Noroton Stories

There are lots of interesting stories about Noroton. How the new clubhouse came to be, Osprey landings, where to go for a sunset dinner, and more.

Story suggestions welcomed. 
Please contact:

If you have suggestions for more stories contact


2022 Kirby Cup

Two Great Days of Racing

Noroton hosted the 23rd annual Kirby Cup Team Race on September 24th and 25th. This year's event enjoyed two days of spectacular champagne fall Long Island Sound conditions - providing excellent breeze and mostly flat water for four round-robins among the five teams.   

The competitors came with tight, competitive racing teams and brought the same energy to the dinner on Saturday night, gathering around the kegs and enjoying live music and a lovely fall evening on the deck and patio. There were many good conversations to discuss the races and semantics of team racing rules, reviewed in a spirited but of course good-natured manner!  

Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club won the weekend after a tiebreaker with Larchmont Yacht Club, with the Noroton ``Brady Bunch '' winning the  Peter Wilson Fair Play Trophy. The Varsity Norton team got its weekend moniker because Conor Brady, our long-time Sailing Director, returned to helm one of the team's boats.   

Margo Kirby (front row, 3rd from left) and the first place Team from Seawanhaka Corinthian YC. Team Captain Al Constance holding the Kirby Cup perpetual trophy (2nd from left). Photo by David Trost

The Peter Wilson "Fair Play" Trophy for the team displaying solid sportsmanship was also awarded after racing. The organizers polled all teams for their vote on who displayed sportsmanlike behavior throughout the regatta. Four teams voted for Noroton YC's own Brady Bunch. We are very proud to have sailors who play hard and play fair.

Regatta co-chair Elizabeth Wolf, and winning team helms: Florian Eenkema van Dijk, Tucker Hersam, Connor Brady. Photo by David Trost

We were thrilled to have Margo Kirby present the awards to the winners along with Rear Commodore Scott Harrison, who also helmed one of the Team Noroton boats. Until his passing last year, Bruce (and Margo) Kirby were members of Noroton YC for over 40 years.   

We're very appreciative of our own Glenn Morrison, who was PRO, and an excellent group of Race Committee volunteers who ran 40 races over the two days - no small feat in Saturday’s shifty, puffy Northwesterlies. A big thanks to Chief Umpire Britt Hall, and Umpires Peter and Carolyn Wilson, Lee Morrison and TK - all Noroton YC members and experienced team racing umpires. And special thanks to Noroton YC's new sailing director Bryan Paine who also served as Bosun, and regatta Co-Chairs Elizabeth Wolf and Michael Rudnick.   

The full results of the weekend are below, with some pictures:   
1st: Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club (12 points) 
2nd: Larchmont Yacht Club (12) 
3rd: Noroton Yacht Club “Brady Bunch” (10)
4th: Noroton Yacht Club “Not Varsity” (3)
5th: Pequot Yacht Club (2)  

Photos courtesy of David Trost, who was also part of the Race Committee.  

 Full Results Here


Karl Ziegler Coach of the Summer Award

This year Jr. Sailing created a new award. The Karl Ziegler ‘Coach of the Summer’ award is given each year to the Noroton Yacht Club instructor who teaches young sailors to love sailing by being patient, supportive, inspirational, and a role model for good sportsmanship.  

Following a long history for our junior sailing perpetual trophies, an important tradition is that many bear the name of a former junior sailor or Noroton member who made significant contributions to Noroton Junior Sailing over the years. One person who embodies those characteristics is Karl Ziegler.   

Karl Ziegler grew up sailing at Noroton. The youngest of six children in an active sailing family, he was initially daunted by the wind and seas off our harbor. It is rumored that he occasionally hid in the old lockers and snuck home if wind was up so he didn’t have to sail his small boat. But sailing with his father and siblings eventually instilled a passion for sport and the rest is history.  

Karl imbued that passion to our lucky juniors as an instructor in our junior program in the 1980s and later to college sailors while a coach at Yale University. He also was the head coach to the Darien High School Varsity Sailing team for many years, leading them to win several Gold Cups for both team and fleet racing in the NEISA CT Sailing League and to National Championships, winning the US East Coast Championship. The top high school sailors claimed that sailing with, and against, Karl in practices was the key to adopting a winning strategy. 

Beginning in 2010 when Noroton started to get involved in team racing at events on the east coast, Karl became a leader of our teams, helping them to win the Hinman Masters four times and the Grand Masters six times. As TK (Tom Kinney) said, “Karl was our spiritual leader and coach: more recently, Karl was one of the main reasons Noroton became one of the leading team racing teams.  Sailing with Karl is a joy and privilege. He is a quiet skipper, appreciative of his crew while emphasizing the Corinthian spirit. He brings others to know and love the sport and to sail honorably."

2022 Recipient: Lizzie Crager


2022 Sears Cup

The 2022 Sears Cup on Lake Michigan
by Wells Connor, Emmet Ennico and Thomas O’Grady

Earlier this month we had the honor of representing Noroton Yacht Club at the Sears Cup. The Sears Cup is the US Sailing Youth Keelboat Championship, in which twelve teams, one representing each of the 12 Regions, compete over three days. The event was held at the Macatawa Bay Yacht Club off of Lake Michigan in the VXOne class, a sporty boat similar to the Viper.

Our team had a chance to really bond during the invaluable training we received in the Sonar and Viper at Noroton and in the VXOne through the generous support of boat owners at Cedar Point YC and Sail Newport. When the first day of the regatta came, we were ready!

Racing Recap by Thomas:
The first day had marginal conditions in which we were depowering at times but always pushing the boat to the limit. We worked the boat downwind better than any other team because of our prior apparent wind experience in the 29er, and so we ended up winning 3 races and being OCS in the other one.
The next day, we saw nuclear conditions with more than 20 knots of breeze, a challenge for us as we were the lightest team there. Before the first race of the day, our Gnav bar (made of carbon fiber) snapped. Our coach motored back to the club to grab a spare and came back within minutes to make the repair. In one of the races, we were sailing downwind and were crossing a starboard boat. However, they hopped on a plane and were able to get the VMG they needed to cross, and we threw ourselves into a gybe; they ended up avoiding us. They told us not to spin, and that they weren’t going to protest as they beat us, but the competition was tight and they ultimately decided to take it to the room.  We were tossed from the race (some lessons learned). It was a tough day that took us out of contention for the top 2, but we were ready to come back strong, and control the controllables.  
The final day of the regatta was very light, leading to a postponement in which everyone rafted up and talked; no swimming because the water was frigid! Eventually a light breeze filled in just enough to start us. We threw in a bunch of unnecessary maneuvers right before the gun and started without much speed, but we played the current like a true Sound sailor and were able to get 2nd.
Reflections: Standing 3rd on the podium had me thinking “what if”, but it was still a great result and we learned a lot more than we would’ve had it gone any other way. The regatta was an amazing experience that I won’t forget. I really learned to enjoy the little things; hitting over 20mph planing downwind all while laughing with my teammates was certainly one of them. We made so many new friends from every corner of the US, and I’m looking forward to meeting more passionate sailors in the future. -Thomas

Racing Recap by Emmet:
Having the experience of training in Sonars, Vipers, and VXOnes with my friends, sailing against other teams at the Sears qualifier and working our way up to competing at the Sears Cup was incredible. I learned so much about sailing different kinds of keelboats just within the past two months leading up to this event. When we arrived in Michigan and started racing, I discovered just how hard we could push ourselves when we really wanted something. Lots of opportunities to talk with new and interesting people were opened up to me and I am grateful for this, as it gave me a better vision of what sailing is like in every part of the country.  -Emmet

Racing Recap by Wells:
It was an honor to represent sailors from the northeast in the Sears Cup at the beautiful Macatawa Yacht Club. We met many cool people from across the country who I hope to run into at future sailing events, in college, and beyond. Sailing on Lake Michigan challenged us to adapt to different conditions with big waves and thermal shifts from the sand dunes that we don’t see sailing on Long Island Sound. We sailed in varied conditions and learned many lessons that will make us better in the future. I am thankful to all the people who helped get us to this point: our parents, so many people from Noroton, especially Bryan Paine, Warren Costikyan and Casey Hart for practice on the Viper, and many others from Cedar Point and Newport who literally left work to help us train.  This experience taught me how supportive the sailing community is and the enjoyment of racing a keelboat with teammates and friends.  -Wells


2022 Grandmasters

By Lee Morrison 

Our Noroton team racers recently finished 3rd at the annual New York Yacht Club Grandmasters Team Race championships, held over a perfect three day weekend at Harbour Court in Newport, RI from August 26 -28. This regatta, which serves essentially as a national championship, is restricted to skippers with a minimum age of 60 and crew members of at least 50 years old.    

For younger sailors, NYYC runs the Hinman team race championships for skippers over 45, crews over 40, and an open (no age restrictions) championship for the Morgan trophy.    

With bright and warm skies all three days, racing for the Grandmasters championship took place between Rose and Goat Islands in Newport harbor. Friday’s racing featured a 10-18 knot Southerly, which exceeded the wind limit for spinnakers in a few races. On Saturday and Sunday winds were lighter from the North and East at 6-12 knots, ideal conditions for close racing especially when combined with strong currents making starting and mark roundings especially tricky.     

Nine teams competed, hailing from as far away as Sweden, California, New Orleans, and Texas. The remaining teams came from the typical East Coast sailing powerhouses - Larchmont, Seawanhaka, Annapolis, and Storm Trysail. Team Noroton consisted of 12 members who were charged with handling the three Sonars that we were provided for the competition:  Bill Crane, Chris Daley, Geoff Durno, Janet Grapengator, Peggy Hersam, Alison Kinney, TK (helm), Scott Macleod (helm), Lee Morrison (helm), Michael Rudnick, Howard Seymour, Kevin Sheehan.  

