the parts for their first derrick. The twenty members pooled their fund to raise the $500 required, and the Club made the commitment to repay those loans from the derrick fees collected. The wood-frame derrick was hand-operated and could lift 20 tons. Rules adopted in March, 1933 specified that "no loads should be lifted that will require more than four men to crank the winch." Haul-out service was provided to any boat-owner in town - recreational or commercial - on condition that they assist with the operation.
By 1934, parts of an old Reo truck had been permanently mounted to power the derrick, and "Doc" Anhalt's Stanley Steamer was frequently used to move boats around the yard. The "fleet" had grown to include several large sailboats, a few power cruisers and an assortment of smaller vessels. It wasn't until 1934 that the members decided to incorporate. "We felt that we didn't have enough members at first to really call ourselves a 'yacht club'," Baker recalled. When they applied for a charter to the Wisconsin Secretary of State a search of the records turned up the original 1901 document, which was simply reissued to the new organization - causing endless confusion in later years about the SYC's proper age.
Meetings during the first three years were held in members' homes and offices or in local halls, but discussions of the possibilities of a permanent meeting place were frequent and heated. The minutes of the November 1, 1934 meeting note: "To get on with the meeting, the Commodore (Roger Bierman) appointed a committee consisting of Anhalt, Mehlberg and Scheele to investigate leasing property, cost and design of a building."
The committee went right to work. At a special meeting called on December 13, the membership authorized expenses of up to $400 for a building to be constructed at the derrick yard. The Club held its first meeting in the new structure on January 10, 1935. The total cost of the building was $461.96. Furniture for the Clubhouse was donated, and Anhalt contributed the lumber for the back bar. As usual, the labor was done by Club members. "We had more time than money in those days," Walter Lieske recalled. The financial stress of the lingering Depression was apparent when Club members voted, in 1935, to drop their originally-established $5 initiation fee and reduce the $10 annual dues to $5. The group then began an enthusiastic effort to recruit more members. Membership procedures were fairly informal, and the Club had only two requirements for members: an interest in boating and a willingness to work. I hung around with the guys for years, until 1942 when someone finally asked why I didn't join," Eric Hansen recalled. Many of the most active "members" during the first decade of the Club's existence were formally entered on the membership rolls. Another association which began informally and later became official was that of the SYC and Sea Scout Ship #50. Club members voted at their January 2, 1936 meeting to become sponsors of the Scout troop, which had been organized locally in 1932.
Serious Discussion of ways to obtain lakefront property began in October, 1935, and negotiations with City officials resulted in approval of a lease for a suitable site granted on March 2, 1936. There was talk of a new building, but with a treasury balance of $120 and dues further reduced to $3 per year, economics dictated that the existing clubhouse be moved to the new site. The move was undertaken on a Sunday morning in early August, with the 18' x 24' structure mounted on rollers for the trip and a quarter barrel of beer supplied by the Club to smooth the journey. A basement was dug, the sewer and water connections demanded by the City were hooked up, and the new clubhouse was in business. But it wasn't long before the membership began planning further construction, with plans for a 1700 square foot "addition" which would dwarf the original building.
Construction began in Fall of 1937, and the foundation went in rapidly with the assistance of Anton "Tony" Roth, another non-member volunteer. "One morning I noticed this large man sitting in an old Model A Truck, just smoking his corncob pipe and looking around," Baker recalled. "He asked me what we were up to, and the next day he showed up to help. We had all brought trowels, but we never had a chance to use them!." The basement went in quickly and framing-in began on Thanksgiving Day, 1937. The roof was barely completed before the first heavy December snowfall. Roth, a professional mason who continued to contribute his considerable energies to the building project, was made an Honorary member and given the task of laying the cornerstone in ceremonies held on May 8, 1938.
