The year was 1915. World War I was underway; Henry Ford was rolling Tin Lizzies off the assembly line; prohibition had yet to be put into law; the Detroit Tigers won a then club-record 100 games, yet narrowly lost the American League pennant to the Boston Red Sox; and five Detroit men each slapped down $14 on a table to launch the Bayview Yacht Club.
While E. Lloyd Kurtzwarth, Percy Williamson, Floyd Nixon, Paul Dietrich and Perc Scott weren’t financially rich, they were loaded with dreams of establishing an organization that would celebrate the Detroit area’s boating and sailing culture. Ironically, only one of the five original investors was actually interested in sailing — or yachting as it was referred to in 1915 — and that was Perc Scott, who served as third Commodore of the club.
The first clubhouse was a two-story tin shanty, built atop a floored-over boat wells, at the foot of what was then known as Motor Boat Lane, adjacent to the Water Works Park. The building was also next door to the women’s swimming club, and just around the corner from Bill Ortman’s bootlegger speakeasy, adding to the neighborhood amenities for club membership.
From the onset, Bayview was widely recognized as being a club run by sailors, for sailors. It wasn’t established to be a motorboat club or even a social organization. Its focus was and still is “to stimulate interest and aid the members in proving their knowledge in the arts of sailing and navigation of boats.”
In 1925, the club held the inaugural Bayview to Mackinac Yacht Race, which traveled north 261 miles through Lake Huron from Port Huron, up the coastline south of Bois Blanc to the famed Mackinac Island. That first year, Russ Pouliot skippered the 32-foot sloop Bernida to win with a time of 49 hours, 50 minutes. Only a dozen yachts actually completed the race. (See sidebar below).
Over the past 100 years, the Bayview Yacht Club has survived fires, pending bankruptcy, prohibition, several wars, countless years of winter trap shooting from the Club property and the purchase of a pet Double Yellow Head Parrot named Al.
Bayview’s present 8,000-square-foot clubhouse at the foot of Clairpointe occupies about 575 feet along the Detroit River. The Club also operates two harbors with over 100 wells for boats of varying length and beam. In addition, the Club features a separate small-boat sailing center with several fleets of dinghies, a teaching center, sail club, junior sailing program and an observation deck overlooking the river.
At its Centennial, Bayview continues to lead the world of sailing. Today, more than 1,000 people are members of the Club, in some level or another — the highest in its long-standing year history.
“Bayview is going to be here as long as men and women sail boats,” says long-time member Ted Everingham. “Bayview has kept pace with the change in the sport, and I think it will continue to do that.” ≈
To learn more, visit byc.com. Freelance writer Dianna Stampfler resides in Petoskey.