In the first round of this year’s competition each team sailed against every other team twice - resulting in the Race Committee running a total of 144 races to determine the initial rankings for the finals on Sunday. The top four teams competed in a knockout finals round to determine the overall winner. The first team to win 3 races wins the knockout. In the first round, the top ranked New York YC sailed against the fourth ranked Larchmont team while the second ranked Texas Cornthian team sailed against team Noroton.    

New York beat Larchmont 3 races to 2, while Texas beat Noroton by the same 3 to 2 score. This pitted Texas against New York to determine the overall winner, while Noroton sailed against Larchmont to determine the winner of the Petit Finals.        

In the end, Texas beat New York 3-0 and Noroton topped Larchmont 3-1.  

This NYYC Grandmasters regatta has been run 11 times since the inaugural event in 2010, in which Noroton won the first 6 consecutive regattas, and placed 2nd in 2019.  

Racing in the Grandmasters validates the goal of many junior sailing programs: to create lifelong sailors.    

Fully one-third of our team learned how to sail in the Noroton Junior program (Crane, Daily, Hersam, Alison Kinney). And many others learned to sail in junior programs at other Clubs. While still others came into sailing after college but through their involvement have become regulars on the team racing circuit.  

For me personally, there were sailors at this event that I first competed against 50 years ago in the early days of the Laser Class. Ten of twelve members on the winning Texas team competed in last year’s event, which Texas also won, and have been sailing together for many years. As a team event, teamwork and consistency contribute a lot to success.    

For those not familiar, team racing typically pits one team consisting of three boats against another team of three boats which translates to six boats on a deliberately tight starting line racing for short, but very tightly packed and intense 12-15-minute race. The team with the lowest combined score wins.   

Seems fairly straightforward, however, sailing rules and tactics for team racing are very different from fleet racing. Rather than each boat simply trying to go fast and win, like in Fleet Racing, team racing is much more about preventing your competitors from passing, thereby pushing them back and letting your team move ahead.   

Obviously, getting a good start is essential. But that's actually when racing as a team comes into play. Unless all three boats on the same team beat all three boats on the opposing team at the start, the opportunity to “mix it up” exists.    

Blocking the wind and using luffing or mark room rights, as allowed under team racing rules, are just some of the ways a team that’s losing can slow down the race - allowing teammates to catch up and potentially pass boats on the opposing team.    

The opposing team, understanding the strategy, maneuvers their boats to prevent from being blocked or could go on the offense and try to block the blocker from the other team. It gets complicated quickly, especially when the wind is up and racing close. There just isn’t the time to think through all the plays, combinations and scenarios that could lead to a win. This is why training is so important - the sailors react to the best of their instincts and hope that their response to the wind, waves, competitors, and other teammates is better than the opposition.  

Because team racing is so rules-dependent, and racing so tight and fast, most team race regattas have on-water umpires. For many years NYYC member and Noroton Past Commodore Peter Wilson served as the Chief Umpire for all of New York Yacht Club’s “Big 3” team race regattas: The Morgan Cup, The Hinman Masters, and the Grandmasters. This year NYYC and Noroton member Britt Hall was also an umpire at all 3 events, and Nancy Pearson served as the Grandmasters Event Chairperson.  

Philosophically speaking, we choose to compete for fun and to challenge ourselves. To use the challenge as a motivator to prepare and sail in this event, and to accept that the end result may fall short of the goal to win. I am deeply grateful to be able to compete where age isn’t a restriction, at a beautiful venue, in comfortable boats, and in an event competently handled by a top race committee, dedicated umpires, and with the gracious New York Yacht Club as hosts. For more information about team racing at Noroton, or to come sail in a weekly practice at the club, reach out to Noroton Team Racing Committee Chair Michael Rudnick.  


The Osprey Nest

Photos by Harry Milne  

Initially the ospreys nested on a private pier on Long Neck Point, in sight of the Yacht Club. In 2010, the birds were evicted from that spot and forced to build a new nest. They chose the pilings at the end of Noroton’s main pier, just above the gangway that led to what was then the primary launch boat dock. Their nest was built quickly, too soon for Captain Jeff Eng to shoo the birds away. Since the ospreys were on the “Endangered Species” list, it was illegal to disturb their nesting place. As a result the gangway was never lowered that summer. Launch service was relocated to the finger piers for the season.

While they may have been unwelcome guests at first, the ospreys endeared themselves to our harbor quickly. With the nest now so close, club members and guests enjoyed watching the activity of the birds and anticipated the arrival of new hatchlings. The Darien Nature Center, in conjunction with the Yacht Club, installed a small camera nearby, allowing for periodic live views of the osprey nest. After the eggs hatched, a few small osprey chicks peered out over the rim of the nest to the delight of many!  

Since ospreys typically return to the same location each spring to nest, the Club needed to find a creative space sharing strategy amenable to both bird and boater. That fall, an emergency permit was secured from the Town of Darien. The permit allowed the Club to build an osprey platform on a piling pole about 25 yards to the west of the pier. Carolyn and Peter Wilson raised about $5,000 from members to fund the new nesting platform. Since the actual cost of the project was about half that, the remaining funds were earmarked for future platform repairs maintained by the Club. Captain Jeff moved branches from the launch dock nest and placed them randomly in the newly constructed platform. He also built a pyramid-like structure where the original nest had been, to deter the returning ospreys from rebuilding in that location.

As expected, the osprey pair returned to Noroton in late March of 2011 and, luckily, rebuilt their nest on the new platform. The female has returned regularly each year around March 26th, after which the male shows up for mating. Osprey typically mate for life and the osprey of Norton Bay are no exception. Each year, the adult residents of the osprey nest have raised between one and three chicks. Members have delighted in watching the chicks feed, grow, and eventually learn to fly by early August each season. On excessively hot days, all the birds shelter in the Nash Island trees but return home at feeding time chirping loudly for food. The ospreys head south in September. Osprey from Long Island Sound winter anywhere from South Carolina to the Caribbean and as far south as Venezuela. 


Boat Camp

By Frank Kemp

A little girl shouts: "This water is .... salty!"
A little boy asks "Is that the statue of liberty?"
A boat Captain shouts: "Pirates off the starboard bow!"

How can we make sense of these quotes? By thinking about the fun of being with the kids on any year of "Boat/Camp." Here is how it happens: early in the spring the Darien Sail & Power Squadron clears a date for late July, with the Club, with Person-to-Person, and with an inner-city summer day camp in Stamford that is part of P2P's (Person to Person) "Campership" program. When everyone is in sync - then on the magic date  - a small miracle happens for the kids, Captains, and Crew.

The day of Boat/Camp sees about 100 youngsters (usually grades 3 to 5) arrive at the Noroton Yacht Club to be sorted out as passengers on about 20 power boats belonging to Club members, the Darien Boat Club, and the Darien Sail & Power Squadron. After donning their lifejackets and listening to a safety briefing, the kids board "their" boats and depart for a few hours of fun on the Sound.

For Full Story: Boat Camp


Chimon Bay, a Peaceful Place for a Swim and Dinner


The bay between Chimon and Copps Islands is further east than Ziegler’s Cove and Sheffield Island by about five miles, but well worth the trip. It is one of the most beautiful places near Noroton to have dinner and watch the sunset. The water is very clean and great for swimming off your boat.

To reach Chimon Bay, go east staying south of Greens Ledge and Bell 28 off Great Reef and past Copps’ Island. Heading to Bell 26 off Westport is a safe path. Shortly you will pass a usually visible rock (also on the chart) on the east end of a reef extending from Copps Island. Turn around that rock about 15 yards off and head WNW into a big bay. Keep the oyster stakes on your starboard side and proceed slowly. There is a small reef in the middle of this passage with only three feet of water at the lowest tide, so if you draw more than that, wait at least for mid-tide.

Keep heading WNW into the Chimon Bay where there is 10 to 15 feet of water with good mud bottom for anchoring. Enjoy !!!


The Kirby Cup

The Kirby Cup, formally known as the Bruce Kirby Trophy, is awarded annually to the winners of a team race championship run by the Noroton Yacht Club. Each Fall Noroton hosts top sailors showcasing Noroton’s facilities and sailboat racing heritage. 

However, the Kirby Cup did not start out at the Noroton Club. The trophy (on display in the cabinet adjacent to the upstairs entrance) was initially commissioned by the Sonar Class Association in 2000 to - quoted from the Deed of Gift - “...stimulate and foster Corinthian team racing competition between Sonar Fleets, and to recognize Bruce Kirby for the creation of the Sonar, his contributions to the Sonar Class, and the sport of Yacht Racing”. Each year the winning club’s name is engraved on the trophy, capturing the event’s history. 

At first, the Kirby Cup was run by the Sonar Class Association as a “traveling event”. Similar to America’s Cup competition, the winner of the event gets the privilege of hosting the next event. However, as the level of competition in small keelboat team racing quickly grew, the infrastructure needed to run a first-class event grew as well. Things like RIBs for on-the-water umpiring, bumpers to protect the boats from accidental damage, and matched sails ensuring all the boats go the same speed are needed to run a top-flight team race.   