1938 also saw the Club purchase the old Coast Guard day house ("cost not to exceed $25") for use at the derrick yard and approve a motion that "the pier committee be given $25 to build a pier as long as possible." The Club also planned the first of many excursions to the Chicago Boat Show, hired its first bartender (at $5 a week), installed a telephone and the first of many sump pumps, and purchased for resale a truckload of Snipes for its growing competitive fleet. The basement of the main building became the Club members' meeting hall with the upstairs, which was merely framed-in, used for dances. One of the first attractions to be installed were slot machines, which for years were a major source of revenue for Club projects. Furnishings for the Tap Room were provided by individual members, who contributed fixtures or bought chairs and tables. Completion of the building marked the beginning of the Sheboygan Yacht Club's reputation as a gathering place for visiting boatmen. Club races, rendezvous of sailing and power fleets from other Lake Michigan clubs, and the first regional Snipe regatta all made the Sheboygan waterfront a busy place.
The first formal Club Open House was scheduled August 20, 1939, to celebrate the dedication of the new 85' flagpole built by Joe Schlager, Doc Anhalt, John Balzer and Alfred Steffen. A marine railroad was also installed that summer to handle launching of small boats, and dues were again established at $10 per year, with the option of "dues work off" added at a rate of 25¢ per hour.
During the boating seasons of 1938 and 1939 the wreck of the "Julia," which lay in seven feet of water just off the end of the new wooden pier, claimed several local and visiting boats. An old side-wheel lumber carrier, she had been scuttled in the harbor nearly 40 years before. This hazard to navigation was removed in the Fall of 1939, through the assistance of Charlie Broughton, who contributed the funds to have a commercial salvage operator haul up the hulk.
Other hazards were not so easily overcome. Annual September storms had taken their toll of Yacht Club boats mooring in the harbor, and the wooden pier had been washed out the first Fall it was in place. In addition, boats on moorings were in constant danger of being run down by freighters which, lacking bow thrusters, needed nearly the entire harbor to turn around in.
Ideas for permanent piers and slips were discussed, beginning in 1940, but it was to be 16 years before those plans came to fruition. There were other projects to be handled first by the ambitious members, including a bar installation in the basement tap room and construction of the upstairs stone fireplace - a task undertaken by Anhalt and Roth when contractor's estimates proved too high for the Club's treasury.
At a Special Board of Directors meeting on July 24, 1941, Past Commodore Royal Fenn was authorized to draw up preliminary plans for a permanent pier, utilizing steel sheeting, fill, and a concrete cap.
Before plans could be finalized, America was plunged into World War II, and steel became a precious commodity in the war effort.
At the membership meeting held December 11, 1941 - only a few days after Pearl Harbor - it was moved "that the Club offers its clubhouse and equipment to the Civilian Defense Committee in Sheboygan for the duration of the war."The membership approved a moratorium on dues for those on military duty and the Club participated in the formation of a Coast Guard Auxiliary unit which was to assist in the Civil Defense effort.
The first Club newsletter began in 1942 as a "letter from home" to SYC members scattered throughout the world. At the height of the war, 26 SYC members (of a total 1944 membership of 138) were on active duty. The Sea Scout ship became temporarily inactive and a report presented at the December 14, 1944 meeting notes "all members in armed forces and no meetings at present time."
"We couldn't get steel in those years, so we worked on the building instead," Harvey Anderson remembers. that work resulted in the completion of the North wing, with a galley installed in the basement portion and a Board meeting room upstairs.
1942 also marked the acquisition of the "Queen of Sheba." The barge was originally a fisherman's pond net pile driver which had been hauled up on shore south of Terry Andre Park. The leaky wooden hull was refloated with the Coast Guard's help and towed to the Club yard, where she was recaulked and machinery for the planned pier work installed. (The "Queen" was covered with sheet steel in 1948, and nothing remains of the original wooden hull.) The rapid growth of activities around the Club led to a request to the City for use of additional land adjacent to the original 150' x 150' site. An annual lease for the west section behind the clubhouse was signed in 1942, and another for property north of the building in 1943.
Renovations during those years included raising the basement floor in an attempt to solve the perennial water problem. The original pegged wooden flooring disappeared, and tile was laid instead. Eventually, the floor was to be raised twice - one foot each time - with the result that the downstairs fireplace could no longer be used because it wouldn't draw properly. The upstairs hall was insulated and covered with pine planking in 1944, and enough steel was scrounged to make it possible to start on a section of pier.
While activities on the lakefront were going well, the derrick yard was becoming a problem. The Reiss Company wanted its river land for other uses, and a special Derrick Committee was appointed on September 14, 1944 to find a new site for operations. Purchase of the present land from the Wisconsin Power and Light Company was approved at a meeting on December 14 of that year, and a search began for a new derrick. Walter Lieske was assigned the task of researching the project. "We visited a number of yards and clubs. We found just what we wanted at the South Shore Yacht Club and arranged to buy an identical derrick," he recalled. The purchase from the Milwaukee Crane Company was authorized at a special meeting held May 28, 1945, at a cost of $1,950, and the membership was off and running on another project.
The Coast Guard day house was placed on rollers for the move upriver, which began on a peaceful morning - without a City permit! The building proved to be too tall to fit under the trolley wires strung over the 8th street bridge and "we had to stop and cut off some of the roof," Anderson recalled.
"We tied up both the railroad tracks and the traffic on the bridge, and the cops came and hauled Doc Anhalt off to City Hall. While he was gone, we kept right on moving!"
"We didn't pay too much attention to the rules," Anhalt commented in remembering the incident.
A second shed was acquired from the Derlein commercial fishing firm located just on the other side of the Koepsell property in trade for free lifts for their boats. Since the Derlein shed didn't have so far to go, moving it was less complicated. The crew simply cut holes in the walls, ran some long timbers through the building, picked it up and carried it. "We had 40 guys inside and out, and it looked like an odd kind of centipede," Maynard Oleson remembers. The shed was installed along the north lot line and used for storage and as work space for the Sea Scout's growing fleet of small sailboats.
Club meetings for the next several months began "at 9:30 p.m., after working at the derrick site." The site, itself, had once been part of local commercial dockage, with pilings remaining from an old boardwalk pier which had once lined the riverbank from the 8th street bridge up to Pennsylvania Avenue. The water near the bank was relatively shallow, except in times of flood when water crept up the bank and created large puddles everywhere. Sunken pilings made maneuvering boats in and out of the area tricky and tie-up space was limited. A wood bulkhead, gravel fill and concrete slabs for work areas were added gradually over the next several decades to improve operations.
From 1938 to 1946, food service at the Club was limited, with local caterers supplying dinners for major events. The Club hired Kenneth (Sandy) and Cordelia Sanders in February, 1946, to serve as the first Steward and Stewardess. As part of their pay, the South wing of the clubhouse (the original building) was renovated into bedrooms and living room for caretakers' quarters. "The Sanders' treated us all like family," Maynard Oleson remembers. He was a member of the informal "bachelors' club" which frequently gathered for home cooked meals at the club.
1946 also marked the first annual Outboard Races, an event which the Sheboygan Yacht Club was to host for 11 years until bad weather and a falling profit margin combined to cancel it. While the South wing was being remodeled, the membership also decided to finish off the rest of the main room. A dance to celebrate the end of that project was held for the membership, which had reached nearly 200, on May 29, 1948. With the hall completed, the Sheboygan Yacht Club became the scene of a series of regularly scheduled parties with varying themes: St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, special costume events and the traditional New Year's Eve gathering.
During the 1950's money became a concern. "The last thing we thought about when we wanted to do something was money," Eric Hansen recalled. "We never had any, so we didn't worry about it." But, faced with expensive proposals for a permanent pier, the Club was - for the first time in its history - considering member assessments to finance the construction. The assessment motions failed (as they have throughout the Club's history), but many of the members made three-year pledges to the project which kept cash coming in. Other fund-raising efforts included the sale of SYC T-Shirts and special events staged by the Entertainment committee.