This level of infrastructure was a hardship for some clubs and participation in the Kirby Cup dwindled. In 2009 the leadership of the Noroton Yacht Club made a major commitment to the sport of team racing by purchasing 13 sets of bow and stern bumpers and 13 identical mainsails and jibs, allowing Noroton to join an elite group of sailing clubs able to run top team race events. Soon after we petitioned the Sonar Class Association to make Noroton the Kirby Cup’s home. Fortunately, it was an easy decision. Beyond Noroton’s commitment to team racing and its large fleet of Sonars, the trophy’s namesake Bruce Kirby was a long time Noroton member and active participant in our Fleet.  

In 2010 the Kirby Cup became Noroton’s Team Race Championship, and we’ve run championships annually ever since (skipping 2020 due to Covid). Up until 2019 Bruce would come out in the boat he designed to watch the close competition, competing for a trophy dedicated in his honor. A fitting distinction for someone who has contributed so much to our sport.

One thing that is key to team racing is a solid team of umpires who patrol the races and perform instant justice. Peter Wilson is a driving force for team racing throughout the United States and has contributed significantly to Team Racing at Noroton. He has continued to generously give his time through regatta organization and as a tireless umpire. Because of his emphasis on the Corinthian spirit of the game, Noroton YC developed a new trophy in 2016 called the “Peter Wilson Fair Play Award”, named after his umpire rib. It is awarded to a sailor for excellent sportsmanship.  


Team Racing at Noroton Yacht Club

By Peter Wilson,  Certified team race umpire and Captain of the Noroton Grand Master team from 2010-2015

When the club first started, there was adult team racing in Star boats, primarily against Stamford Yacht Club. The races were started off the Noroton pier and went out to Government marks, such as the Green Flasher, N 28, and Smith’s Reef Buoy. There were stories about Noroton sailors working together to put a Stamford boat on a course that would align her keel with rocks near the Green Flasher that, at a certain tide, were a perfect wedge to hold the keel and thus stop the boat.

While this team racing between Stamford and Noroton continued for a while, the advent and rapid popularity of the Lightning put team racing on the back burner. Fleet racing quickly became the thing to do.

Slowly, adult team racing events started to return in the 1990s. Noroton eagerly joined in because many of the clubs hosting team racing events were holding their regattas in Sonars. At that time, Noroton clearly had some of the best Sonar skippers on the east coast. We assumed that we could leverage that fleet racing expertise into success at team racing. We assumed incorrectly!

Noroton hosted several team race events in the early 1990s including several against New York Yacht Club. Despite fielding a strong team, Noroton was no match for New York on July 18th 1992. The New York Yacht Club team competed in four such series each year, while Noroton was fleet racing. Our team racing ability simply wasn’t a match for that level of experience.

The painful truth was, Noroton was terrible at team racing. The other clubs loved it when Noroton entered a team racing competition because, to be honest, despite having the best Sonar sailors, we defaulted to trying to win using fleet race tactics and that just didn’t cut it. On the first day of a two-day event, Noroton would still be fleet racing. Noroton skippers were heard saying to a fellow team member “I beat you!” as they crossed the line even though the other team won the team race. The well-worn patterns of competition were so ingrained that they seemed to miss the fact that they were now on the same team.

For those who may not understand the difference, fleet racing is like a running race where each runner is competing for a stronger finish. In team racing, on the other hand, consists of six boats broken into two teams. The winning team is the team that has the cumulatively higher finishes. Teamwork becomes critical. In fleet racing, getting a great start, sailing fast, staying in clear air, picking the best side of the course, or playing the shifts well is the key to winning. Fleet racers are always looking up the course to see where and how to pass boats and move up. The game is always in front of you. In team racing, however, the game is always behind you as the overall goal is to keep the majority of the other team behind you and your teammates. The trick becomes to use the rules to hold opponents back to let your teammates advance.

With this critical shift in tactics, teamwork becomes paramount. For example, if another boat on your team did not have a good start, you need to help her out. This might mean sitting on an opposing boat’s wind to slow that opponent down and pave the way for your teammate to catch up. It takes a complete understanding of the rules and how to use them to your advantage as well as a willingness to sacrifice your own individual finishing place for the good of the broader team.


Noroton Yacht Club - A Chronology

Our club isn’t old, it isn’t big, it isn’t very fancy, but it’s got something really going for it. It appeals mostly to those who love boats. Our facilities are good for boating, not so hot for anything else, and as a result we attract members who feel there is nothing quite so worthwhile as a boat…Many of us dream at times how nice it would be to have a swimming pool, more tennis courts, more comfortable and lavish buildings. If we did, we might lose much of what we now have, and what we now have seems worth hanging on to.  ~ Commodore Bob Bavier, 1968 message to the membership

It all started in 1907 - Six dories raced for the first time in Noroton Harbor. 

See Full Chronology here


J24 Down

J24 Class Minus One
By Peter Wilson 

The J24 Class Association was formed in 1978 and the boat was instantly popular, with 500 boats spread in new fleets across the country in its first year. The J24 was introduced to Noroton in 1981. Noroton had been chosen to host the Sears Cup in 1982 and the J24 had been selected as the boat for all of the US Junior Sailing Championships (Sears, Bemis, and Smythe) that would be conducted that year. Once Noroton sailors got to know the J24, the class grew quickly and became a major fleet at Noroton for decades. It was very popular with racing couples, particularly those who were not athletic enough to sail a Tempest, and, for the hardy cruisers, you could even go to Long Island overnight. As a mainstay at Noroton’s Sunday races, the J24 fleet often boasted 15 boats on the starting line each Sunday. One Sunday in 1982 we lost J24 #2802 in a big easterly: 15 to 20 knots with four-to-six-foot seas. Rounding the weather mark near Greens Ledge Lighthouse that day, each boat set her spinnaker for the 1.5-mile leeward leg. After a hard-won windward leg, the beat to the leeward mark was a complete sleigh ride; surfing down the huge swells with most of the crew on the stern rail to keep the bow from going under. You couldn’t sail directly downwind because the rolling from side to side was treacherous, so boats went off to either side of the run; surfing one wave and then running into the one in front of it.

About halfway down the leg when boats had to gybe for the leeward mark, the wind gusts suddenly increased to about 25 knots. There were several wipeouts trying to gybe, and some boats dropped their spinnakers completely to gybe safely. A few brave crews attempted to gybe with the spinnaker up and Bill Thomson’s was one. In the middle of the gybe, the chute rolled them to windward and right into a capsize. The boat “turned turtle” (completely upside down) in the heavy seas. Water poured into the open cockpit lockers causing the boat to sink in a matter of minutes. Fortunately, all the crew was rescued off the boat by a mark-boat before it went down.

The next day, Bill and several others went out to the spot where she sank and dragged the bottom with grappling hooks and Danforth anchors, but they came up empty. They tried again for several days with no luck. We all surmised that ultimately, the boat might wash up on Smith’s Reef to the west of where she went down, but in all this time, there has been no sign of her. Those who remember this event wonder if, when setting a weather or leeward mark for Sunday sailing, they might one day find that lost boat.


2021 Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup

By Bill Crane

In September of this year a small group of Noroton sailors competed in the seventh edition of Rolex NYYC Invitational Cup. The cup is an international event comprised of the best amateurs from the most highly regarded yacht clubs. The event occurs every two years and is held at NYYC’s Newport, Rhode Island annex, Harbour Court. The 2021 edition is the second one to utilize NYYC’s own fleet of identical IC37 sport boats which were developed primarily for this event.

Under normal circumstances Noroton would have been required to qualify for the event through NYYC’s Resolute Cup. Last year, however, due to the global pandemic, the 2020 Resolute Cup was suspended and NYYC made an exception regarding qualification. The US teams, (with the excepting NYYC’s own team), were chosen by resume. This was a perfect example of a disastrous global situation providing an opportunity for those who are willing to pursue it.

In 2020 the Hinman Masters team racing championship was also suspended by the pandemic. Noroton’s Masters team did, however, continue to practice among itself on a few Saturday mornings. During one of these Saturday practice sessions, (clearly there was no wind…), we discussed the opportunity to gain acceptance to the Invitational Cup. A decision regarding the opportunity was reached by a few of us, and we agreed to pursue an entry under Noroton’s burgee (although we were under no illusion that a small club like Noroton would ever have a chance).

In late summer or early autumn 2020 we were turned down. NYYC wanted the big clubs. There was no surprise or emotional let-down. Realistically, we knew we were bunch of smalltown amateurs trying to make it to the big show. Then near the end of the year there was a call from NYYC: if the opportunity for participation were to arise, would we still be interested? Nothing more, but a call to see if our interest remained. We of course said yes. Then nothing…ghosted.

At home, during dinner sometime around the second week of June, Bill Crane received a call from Beth Duggan of the NYYC. She inquired if we were serious about competing for the cup. We were. Would we accept the invitation if NYYC provided one to Noroton’s Commodore? Yes, we would. Bill subsequently, and immediately, called Karl Ziegler. The call was met with incredulity. “What?” “Are you joking?” Karl had never in a million years thought we would be asked. Long story short, after a few deep breaths, we were in!

What now? Most of the teams had been training and sailing together for years. They had experience with the IC37. They had been planning, practicing in the IC37 and they knew what they were doing. We were deer in the headlights. Time to get moving. Define what is possible, what is practical, who is available and about a million other small variables.