Leo Zorko, a member since 1931, was elected Financial Secretary in October, 1951, a post he was to fill for the next 26 years. His task was to monitor the pledge payment system. Members put in long hours during 1950-52 driving steel sheeting, and meetings were often delayed until 10 p.m., when work had to be suspended anyway because of the neighbors' complaints about the noise and occasional visits from the police.
By 1955, club members discovered that the "Queen of Sheba" was not adequate to drive pilings in deeper water, and Roen Salvage was hired to complete the last 90' section of eastbound pier and the entire 200' "L" section. The Club took out a $30,000 bank loan, and Ben Locke redoubled his efforts in gathering pledges from members and friends of the Club.
The pier construction was completed by the end of 1956 and celebrated in conjunction with the Club's 25th Anniversary. The first "slip fees" were established the following summer with all funds going toward repaying the loan. An official "mortgage burning" was held on September 17, 1960. Estimates made at the time indicate that the Sheboygan Yacht Club had invested $70-80,000 in pier materials, plus thousands of hours of member labor.
Other changes were taking place at the Club during the 50's. The Sanders left the organization after six years and were replaced in 1952 by Carl and Lou Kulhman. The new Steward and Stewardess did not live on the premises, so the South wing became a Sea Scout meeting area, storage space and cloak room. The Club furnished its downstairs room with its first TV set, a jukebox and bowling game, replacing the slot machines which had been made illegal in a change of State law. The davit was installed on the pier to serve the growing Lightning fleet, which had been chartered in late 1948, and 13 Penguin kits were ordered. Many SYC members and their children still sail Penguins built in the main hall of the clubhouse during the winter of 1953.
The '50's was also the decade of the "Sabre", the 87 footer purchased by Roman Brotz in 1949 and reputed to be the largest sailing vessel on the Great Lakes. The "Sabre" brought home the silver with regularity during her competitive career, taking "first to finish" honors and overall trophies in the Chicago-Mackinac races for several years running. She served as a training ground for many young sailors still active in SYC fleet racing. Brotz was killed in an auto accident in November, 1959, and on September 19, 1960, the "Sabre" broke from her moorings during a fierce September sou'easter and grounded in the harbor. The vessel was salvaged, towed to Sturgeon Bay for refitting, and sold. The "Sabre" model was donated to the SYC by the Brotz family in 1961 and became the trophy for the Brotz Lightning Regattas begun that year.
With membership growing and a continuing need for volunteers, SYC established its present policies on "Apprentice" membership in 1960. But it was a full year before manpower was needed in quantity. In November, 1961, the membership approved a new venture - construction of a bar room and transfer of the galley to the upstairs North wing. That $30,000 project was completed in four months through a combination of contracted and volunteer labor, and the Grand Opening was held on May 5, 1962. Furnishings for the newly constructed facility were provided, as usual, through donations from members and from profits from the Entertainment committee's activities. In a game of "musical chairs," the Sea Scouts moved into part of the old galley area in the basement, the Commodore's Cove was created, and the Club constructed a storage garage to replace the old caboose which had stood on the back lawn for years.
1963 was also a year of "endings" from several traditional aspects of Yacht Club operations. The old Derlien shed at the yard was torn down after a storm had ripped off the roof. The colorful Venetian Night boat parade, which had been a summer highlight for the entire community, was not held for the first time in years. And the Junior Membership classification, (which had been established in 1952 with Victor Radwick as the Club's first "junior"), was abolished due to disuse. Carl and Lou Kulhman resigned their stewards' posts in Fall, 1964, and were replaced by Arnold (Ollie) and Angie Hetzel. the galley, which up till then had been operated on a commission basis by the steward, became a House Committee responsibility, bringing with it a number of management problems.