After defining what we needed as crew, Bill took on the task of calling, begging, and pleading with people to take two weeks of their time to compete in an event that was not on anyone’s radar. Most of our members had not even heard of the Invitational Cup. It is not easy for most people to find the time for a weekend event, much less one of this extent. We were planning on five days of practice followed by a competition without a break, (a two-week commitment to Newport RI on short notice). This was compounded by NYYC’s rules that dictated the make up of the crew. We all had to be in category one, (meaning strictly amateur) men and women, (seven men and one woman or two women and eight or more crew members), with a combined maximum crew weight of 1,512.37 Lbs. We knew we needed youth, we needed strength, we needed speed, we needed smarts…we needed a lot. Many of our members at first agreed, then the scope of the undertaking became apparent, and they were forced to or chose to bow out. Ultimately, we settled on a crew that was not that young, was not that strong, but they were pretty smart and they definitely knew how to work hard as a unit. The crew was comprised of: Karl Ziegler (captain and helm), Scott Macleod (tactician), Bill Crane (mainsail and jib trim), Chris Daley (spinnaker and jib trim), Howard Seymour (mast and offside trim), Tucker Hersam (bow), Janet Grapengeter (squirrel or floater) and our one non Noroton member Debbie Probst of the Buffalo Canoe Club (pit). We were a crew of eight. In hindsight none or even ten would have been better, but you don’t know what you don’t know.

Karl focused his efforts on who could help us prepare. He found (maybe coerced) some great coaches with IC37 experience who would help expedite the learning process. Noroton's Rob Crane, Brooks Daley, and Megan Grapengeter-Rudnick, all with IC37 experience, each gave us a day of their time. They helped with crew positioning, boat handling and setting our expectations. Stan Schreyer of North Sails (ex BU sailing team coach) worked with us on boat setup, boat speed nuances and where best to position the boat in a race to take advantage of its unique sailing characteristics (Stan concluded we would be ready just about when the event ended…). Tony Rey (3x’s America’s Cup Sailor and super coach) provided us with input regarding our sail trim and sail handling while racing. We had the best instructor/coaches, and they gave us their best. What neither they nor Karl could provide was time in the boat. The team was forced to compress months of sailing into days.

Prior to heading to Newport, every one of our team members spent time reviewing the IC37 Class and North Sails’ websites, poring over videos and charts in efforts to understand what was expected of them, how-tos, and best practices. This is all very relevant to sailing the boat, but we were working in a vacuum without real life experiences on the water. We worked out intricate “play books” to help each teammate understand their role and their responsibility. We all did as much as we could to prepare while waiting for the day we would actually get on board an IC37.

Our shore team, led by Tory Crane, focused on housing. The team needed to be near the venue and we wanted to all be together so that we could maximize our time as a unit. Tory and Karl found us the perfect base via social media, and we now had our own Noroton Club House annex. The next hurdle was figuring out how to feed the group. Again, Tory and Karl came through in remarkable fashion.

Finally, it was time to compete. We had a plan, but as Mike Tyson would say, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth….”. Right from the get-go we knew we were neither the best nor the worst. We also knew we would improve. The question remained, how long would it take? Well, it definitely takes longer than one championship event. That being said, we improved in every race and often found ourselves in the top five rounding the weather mark. What held us back? Mistakes! We proved to ourselves that we have the abilities to compete with the best, but to win against the best takes time and commitment. Only with time can we mitigate the stupid mistakes that can sink a race. We had no time, but we were committed (or we should have been….). We did not embarrass ourselves. We were not outclassed. We know what it takes, and if we ever have the chance to compete in this event again, look out!

One last impression of the event: standing around, watching the sailing replay on the big screen following a day’s racing we often overheard other teams asking, “who are those guys?” when we appeared in the thick of it trading tacks with the very best of the best. We, of course, are the smallest club to take on the big guys in the big show.

Bill Crane grew up at Noroton.  His grandfather was one of the original 30 members who contributed $1000 to form the Noroton Yacht Club. 


TANGO - a Transatlantic Pedal Boat

Bruce Kirby Designs a Transatlantic Pedal Boat

By Dwight Collins (writer, pedaler)

Bruce Kirby was the perfect person to design a state-of-the-art pedal powered boat to cross the North Atlantic.  But when I came to his Rowayton home in 1990 to discuss designing the craft for this purpose some convincing was required. His wife Margo later told me “He thought you were nuts!”. My Navy SEAL background and my 20+ year old file complete with plans of transatlantic rowing boats were positives. After some hesitation, Bruce agreed to design the boat and named it the “For Real Project”. From that point on Bruce was all in. It was the beginning of a wild ride with challenges, twists, and turns that tested our resolves. A very special friendship grew from our mutual appreciation of each other’s shared determination to make the transatlantic pedal boat project a success that extended well beyond the boat design. 

Bruce designed a self-righting, fully enclosed 24’ carbon fiber 850-pound boat and used his influence to secure Goetz Marine Technology--world renowned for building Americas Cup boats-- to build the boat. Bruce said, “I have designed a boat that is easily driven and is more unstable upside down.”

The original plan was for a crew of two, both pedaling, accompanied by an escort boat. The focus was on speed and the higher probability for success with 2 pedalers. The selected route was the shortest distance across the Atlantic from St. Johns, Newfoundland to Plymouth, England. A total of 1,950 miles. The timing was critical between June and August (after the icebergs recede and before hurricane season begins). The Darien News covered the launching at Bruce’s home and mentioned that I was looking for a partner. Bob Wells, a cyclist, sailor, and a long-time member of Noroton Yacht Club stepped up, took charge of sponsorship, and named the adventure “Biking the Atlantic”.    

For 18 months Bob and I worked at bringing the dream to reality, with Bruce offering assistance, encouragement and legitimacy to the effort. Bruce introduced us to a variety of experts to refine the model: David Hubbard and John Nobile to design and build a highly efficient pedal system; Terry Richards, a propeller fabricator to build the airplane-like custom prop; a carbon fiber specialist to make the canopies; Dan Nerney, to photograph the process; equipment sponsors in navigation, desalinization, hatches, and plastics; and a balloonist weather forecaster who was very accurate about the weather conditions. In addition, Bruce was instrumental in marshalling the assistance and expertise of Noroton Yacht Club members Andrew Kostanecki, Jeff Eng, and Peter Ward, among others. Bob secured Moet and Chandon to sponsor a successful New York to Boston trial run.

But by early 1992, no sponsorship had been secured to finance the trip as planned with 2 pedalers and an escort boat. A decision was required. The opportunity would not carry past 1992. The recession would not last and work obligations would soon make it impossible to take off sufficient time for the trip. I called Bruce and asked him if, in his judgment, the boat could handle the crossing on a solo basis. Bruce responded, “I know the boat will make it”. After a long pause he then said, “You have done everything you can do to prepare the boat and yourself for this crossing. The only thing you can’t prepare for is how you will handle being alone.” Bruce was all about possibility. That was all the encouragement I needed. Some say that with dreams come responsibility. On that day, the full weight of a childhood dream landed. The decision was made, and the dream took what in retrospect seemed predestined. I named the boat “TANGO” after our wedding dance. The voyage and the purity of the childhood dream synchronized. Bruce and Margo understood the risk and the passion. In the mad rush to complete everything for the existential trip, they provided a soothing balance of support and assistance whenever necessary. 

The Atlantic Ocean typically has milder conditions in the summer months. But in the summer of 1992 that was not the case—there were more storms than usual and less sunlight. I had been to St. Johns before I was married and had great memories of pub crawling 5 years earlier in the only place in the world that lives by a 30-minute time zone. The voyage started with a following sea and strong westerly winds. TANGO performed perfectly heading due east at 4 knots with ease. But when the sun went down that first night, the conditions changed.  The wind died and the southerly Labrador current carried TANGO south off course. For 4 days in dense fog, I made little easterly progress despite 12+ hours of pedaling each day. I was kept company by a shark for a day. I remember feeling like I was being followed. I turned around and there it was, a 3-foot dorsal fin in my wake. The next day, a pod of pilot whales surrounded the boat. I later found out that pilot whales will ram your boat if they think your boat is a threat.  

Fortunately, TANGO was going too slow for them to be concerned. The beginning of our trip was the most difficult. No progress. No sun. No visibility. Bruce was right, being alone was brutal. I reverted to Seal training. Focus on the present. Only look forward to the next meal. Don’t think, wonder, or worry. Be an animal. 

Good news and bad news came on the 5th day when home base communicated via HF radio that a major storm was on its way toward me. With a huge following sea and raging winds, TANGO was catapulted out of the Labrador Current and made her way into the favorable easterly Gulf Stream. With a gathering storm, I have always taken solace in how one’s threshold for acceptance of the wind and waves increases in synchrony with the crescendo. The angry sea throws everything at you but not right away so you can gradually get used to it! At the climax, I would look back at the conditions in the beginning of the storm and marvel at what I could now tolerate. Every wave is different. The rumble of a breaking wave in the distance can build as it nears you or it might just dissipate. There is no way to anticipate. I accepted that my fate was almost completely out of my hands. The bad weather continued. TANGO coasted down the waves with speed. Her narrow beam, combined with the perfect aft section buoyancy, allowed the really big waves to pass by the boat without lifting the stern up to cause pitchpoling. As long as I could stay perpendicular to the waves, TANGO performed perfectly. Bruce would later ask for every detail about how TANGO performed. I showed him the video of TANGO surfing down a wave, and me unclipping my shoes from the pedals so the pedals would free wheel spin.   

With help from the storms, I made good progress. However, there was no sun to charge the solar panel batteries which in turn powered the HF radio. For 10 days, I had no communication with home base. Thank God for BBC Radio. My books on tape were useless because the moisture had killed my Walkman. Ross Perot pulled out of the presidential race, I learned about a Mustard Museum somewhere, I enjoyed an Anthony Hopkins interview and I even appreciated listening to opera. I had confidence that TANGO would keep me safe regardless of the toughest conditions. I had made peace with being alone. I could take an idea and think about it for hours. The pursuit of a dream can seem selfish to those who care about you. None of my wife, family or friends knew where I was or if I was alive or dead. This trip taught me to measure my actions in context with others. When the sun finally returned, it was clear to me that I was going to make it. A message in a bottle was cast, which would land on the Brittainy Coast in December and would later be found by a French fisherman who received his weight in Champagne thanks to Moet & Chandon. My Walkman came back to life, and I will forever feel indebted to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers for being an essential part of the good things in life. After 2 days of sun, the batteries were recharged, and communications resumed. HF radio is not completely reliable. My first transmission did not ping Stamford, CT. It pinged a sailing vessel off the coast of South Africa which so happened to be one of my favorite boats designed by Olin Stephens. A heavy South African accent responded, “Stormy Weather” and he relayed my position to home base. The sun lifted my spirits and inspired me to stop pedaling and climb outside. I sat looking at the incredible beauty of just ocean sky split by horizon and the gentle rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean. I realized in this very moment why I had taken this challenge.  Amazing how important, lasting, yet short that moment was.

My route was out of the shipping lanes. Aside from seeing one Chiquita Banana tanker from a distance, I had not seen one ship the entire voyage. However, Murphy’s Law is always hovering. After several days of an annoying clicking sound in the bearings, at 2 AM, I took the pedal system apart to make the repair. At the very moment of complete disassembly, I heard and saw a ship coming directly in my path. After all I had endured, I was prepared to accept that when your number is up you are done. Fortunately, the ship altered its course at the last minute to avoid me. 

My first sight of land was the isles of Scilly which eerily jutted out of the ocean as the sun rose. It is true that you can smell the land from far away. How many ships had miscalculated and been broken up on those Islands’ rocky shores? A British family came over in a small but hardy looking vessel with the children in bulky life jackets. My first encounter with live people in 39 days! When I answered where I had come from, they acknowledged my answer stoically, then in classic British form puttered away. After just 15 minutes, they returned. The father enthusiastically said, “I just want you to know what you did was amazing. Congratulations!” 

As I entered the English Channel, with the sun high, a helicopter circled above me. A press boat came to greet us offering chocolate bars and random sweets which I gratefully accepted and ate with vigor. As good as those sweets tasted, that decision was not only a big mistake but terrible substitute for what had become my favorite food--fig newtons which I had entirely consumed over the trip. Despite not feeling particularly well as I entered Plymouth Harbor, being totally overwhelmed by euphoria is still my strongest memory. My last entry in my video journal captured the moment best, “On the one hand, I can’t wait to move on and on the other hand I hate to give up the peacefulness and time to myself. What a fantastic experience!” 

My first footfall on British soil felt completely unfamiliar and it took some time for my land legs to return. I had become accustomed to every motion of TANGO, and I understand why the anthropomorphizing of boats happens. I also understand that an experience such as this forever changes you. You simply see more.       

The first person I called when I made landfall in Plymouth, England was Bruce Kirby. “I made it!”  He responded, “With a little help from the boat!” When I returned home to Connecticut, I went straight to Bruce and Margo’s house to celebrate. Whenever we got together going forward, it was a celebration. He could never get enough of hearing how TANGO handled the seas. Bruce Kirby was the most important person with the For Real Project…impossible to imagine it happening without him. 

In April of 2010, Bruce asked me to attend an award ceremony for him at the New York Yacht Club. I always did anything he asked me without hesitation. Any opportunity to capture a moment with Bruce should never be missed! In his acceptance speech for his award, he said that he considered TANGO to be the most successful design he had ever done because it served its purpose perfectly.

TANGO spent many years prominently displayed in the Maritime Center (now Aquarium) cantilevered on an open stairwell in what was formerly called Falconers Hall. One day around 2010, the Aquarium exhibit director called me and told me that TANGO needed to be removed. For 5 years she sat outside in my backyard.  One day Bruce called me up and said, “I am donating the first Laser to Mystic Seaport. Why don’t you call them up and see if they will accept TANGO as a donation?” With Bruce’s help, TANGO is now where she belongs. 

Thank you, Bruce!  You will be missed.


Rebuilding the Noroton Clubhouse, 2014 to 2018

By Art Collins and Peter Wilson

Both men were on the Planning Committee to rebuild the Clubhouse and Art was a member of the building committee.

Superstorm Sandy caused devastating damage to the Noroton Clubhouse in 2012, flooding the building and destroying part of the structure of the iconic 1928 building. In the wake of Sandy’s destruction, it became obvious our cherished clubhouse would have to be rebuilt. The challenge was how to redesign the building in a way that would accommodate the needs of all members while keeping Noroton’s traditions and sailing focus strong. Fortunately, Sunday fleet racing brought together a quorum of flag officers and members every week. After countless discussions before and after races, the plan for a new clubhouse began to take shape and gain support. In the aftermath of Sandy, it was clear that the redesigned Clubhouse needed to become much more wind and floodwater resilient in order to adapt to the effects of climate change and meet new FEMA and EPA regulations all while providing social spaces and associated features to attract new members. Noroton needed to strike a careful balance of these needs in order to perpetuate its mission; the furtherance of yachting and sailing families.

The process started with the formation of a Building Committee to assess the two major initial options: rebuild or build new. While the cost of renovating the existing building was likely lower, taking this path would significantly limit our ability to add the features we believed were necessary to attract new members while also meeting current member needs. This option also had the risk of unexpected problems and their associated costs. These factors led the Building Committee to recommend building a wholly new clubhouse. Once that avenue was determined, the Committee began evaluating the program elements that would need to be incorporated into a new Clubhouse as well as the grounds and adjoining bulkhead and terrace structures. Initially the Building Committee was small, headed by Art Collins and included Janet Grapengeter, Randy Tankoos, Peggy Hersam, and Ed Sweeney. The committee grew over the years incorporating current and new flag officers in order to help define the scope of the building program, discuss fundraising strategies, and prepare presentations to discuss with various stakeholders including neighbors, the Town of Darien, and financing sources.

The next task faced by the Committee was completing a feasibility study to identify costs, planning and environmental elements, flood zone compliance, and building code and zoning compliance issues. A survey was initiated by Hugh Balloch who hired The McMahon Group from St. Louis to help focus the Committee on what the members wanted, what worked in the old clubhouse, and what should be added. For design, the Committee chose architect Robert Lambert of Burgin Lambert in Newport, Rhode Island. Lambert had worked on the historic New York Yacht Club buildings in Newport, Watch Hill Yacht Club, and other projects in New England. By the winter of 2015, the McMahon study was complete. It recommended demolition of the existing building and placement of a new building in a footprint moved about 18 feet to the northeast where it would be out of the newly FEMA designated Velocity Flood Zone. The new structure would have member lounges, outdoor deck and patio seating, and food and beverage facilities (including a bar) on a second floor to be accessed by a required elevator and four sets of stairs. During the next year  meetings were held with the Noroton Bay Commissions, as well as with Club members at the Darien Library.

The goals for a new clubhouse as communicated to the membership were: ·     
A far more storm secure building Code compliance across the board Right-size with all spaces functional and attractive       Member-identified improvement needs Character reminiscent of the current building Manageable construction costs Member friendly funding plan A clubhouse to be very proud of 
Building a new clubhouse would cost between 3.5 and 4.5 million dollars. It was clear that the Club would have to take out a sizable mortgage in order to meet a spending target of $4 million. The financing elements agreed to were: $500,000 from cash reserves, a $3.5 million mortgage, increasing the annual cost of a family membership by $250 for five years, and an emergency $500,000 line of credit. Treasurer John Geissinger ably led the development of financial projections and secured the loan.

The reason for the annual membership cost increase was due to the loss of almost 15% of the membership when a $5,000 assessment was put in place to help pay for a $1.2 million clubhouse reconstruction in 1990/91. Losing that many members was morally and financially unacceptable.

Finally, knowing that most building projects increase in cost over time, a capital campaign would be needed towards the end of the project, but not announced at that time. In the end, several important additions, improvements and finishing projects remained unfunded. A capital campaign raised approximately $1.5 million. Like building a new wooden boat, building a beautiful clubhouse needed more than one coat of varnish and several suits of sails.

Construction commenced in 2016 and by the 2018 season, the clubhouse was completed and became an instant success. While the old clubhouse is dearly missed, its classic breezeway feature remains and much of the exterior cedar siding was preserved and used to build the bar, the 1928 fireplace in the library, the merchandise cabinets, and the trophy cases. The new building is resilient and will bear the inevitable forces of future storms, but more importantly, it will be the home for member families and their guests as well as a site to host many regattas and sailing events in the future.

Critical to its success, the new club needed new staffing and professional management to provide services that complement the sailing and boating activities. Food and beverage service was taken on by Nikki Glekas who did a terrific job building a first-class bar and restaurant that has become well noted along Long Island Sound. Staffing was supplemented with a new general manager, Wim Jessup, who brought a level of competence to Noroton Yacht Club that matched the stature it has as a sailing club.

The Club continues to host many regattas, fleet racing has expanded with new boats and classes actively sailed by members, and there is a new spirit for cruising fleets and visitors as they travel west and east Long Island Sound.

Much credit goes to Leo Schlinkert who helped implement the building of the new clubhouse. Serving as Commodore from 2020-21, Leo initiated the capital campaign, was instrumental in the Clubhouse design and inspired all to engage and contribute to the effort. Peter Wilson was another who led the way, with clear and professional member presentations to build support for the project. Peter was involved in every aspect of the new project and played an important role encouraging all members to get involved. With their leadership, the project was well supported by members and all came together for the benefit of the members and the Noroton Yacht Club legacy. The features of the new Clubhouse have brought more members, more volunteers for every task, and made the club a year-round facility to be proud of. The original Paul Smart clubhouse will always be part of our shared history, but the important spirit of Noroton Yacht Club was sustained and enhanced with the construction of the new Clubhouse.  