Satisfaction with the new pier was short-lived. While the pier itself was working out well, the wooden pilings used for the catwalks seemed to be in a erpetual state of upheaval. Each winter in the early '60's, the Club tried something new, but aerators and heating coils failed to save the pilings from the ice. Finally, Dick Leight and Peter Kronich proposed an experiment with telescoping steel pilings. After a "trial run" survived one winter, the Club embarked on a three-year replacement program with members welding up a batch of new pilings each year.
There was also upheaval in the financial state of the Club, with high initial expenses involved in establishing a house-run galley. The financial problem finally resulted in the 1966 approval of a quarterly use charge: referred to in the minutes as "forced spending." A controversial change, it was initially approved as a one-year test program.
In 1967 the "building bug" hit again, and the addition of a cloak room and upstairs washrooms was proposed. That project, financed by member contributions and labor, proceeded in stages and was completed in 1969. At the same time, the Sea Scout garage went up. The three separate City leases for property used by the Club were consolidated into a continuing license in August, 1968.
That was also the summer which marked the beginning of the "Blue Water Race" series, which incorporated the traditional Two Rivers race along with a new course to the Manitowoc Light. The Pentwater Race, which had been run on an occasional basis over the years, also was included. More and more boats were joining the fleet and slips were in high demand. Kronich offered a temporary solution in 1968 with a proposal to construct 10 transient slips along a floating dock. On February 13, 1969, he won approval of a three-year plan for the present auxiliary pier. Among the boats in those slips were Eric Hansen's newly-launched "Colleen," completed after 27 years of work, Vic Radwick's "Mary", a Vanguard which her SYC crew had taken to Division victory in the 1969 race, and a number of other Blue Water vessels which were frequent entrants in major Great Lakes races during the 1960's and 70's.
Complications with the galley operations were becoming a serious problem and, in 1970, the Club tried a new experiment - turning operations over to a professional management firm. It was an experiment which failed, and the contract was canceled by mutual consent in July, 1970. Personnel turnover and an en masse resignation of the House Committee were the "lowlights" of that summer and fall. Board members put in long hours of meetings and debates and matters stabilized in November, 1970, when Carl Wolfgram was hired to operate the galley.
Fall of 1970 also marked the fourth time that Manning Kilton assumed the post of Commodore, becoming only the second man in Yacht Club history to hold that office so often (Anhalt was the first). By this time, Clair Kilton was already well on the way to establishing a record for longevity in the post of Club Corresponding Secretary, a job he undertook in 1965 and still holds
Completion of the Auxiliary pier was celebrated in 1971 with a May 29 brat fry, and by the end of the season there were already six members on the slip aiting list. The number of boats in the yard had increased from 20 to 33 over the decade, and pressure was mounting for improvements there. $20,000 was authorized for yard improvements in December of 1972, with Art Langkabel heading the yard committee and Kronich handling the engineering and project management.
In July of 1973 the members began installing 90 tons of steel bulwark at the yard, straightening and refilling the eroded river bank. The concrete cap was completed the following year. The project eventually grew to include sewer and water hookups, installation of a pump-out and, finally, toilet facilities. the yard note was paid off in 1978 with monies from the derrick fund. Extremely high water levels on the Lakes were prevalent in the mid-70's, and the Club responded by installing hand rails on the pier in 1974.
Despite the purchase of a large sump pump, the lower level of the clubhouse flooded out several times during that period, and janitor Vic Seib, who was hired in 1975, found mopping up to be a major assignment. Both the Coast Guard and the Fire Department provided pumps during the worst of the flooding.
A stiff test of the Sheboygan Yacht Club's reputation for hospitality came in August, 1976, when the Club hosted the North American Lightning championships. The event drew 100 boats, 300 sailors with their families and friends, and a host of local spectators to the SYC grounds. Members and their families were recruited to perform the myriad tasks necessary to make the event a success. Ken Hanson served as general chairman for the Regatta committee with Terry Kohler as race chairmen. Even the 20-foot waves encountered by the fleet during its first warm-up race didn't dampen the hospitality offered, and many club members did yeoman service in rescuing swamped Lightning sailors. The local Lightning fleet, however, was beginning to slow down after nearly 30 years, and the attention of many local sailors was turning toward larger boats.