Hurricane Irene and Sandy

Hurricane Irene: August 30-31, 2011 

Hurricane Sandy: October 29-30, 2012

Hurricane Irene was well understood as a major storm many days before hitting the Connecticut coastline. Storm preparations at the Club were deployed immediately following warnings from the Town of Darien officials and the National Hurricane Center days before the storm hit. Houses in Noroton Bay were evacuated, the Clubhouse was shuttered as much as possible and vehicles were taken to higher ground. Irene in particular was predicted to be a major wind and rain event so everyone along the coast and in town took the warnings seriously.


The storm made landfall early on Sunday, August 28th. By 11:00am winds were about 25-30 knots from the northeast. The direction of the wind was blowing the water out of Long Island Sound. However, after the hurricane’s eye passed west of the Club around midnight the wind shifted abruptly to the south. As the eye of the storm moved to the north on the morning of the 29th, the wind built substantially to 40-50 knots from the south. Coincident with a rising tide and storm surge, this caused large breaking waves to bear down on the Clubhouse and lift the pier off its foundation pillars. Our historic pier could not withstand the path of monstrous breaking waves and storm-force wind. By low tide later that afternoon with the storm far to the north and the winds diminishing, we saw what the wrath of the storm had left; the pier and abutments and all that held it together for more than 80 plus years were washed up on the dry sailing area, across the beach, and even up onto Baywater Drive. Carnage in the harbor was limited to a few boats breaking their moorings and landing on Smart Beach. Member Flip Huffard’s RIB landed on Dave Campbell’s lawn after he ran out of gas while inspecting damage during the storm. The roof of the Pratt Island gazebo was blown off and landed on the terrace at the Club. In short, Irene left an extensive mess in her wake.

The Clubhouse was largely spared, sustaining minor damage to the retaining walls, roof shingles, and some of the siding. Short of the loss of the pier, however, things largely returned to normal within a few days of Irene’s departure. Thanks to Ed Sweeney, Randy Tankoos, and other helpers, the pier was rebuilt over the winter months.

Hurricane Sandy, on the other hand, was a markedly different storm event from any that the Club had experienced since 1928. The warnings leading up to Sandy’s arrival were frequent and extreme. Predictions called for a severity of wind, expected wave action, and tidal surge unlike anything 
seen in our area (except perhaps Hurricane Carol in 1954). Storm surge predictions called for tidal levels up to 12 feet higher than normal. The storm itself combined with another low-pressure cell that came from the west, making Sandy exceptionally fierce and twice as big in diameter as hurricane Katrina. All in all, it was predicted to be much stronger than any storm the Connecticut coastline had seen.


In the face of such an unprecedented event, storm preparation commenced with volunteers working to transfer equipment to higher ground and to secure the Club’s facilities as best they could. Unfortunately, there was no preparing for such a long-lasting and fierce combination of wind and waves on top of the tidal flooding.

The storm strengthened as it traveled up the eastern seaboard over unseasonably warm ocean water before heading west over the New Jersey shoreline. Initially Sandy brought high intensity northerly winds to Noroton that racked and pushed the pier head platform 6ft south. After the hurricane’s landfall and westward traverse, howling southerly winds and associated waves as well as a surging tide rose to wreak havoc on the first floor of the Clubhouse. The first floor flooded and three-to-four-foot waves broke through the sliding doors. Anything that wasn’t tied down inside was awash in the interior. It was the first time anyone remembered the upper living room flooding. Meanwhile, the tide was still rising during the evening hours as waves continued to flow over the dry sail area and parking lot where boats were stored for the winter. The Club’s white launch ended up on Commodore MacDonald’s lawn. Captain Jeff, who lived in the Clubhouse at the time, said when the storm hit that night the whole building moved.


Boats were piled up together in the northern parking lot after waves floated boats from their poppits. The flooding was so severe in the Bay that many of the houses became unlivable, some abandoned for many months after. In the aftermath of Sandy, the Bay was completely transformed with many houses lifted up onto higher foundations or completely rebuilt.

Sandy’s impact affected the whole east coast. When it made landfall, the storm stretched from New Hampshire to southern Virginia: almost 600 miles. Its storm surge plugged the Long Island Sound tidal flow in New York harbor and the northeastern winds held the water from ebbing east out of the Race. The eye passed over Brigantine, New Jersey early October 29th creating major flooding up the Hudson River and Long Island as well as the Connecticut and Westchester coastlines. The high tide recorded in Noroton Harbor was 10.25ft, fully six feet higher than normal. The Club had never felt the brunt of a storm like this one. With the prolonged duration of two high tide cycles, flooding damage was particularly extensive. It was very fortunate that the height of the storm surge was four hours after high tide or the Clubhouse might have been totally destroyed. The tides and storm surges for both Irene and Sandy are shown below.



These two storms and their resulting damage made it very clear that Noroton needed a Clubhouse that could withstand serious storm events. Before long, the Flag officers and Board were on-board to support an effort to build a new Clubhouse and by the 2018 season, the new Clubhouse was complete.


Mah Jong - Memories of the Dragon Wagon

Memories of the Dragon Wagon
By Carolyn McCurdy Wilson, member since 1955, daughter of Commodore Richard McCurdy 1961-1962

Type: Bermudian Yawl Mah Jong
LOA: 52’2 / 15.91m
LWL: 37’0 / 11.27m
Beam: 11’8 / 3.59m Draft: 7’6” / 2.28m
Design Number: 1261
Designer: Sparkman & Stephens
Year Built: 1957 Built By: Cheoy Lee Shipyard, Hong Kong
Hull Material: Wood
Gross Displacement: 38,100 lbs
Ballast: Outside 14,500 lbs – Inside 500 lbs
Sail Area: 1,253 sq ft

Designed by Sparkman & Stevens and built at the Cheoy Lee Shipyard in Hong Kong. Launched in 1957, her shakedown cruise was a circumnavigation. Her hull and deck are teak, and the keel, stem and sternpost are Yacal wood. Interior is impeccably finished in Teak and Mahogany.

In the 1950s and 60s our family sailed Lightnings at Noroton Yacht Club, but my father, Richard Clark McCurdy, had always wanted a cruising boat. In the early 60s he decided to take the family on our first cruise. He chartered a boat out of Seawanhaka Yacht Club and we set off to watch the America’s Cup trials in Newport, R.I. We spent one soggy week in a boat that leaked, making for three very unhappy teenagers. Finally, we made it back to Seawanhaka and into our little motorboat and headed home. On the way out of the harbor, my father saw Mah Jong on a mooring. He immediately fell in love. This was not good news for the teens – at least we didn’t think so at the time.

My father contacted the owners to find out more about the boat. It turned out that three young men (Hovey Freeman, Mike Merle-Smith, and Gilbert Grosvenor) wanted to build a boat in Hong Kong and sail it around the world. They got the drawings of a boat named Baccarat from Sparkman and Stevens, contracted with Choy Lee, and set off on their adventure. Some of the team went over to supervise the building while others stayed behind to supply fittings from here so there would be no problem with repairs in the future.

If you can find the December 1958 National Geographic Magazine, you will find an article about the part of this trip cruising the Aegean Isles by Gil Grosvenor, later to become the head of National Geographic.

After a year’s cruise, the group of friends entered the Newport to Bermuda Race and then put the boat up for sale. My father was one of several people interested in the boat. The boat, however, was not simply for sale to the highest bidder. Those interested had to be interviewed to make sure they would use and take care of the boat. We were chosen and that began a long and wonderful time for our family with Mah Jong.

As the first Choy Lee boat built for export, there was a movie made about the building of Mah Jong. The boat was 52 feet long and made of teak. Because of her size, the sails had to be cut at night using the streets of the city as this was the only place large enough to lay out the materials. The tools used to build her included a bow and arrow drill. Many items were hand carved and the resulting details were amazing. I remember being impressed that the heating stove in the main cabin had a chimney with an s-curve in it, and that the builders had found one piece of wood with that exact shape in order to avoid seams.

There were also beautifully carved pieces throughout the boat and a Quan Yen sitting on a shelf in the main cabin to oversee safe passage. When the boat was ready to be launched, the yard brought a going away present: one piece of wood carved with dragons entwined that fit inside the whole front of the dog house, including around the window.

There were also beautifully carved pieces throughout the boat and a Quan Yen sitting on a shelf in the main cabin to oversee safe passage. When the boat was ready to be launched, the yard brought a going away present: one piece of wood carved with dragons entwined that fit inside the whole front of the dog house, including around the window.

My father took Mah Jong on many Newport to Bermuda Races, watched countless America's Cup trials, and cruised with the New York Yacht Club, the Cruising Club of America, and the aptly-named Cruising Boozing and Snoozing group. My father would even single hand her in the Corinthians Race. She was moored at the mouth of the Noroton Yacht Club harbor on a mooring originally laid for the 72 foot yawl Cotton Blossom. Storms were always a worry, so my father put a wrecking ball part way up the chain to help stabilize Mah Jong while moored. One summer, she was broken into, and an ax was used to wrest the navigation instruments and the Quan Yen from their spots. After that, the boat was then moved from the mouth of the harbor for safety.

At that time, life on Long Island Sound was much quieter than it is now. We would even go out and shoot skeet off Green’s Ledge Lighthouse while dolphins played in the bow wave. 1984 was our last summer on Mah Jong. At the end of the summer, she was donated to Mystic Seaport. For a short while, I would get reports of a “Mah Jong sighting,” and once while in Mystic I saw her hauled out. She was still beautiful, and her topsides were still bright.

The other day, I got a call from Pat Crane saying her daughter Linda had come across Mah Jong in Martha’s Vineyard. She has a new owner who has contracted Gannon & Benjamin Marine Railway Inc. in Vineyard Haven to restore her. It turns out that Ross Gannon grew up at Noroton. As he said in an email: “Interestingly, I worked as a launch driver/maintenance guy in my teen years at Noroton Yacht Club, where Mah Jong was truly the flagship of that harbor. You won’t recognize her now — she’s totally taken apart — but on the mend.”

Our family was lucky enough to have a long love affair with this boat. I can only hope the new owner can enjoy her as we once did. Many of you know of my affection for dragons, and now know where this comes from. I hope you enjoy my sharing of our time with the “Dragon Wagon." ~ Carolyn McCurdy Wilson


The Noroton Yacht Club Burgee

Derivation of the Noroton Yacht Club Burgee

Paul Smart was the first Commodore of Noroton Yacht Club, holding the office from 1928 until 1941. Thirty years later in 1971, he described the origin of the club’s burgee design.

At some point after the club had begun more or less regular racing, it was thought to be time members had a burgee of their own. Accordingly, they were invited to submit designs, one of which would be selected by vote. Paul submitted two designs himself. One was not favored and he could not remember it. The other was selected during the voting.

Paul obtained a law degree at Harvard in 1917. Later, he studied at New College. New College was established at Oxford University by the great Bishop of Winchester, William of Wykeham (pronounced “wick-um’), who also founded Winchester College for boys. He gave both these institutions their coat-of-arms and motto, “Manners Makyth Man,” which both schools still use.

It occurred to Paul, doodling in the margin of the New York Times on the commuter train into New York one morning, that with a little judicious tinkering, the New College coat -of-arms might yield an excellent burgee. The shield itself displayed two chevrons and three roses. Paul turned the shield on its side, knocked out the roses, straightened the edges, and produced Noroton’s burgee.


Larchmont Race Week

Larchmont Race week was exactly that: a weeklong open event for adults and juniors held at Larchmont Yacht Club each summer. Skilled and novice sailors alike would compete in all manner of classes, from Blue Jays to 12 meters. Race week took place at the beginning of the summer, often with little wind. Many times a fierce squall ripped through the fleets, flipping smaller boats. The great miracle was that in all those years nobody was lost or seriously hurt; even more impressive considering that up until the 1970s, nobody was wearing lifejackets.

The culmination of the week for the juniors was the “stomp” at Larchmont’s Pandemonium with Lester Lanin and his band. It was at this event that juniors from all over the sound became lifelong friends in addition to competitive rivals.

Lightnings were towed to Larchmont Race Week in the late 1950s

As exciting as the big dance was, the ultimate highlight for Noroton juniors was the tow down and back. The day before the first race, crews arrived at Noroton loaded with lunches, transistor radios and a ton of excitement. Crews had to make sure their boats were not only tied correctly but rode easily in the line. Everybody in the boat had to watch the towline as it could pin you to the coaming and even flip you overboard if you weren’t careful.

To while away the six- or seven-hour journey crews invented games. One favorite was to throw food from boat to boat. Another was to create effigies to no one in particular using foul weather gear joisted up the mast. Invariably, one or more crews would lose their halyards and Jimmy Crane would have to shimmy up to retrieve them. To this day, most juniors of a certain age can remember vividly these tows – whether in good weather or bad.

The “long tow” gradually disappeared, a victim of dry sailing and the trailer. Life moved on, but for those who were lucky enough to be there – it was something else. In 2021 Larchmont held its 123rd regatta. Adults raced on two weekends in July and juniors raced during the week. A remarkable feat for Larchmont. Hats off to them for providing a life changing experience. 


Nun 28

The History of Nun 28

The earliest racing at Noroton Yacht Club had start and finish lines at the end of the pier. There was no race committee boat at the time and very few boats on moorings in the harbor. With plenty of visibility, spectators could gather at the end of the pier to watch the races.   

Multi-leg courses were built around harbor-edge nuns and cans: the Green Flasher at the south end of the harbor, Nun 28, Smith’s Reef red bell buoy 30, and Nun 26 off Green’s Ledge. Smaller boats like ‘Wee Scots’ sailed on shorter courses while Stars went to the more distant government marks.  

Our current lateral system of buoyage was created by an Act passed by Congress on September 28th of 1850:
“And be it further enacted that hereafter all buoys along the coast or in bays, harbors, sounds or channels, shall be colored and numbered so that passing up the coast or sound, or entering the bay, harbor or channel, red buoys with even numbers shall be passed on the starboard hand. Black buoys with uneven numbers on the port hand, and buoys with black and red (horizontal) stripes on either hand. Buoys in channel ways to be colored with alternate black and white perpendicular stripes.”

  Nun 28 was placed approximately one half mile south of Long Neck Point just outside the five fathom (30 feet) depth contour sometime in the late 1800s. This location was on a straight line running from Smith’s Reef red bell buoy #30 to the west and red Nun 26 south off Green’s Ledge Lighthouse to the east. These three buoys marked the northern edge for safe transit by deep draft vessels traversing either eastward or westward. Over the years, while interest in racing grew, the harbor began to fill up with boats on moorings making it difficult to simply run races off the pier. As a result the Club acquired a race committee boat named Adelaide. Adding a race committee boat to the mix allowed us to move the starting line into more open water south of the harbor at Nun 28. This created much longer courses using a combination of temporary marks and government bell buoys like Cable and Anchor, Eaton’s Neck, Lloyd’s Neck, and the “Cows” off Stamford.

By 1940, Noroton Yacht Club had a fleet of 25 Stars and was hosting the Arms Series Noroton Race Week with almost 50 boats in this popular class, all starting and finishing at Nun 28.

From that time until its removal by the Coast Guard in 1984 Nun 28 was the starting mark for all NYC weekend racing and regattas. Since then our race committee boat anchors in that general area unless winds are from the north, in which case the starting line is a half mile or so further to the south. 

It was, therefore, a bit of a shock when heading east close to the Connecticut shore one summer we saw a red bell buoy marker #28! 

Clearly, the plan behind removing Nun 28 off Long Neck Point and Nun 26 just south of Green’s Ledge was to only identify the major reefs on the Connecticut coast (Great Reef off of Sheffield Island and Smith’s Reef southwest of Noroton harbor) with lighted bell buoys and asking mariners to rely on available charts which by then had much more water depth detail.


The Behavior of Wind

By Peter Wilson

Perhaps applicable to the waters off Noroton Yacht Club.

Doing well in big fleet regattas is always a function of many factors – competitive boat speed, good starts, clean sailing, good boat handling, smart large fleet tactics, and overall race course strategy. What follows is a layman’s perspective on the behavior of wind...because a better understanding of wind behavior is a foundation for sound race course strategy. Having sailed off Noroton for some 45 plus years (a frightening thought), I’ve developed some, but by no means complete, understanding of why the wind seems to behave the way it does. This article will not try to declare a set of anecdotal Noroton maxims like, “when the sea breeze fills in it is usually stronger the further south you are.” Instead I will try and give you the principles for a discipline that can work at Noroton, and wherever you may sail.

My premise is fairly straightforward:

  Know the gradient wind direction and velocity, and if it will change throughout the day.  
Figure the likely effect of land masses and thermals on gradient wind.
You can predict the probable behavior of the surface wind...the wind we race in.

Link to full Article:   The Behavior of Wind


60 Years of Changing Wind

Where has the fabulous sea breeze gone?
By Peter Wilson, member since 1954, and Noroton’s unofficial weatherman

Looking back to the days of my family racing our Lightning on Saturdays and Sundays in the late 1950’s, I recall many mornings with a ‘smokey’ (hazy) sou’wester of 6-8 knots that slowly built to 12-15 knots by early afternoon. Some days, when there was a strong sea breeze off the south shore of Long Island, the wind velocity built to a solid 15-20 knots. Once in a while this sou’wester was so strong that races started off the green flasher, went to Smith’s Reef, then Nun 28, and back to finish by the Green Flasher; sometimes twice around because we usually only sailed one long race each day.

On days when the breeze was light out of the east or southeast by our 1:00pm starting time, the sea breeze would often ‘break through’ the hot air over Long Island around 2 or 2:30pm. We could see it coming on the water as it progressed rapidly across from the Long Island north shore onto our racecourse.

Unfortunately, race conditions like that are few and far in between these days. The continuing expansion of housing developments and roads on Long Island have gradually created a ‘heat block’ of hot thermal air rising off the land as illustrated by the wind diagram below. 

You can see the effect shown in white; less than five knots forecast. This results when the flow of the south shore sea breeze is diverted upward over this ‘heat block.’ Most days, the air doesn’t make it down to the Western Long Island Sound waters where the width of the Sound is eight miles or less. Even more frustratingly, only five miles or so inland the treetops can be seen happily waving in the 10-15 knot south-southwest sea breeze shown in darker blue on the south shore of Long Island. And, further east on Long Island Sound where it is 12 plus miles wide and there are fewer houses and roads on Long Island, some of this sea breeze is on the water in the afternoons; and beyond the east end of Long Island there is a solid 10-15 knots in Block Island and Rhode Island Sounds.

Over these years the impact on our sailing conditions has become clear: the average winds are lighter except when driven by a passing low-pressure area or cold front. The prevailing summer winds are light (4-7 knots) east/southeast rather than south/southwest, and whatever sea breeze makes it to our waters is much lighter from the southeast or much later in the day from the south.