The first MORC race activity was conducted in the summer of 1977 and 12 additional slips were added to the end of the Auxiliary pier to accommodate the growing fleet.
Another new boat entered the SYC fleet in 1978 when Terry Kohler's Holland-designed "Agape" was completed. During '78-79, "Agape" traveled the racing circuit, from the SORC to the Mac races, culminating with the defense of the Canada's Cup. Kohler and many of his local crewmembers were "graduates" from the old "Sabre."
Disaster struck again in September, 1978, when most of the auxiliary pier and several members' boats were washed up in another of the regular string of "September sou'easters. " This one blew for three days, building 10-foot waves inside the harbor. True to tradition, Club members rallied to the cause and began yet another salvage operation. The task was completed in time for the beginning of the 1979 boating season and, with a few minor revisions, the SYC's piers now accommodated 64 boats.
SYC's "oldest Sea Scout," Bob Nehrlich, received recognition for his 45-years in Scouting in 1978. Skipper of Ship #50 since 1971, Nehrlich had been a member almost from its beginning, gaining recognition in 1942 as the first area Sea Scout to attain the rank of quartermaster.
Ship #50 and its activities have become an important part of the SYC's history and of the personal histories of the many club members who are "graduates" of that group and its many activities: boat building and repair projects, canoe races down the Sheboygan River, and a long winning record established at the annual Bayjammer and other sailing regattas.
The most notable change in the '80's to date has been a total galley remodeling project undertaken in January, 1981, when the room was stripped to the bare walls and renovated with a more efficient layout developed for use by Chef Don Gruenke and his staff. Estimates for a "professional" job had run as high as $60,000, but the Club members rolled up their sleeves once again and brought the project in at under $24,000 - and took only three weeks to complete the job. At the same time, an office was established for use by the Club's new bookkeeper, Sandy Jacobi, and bar manager Ron Rautmann.
Other "touch up" projects undertaken included dismantling and refurbishing the derrick for the first time since 1945, and construction of a dock boys' house, dinghy dock and north boundary fence. The flag pole was also lowered for repainting and refitting. As the Sheboygan Yacht Club observes its 50th anniversary, its house is in order.
The history of the Sheboygan Yacht Club is one of building - brick by brick and board by board - one of the finest facilities on the Great Lakes. It is a history of personalities, projects, parties and problems - all of which made unique contributions to the overall growth and strength of the organization. Most important, it is a history of a group of men from all walks of life who have lent their time and their skills to the creation of an organization which vales its members for their efforts rather than for their wealth or social standing.
Hundreds of people have participated during the first fifty years, and hundreds more will replace them in the coming decades - all joined in the common bond of a love for boats and a desire to further the purposes of their Club.
Late in the Summer of 1983, Lake Michigan stormed in on SYC once again. Many of the boats were damaged or lost, and the aging auxiliary pier was almost completely wiped out. Plans were organized in December by Pier Chairman Dick Travis and Commodore Bud Claussen to rebuild the pier with treated lumber. Crews were scheduled and the membership worked many long hours cutting and assembling the sections. The new pier was ready for installation by April of 1984.
The years 1984 and 1985 brought significant changes to our membership classifications. SYC had been an all-male organization during the first 53 years of existence. In the summer of 1984 Bylaw changes were made approving the admittance of female members. On August 9, 1984, Shirley Brown was voted in to the club as an Apprentice Member. Club Bylaws were also changed permitting spousal use of the club (as approved) without their mate being present. And, in 1985, Flag Membership classification was voted in permitting the spouse of a deceased member to join SYC and continue to use the club on a social basis. These membership changes have been very beneficial to SYC. The women who have since joined as Apprentice, Associate and Flag Members have contributed to much of the club's success.
Meanwhile, fickle, ever-changing Lake Michigan continued to cause problems for SYC during the early 1980's. Water levels of the lake were up to such a point that the main pier was awash most of the time. Rubber boots were the order of the day if you wanted to go out to your boat and keep your feet dry. Dock attendants were kept busy scrubbing off the algae, thus making walking a little less treacherous. A metal handrail was installed down the center of the pier, in an attempt to reduce the number of slipping and falling members and guests.
In Spring of 1986, the membership voted to spend up to $80,000 to have a 2' concrete cap installed on the main pier and a 2' wall added to the north-south section of the pier. The old, and possibly dangerous, overhead electrical wires were replaced with buried cable and boxed receptacles. The project was supervised by Bud Claussen and Maynard Oleson, with Schmidt Construction Co. doing the work. The project was completed in May, and paid for by club member donations and increased dock fees. The dedication of the renovated pier was conducted by Commodore Roger Suhrke, July 4, 1986. Unfortunately, the dampness and water conditions in the club basement became so bad, that after periodic inspections, the Wisconsin Department of Public Health ordered that the lower level be closed off. This meant that the rest rooms, showers, food storage areas and the original club bar/dining area could no longer be used by our members and guests.
After considerable soul searching and research, three separate plans were submitted to the membership in Spring 1987 for enlargement and renovation of the building. The members voted in favor of the most complete and comprehensive of the three plans. It would add 3,000 square feet to the building. North and south wings were to be added to the east side of the building. An office and cloak room added to the south side. Spacious lounge, food storage, showers and rest room were added to the west side. A new elegant main entrance on the west side, and an access door to the rest rooms and showers for boaters were added on the north.
Cost of the total project was $350,000. Members pledged two thirds of that sum. Peter Kohler, Steve Kieffer, and Commodore Suhrke led a fund drive to cover the remaining third. The with work completed our almost like-new SYC building was dedicated at the Annual meeting dinner party (with wives present) in September, 1987.
Still, we had more problems and more expenses. In the Spring of 1988, we received orders from the Department of Natural Resources to remove our buried fuel tanks, or fill them with sand, as part of a state-wide drive to clean up ground pollution from fuel tank seepage. On the advice of Roger Miller Engineers Co. our tanks were filled with sand, and two new tanks, one for gas, one for diesel were installed above ground north of the club, with Tony Kortenhorn supervising the work.
The Sheboygan Youth Sailing Club was organized at SYC in March of 1989, as a non-profit organization, with Articles of Incorporation filed with the State of Wisconsin. Tom Atkins was elected the first President, and Lynn Kieffer the first Secretary-Treasurer. Local business, Service Clubs, and some individuals donated 10 Optimist dinghy sailboats, for our youth to learn how to sail. Carolyn and Lynn Kieffer taught 36 youngsters, ages eight to twelve, the rudiments of sailing during July and August. The program has grown steadily since. The summer of 1992 saw 70 youth participating with instructors certified by USYRU at level one. Big People/Little Boat Regattas in the Optimists, have been held annually on July 4, as fund raisers for the program.
Lake Michigan continued to play its tricks on SYC in 1989. Spring water levels lowered to the point that many deeper-keeled sailboats could no longer get into their pier slips, or had to push through the sand to do so. A two-fold project to remedy the situation was proposed by the Board of Directors, and passed by the membership. The main basin was dredged to a depth of 8 feet, and the main section of the Auxiliary pier pilings were replaced with twelve inch, 40 foot long steel pilings, which were sunk into the harbor sand 30 feet. The project has been a success and the piles have remained in position throughout the winters. Previously, shifting ice flows pulled them up, and knocked them awry. This decreased many hours of put-in and take-out each Spring and Fall. The cost of the project was $90,000, paid through a general assessment and increased slip fees, and was completed in time for the summer boating season of 1989.
The year 1990 saw a major overhaul of the club Bylaws in order to bring them in line with current club operations. In addition, the following new Standing Committees were added to those already functioning: Education, Yachting Activities, and Youth.
In 1991 a successful Pledge program was organized and held in order to reduce and pay off the existing building debt. We also saw the expanding of our membership base by adding the Associate Membership classification, basically a Social Membership. Associates would not have voting rights, however, they could attend meetings and serve on committees. The club continued to sponsor Sea Scout Ship #50 as it had for the past 55 years. However, a significant change to the Ship's makeup came in 1987 when it was decided to open membership to teenage girls. Appropriately, since that time, the adult leadership of the Sea Scouts has included males and females. Ship #50 sailors continue to dominate the M&M Bay Jammer and many other state competitions. In the summer of 1989, Steve Orlebeke and John Meyer won first place in the National Sea Scout Regattas at Lake Geneva, WI. That same year Christine Kronich, with Carolyn and Christine Kieffer as crew, took first place in the North American Women's Lightning Championships at Toledo, OH.
The boating and racing traditions of SYC have continued during the last 14 years. Many of our sailors accomplishments can be mentioned. Perhaps most notable was the seventh place finish of Rick Larson, Mary Reid and Matt Burridge (St. Louis) at the World Lightning Championships in Athens, Greece in 1989. The year 1992 saw some outstanding finishes for Cynosure, SYC's Santa Cruz 70. the 68' yacht was first to finish the Queen's Cup Chicago to Mac, the 100 mile races and was overall winner of the 1992 LMSRF Offshore Championships. Quite a record!
In another tremendous SYC project, named the Yacht Basin Project, our membership approved expenditures of up to $185,000 for harbor improvements which included: permanent catwalks on both piers, dredging the harbor basin, significant changes in the SYC shoreline, additions to dry sail landing and storage capabilities, a permanent concrete top slab on the Auxiliary Pier, modernizing the electrical service on the Auxiliary Pier and additional dinghy and small boat storage areas.
August 4-6, 1993 the Sheboygan Yacht Club hosted one of the all-time best North American Lightning Regattas for Masters, Women and Juniors. the weather was ideal for the six races which saw 37 boats competing with 111 sailors from 17 states plus Ontario and Brazil. Sheboygan racers did well with Christine Kronich and crew of Michou Braun and Greta Reichelsdorfer second in the Women's, and Tryg Jacobson crewing for the Masters' winner, skipper Bruce Goldsmith and his wife, Sherry, of Hillsdale, MI.
SYC hosted the San Juan 24 North Americans July 14-17, 1994. There were 21 boats entered from nine states coast to coast in the seven race regatta. Only a slow start in the first two races kept Sheboygan's Dragon Lady owned by Michael Larson from winning. With a crew of Dan Debaker, Peter Mickelson and Mike Elmergreen, Dragon Lady took three bullets in the last three races. Seattle's Stuart Archer was first in the other four races to win the regatta. The wind conditions were challenging, but the races were praised as well-run with Bill Bronson heading up an excellent race committee.
The years between 1981 and 1995 have seen momentous changes and improvements in many different ways: the renovated/enlarged building, improved reconstructed piers and harbor, derrick yard, membership classifications; all for the betterment and growth of SYC. One fact remains, due to the volunteer work and sacrifices of our many members (almost 400), SYC has been able to meet all the challenges presented in the past.
The history of the Sheboygan Yacht Club is one of building - brick by brick and board by board - one of the finest facilities on the Great Lakes. It is a history of personalities, projects, parties and problems - all of which made unique contributions to the growth and strength of the organization. Most important, it is a history of people - from all walks of life - who have given their time and skills to the creation of this organization.
Hundreds of people participated and celebrated during the first 60+ years, and hundreds more will participate and celebrate in the coming decades - all joined in the common bond of a love for boats and a desire to further the purposes of their club, S.Y.C.