The Honker Trophy

"She's really honkin’" is an expression which describes a boat that is going much faster than her opponents. This familiar sailing expression led to the creation of The Honker trophy in 1966. Since then, The Honker has been awarded annually to a sailor in the Jr. Program who is notably fast.

The physical trophy consists of a wonderful old brass horn mounted on a floorboard from one of the fastest Lightnings around: Zig Zagger. The trophy’s unique design allows its recipient to audibly honk the horn as they return to their seat upon receiving this particularly coveted Junior sailing award.  

On the back of the trophy, you will see written:  "This is a floorboard from Zig Zagger Lightning #5841 owned by William Cox of Noroton. Cox and Zig Zagger won many championships including the North American Champs twice, in 1956 and 1957. One of five boats made by Skip Etchells in Greenwich, CT in the mid 1960’s, these Lightnings turned out to be exceptionally fast boats. Bill Cox worked with Skip to test variations in the hull shape that fell within the class rule specifications.  They towed these early hulls on a pivot bar to see which had less resistance and chose a design with a slightly flatter run from midships to the transom. These boats dominated the class for many years."

The Honker, beautifully restored, now has a bulb back on the horn so it can once again proclaim the speed of each new recipient.  
1966 Steve Nightingale
1967 Manton Scott 1968 Manton Scott
1969 Manton Scott 1970 David Campbell
1971 Rob Campbell
1972 Sally Campbell
1973 Steve Franklin
1974 Steve Franklin
1975 Tucker Edmundson
1976 John Kostanecki
1977 John Kostanecki
1978 Mimi Hall
1979 Charlie Henkel
1980 Arthur Merdinolu
1981 Laird Henkel
1982 Brian Doyle
1983 Charlie Henkel & Laird Henkel
1984 Geoff McDonald
1985 Brian Doyle
1986 Pierce Owens
1987 Ellen Mastoras
1988 Chelsie Wheeler
1989 Chelsie Wheeler
1990 David Wells
1991 Geoff Lazio
1992 Chazzie Stone
1993 Tim Sweeney
1994 Cathy Hoyt & Liz Story
1995 Cazzie Stone & James Antoszewski
1996 Paul Steinborn & Tim Sweeney
1997 Rob Crane
1998 Paul Steinborn & David Darst
1999 Rob Crane 2000 Will Vernon
2001 Matt Campbell 2002 Jon Garrity
2003 Stetson Hallowell
2004 Ani Kavookijan
2005 Ani Kavookjian
2006 Willem Sandberg
2007 Peter Sullivan
2008 Tommy Ross
2009 Lonneke Eenkema van Dijk
2010 Julia Monro
2011 James Haranzo & Brooks Daley
2012 Bram Brakeman
2013 Tucker Hersam
2014 Sam Tobin
2015 Sam Tobin
2016 Carly Costikyan
2017 Ryan Costikyan
2018 Ryan Costikyan
2019 Matt Wiig
2020 Thomas O’Grady


John Dolan - The Launch Driver, 1940s

By Meg Campbell

Noroton launch driver John Dolan in the early 1940s.

John is the father of Treasurer Meg Dolan Campbell, and yes that is the launch driver’s uniform of the day. As you can see the launches had no motors – the “drivers” rowed members to their boats.


Recollections from an Ancient Launch Boy

By Bob Wells – Noroton Yacht Club

Bob wearing the hat he wore as a younger launch boy.

For those of you who do not know Bob, he grew up in Noroton Bay and at Noroton Yacht Club in the early 1950s. After college and a few career moves, he moved back to The Bay where he and his wife Barb raised their two children.

Bob is a sailor and a talented musician who was a member of "The Noroton Bay Royal Fiddler Crab" marching band and played his trombone on opening day parades, led Noroton Yacht Club members singing folk songs with his guitar and entertained us all playing the steel drums at more than a few Club Caribbean Night parties.

Left to right: Sport, Bob Wells, Carolyn McCurdy Wilson, Kevin Jaffee, Peter Wilson 1958 Sears Cup crew

During the summers of 1960-64, I was lucky enough to hold the ever-so- coveted title of “Launch Boy” at the Noroton Yacht Club. Hey, don’t knock it! I was outside most of the time – on the water – and as I lived in The Bay, the commute to work only took about two minutes by foot. Johnnie Reinhardt, another Bay neighbor, worked with me.

Initially, we worked for Captain Boyce. In Boyce’s day, launch boys did basically everything required to keep the Club in shape. We scraped and painted boats, the Clubhouse exterior, floats, etc. We raked the beach every day. We kept the parking and dry-sail areas clean. We mopped floors, cleaned toilets, shined brass, kept the launches gassed up and in tip-top shape, started each day at 0800 sharp with a cannon blast – struck the colors at sunset – and, yes, drove members and their guests back and forth to their boats. Every once in a while, we even had time to take a break.

When Captain Boyce retired, a math teacher in the Darien school system named Charlie Potter served a brief tenure as “Club Manager.” Early in the spring of 1963 was when life for Johnnie and me got interesting. This was during the reign of Commodore Bob Crane. Bob and the other nautical grand wizards decided not to replace Charlie Potter when he quit mid season, but rather have Johnnie and me manage the waterfront. Around this time, Johnny and I were making the exorbitant sum of about $2.50 an hour. Do you think we got a raise for taking on additional responsibilities? Nah. These Commodores were not dumb.

Anyway, decades later, Bob Crane would still tell anyone who would listen that the Club in the early-1960s never ran better – even though its management team was composed of a couple of local teenagers.

Happy Landings: An Art Form
Each launch has different characteristics for making good landings on boats and floats. In reverse, some “track” port while others list starboard. With a full load and many on the port side to “fend off”, chines dig in and off the bow goes. In time, any good launch boy learns how to make successful landings – in high winds or seas, etc. It’s not long before he or she realizes “you don’t get a second chance” for a happy landing.

Getting people off boats that are “jumping” and swinging on their moorings is tough. You time your approach to meet a boat as it comes to you. Then you just pray that someone up forward will grab onto a stanchion on your target and hold your bow in before the wind pulls you away. After this, you pray that passengers haven’t experienced too much Mt. Gay that day.

One of the most satisfying feats for a good launch boy to master is a flying “spin stop” – where it looks like you are going to ram a float, only to have the launch in reverse slip delicately into place – as it “kisses” the landing spot. Gets ‘em every time.

Anchors Aweigh
Sometime in the early 1960s, Johnnie Reinhardt and I – the Club’s stalwart launch boys – experienced an epiphany. For decades, strong southerlies and hurricanes had stretched out mooring lines and chains – south to north – only to have these lines snap, leaving mushrooms and chains strung out and buried in mud all over the harbor. Moreover, these mushrooms were quietly abandoned...and still lying there. After getting approval from the Club’s Commodores, we built a “mooring lift” float with a winch system and, on our days off, started “grappling” the harbor by combing it east to west. In the workboat, with a grappling hook trailing off its stern, we’d feel a “tick, tick, tick” as the grapple ran through links of chain buried in the muddy bottom. At that point, we’d stop the boat, carefully lift the grapple, snatch the chain, and haul it in until it stood straight off the bottom. We’d tie off the grapple and gun the workboat to “free” the mushroom or hook it onto the mooring-lift winch to break the mushroom’s suction from below.

The payoff? For four years, it took us an average “hit rate” of 15 minutes to locate an abandoned anchor. Smart’s Beach became “anchor city” – with primarily 150- or 250-pound anchors, shackles, and lengths of chain – which we would sell by word-of-mouth for roughly “half price.” Once, we even lifted a 2,000-pound anchor with a 500-pound ball and 40 feet of one- inch chain. Hauling this monster off the bottom was a real challenge – requiring us to break the suction using our scuba and other gear. (You might think the shanks on anchors would be eaten away, but when an anchor lies in the mud, the mud protects it from metallic erosion.)

For me, this “days-off” activity netted about $3,000 per summer – and basically made it possible for me to attend and pay for college, a fact I never admitted to anyone as it would have embarrassed my parents. (Tuition at my alma mater DePauw University during these years was about $3,200/year.)

One afternoon in either 1961 or 1962, I recall bringing a group of sailors back to the pier when I noticed smoke coming out of a casement window above the Club’s living room. I floored the launch, landed it, and raced down the pier yelling “Fire!” Reaching the building, I threw a hose to the upstairs deck, turned it on and went inside to the small storage room above the living room spraying the smoldering fire through a smoky haze. Suddenly, the water from the hose stopped. Someone below must have turned it off – evidently not knowing that clockwise opened the flow..

Thankfully, by this time, the fire had spread and sirens could be heard coming up Baywater Road and in no time the Noroton Fire Department took over. For years I had nightmares about who might have turned off the hose on me and whether I could have controlled the fire myself had the water’s flow continued.

What started the fire in the first place? No one ever found out. Personally, I suspect a couple of Club kids were “lighting up” secretly... and then stepped away, not realizing what they had left behind.

Flat Black Sun Dresses
One of the fun jobs at the Club in those days was painting the old casement windows high above the living room and the other downstairs room known as the “Scuttlebutt.” To tackle this task, you got out a long ladder, hooked a large can of Flat Black Rust-oleum to a rung up in the air and started painting; pane after bloody pane. So, there I was, up on the ladder with my trusty brush on a warm summer’s day, when suddenly, down below on the sun deck (very near my ladder), Vi Crimmins decided to have a little tea party with the ladies. No sweat. I focused on not getting too much paint on each little window and the ladies focused on their tea. All of a sudden, I noticed the hook I had attached to the handle on the paint can started ever-so-slowly to straighten out. I froze. The paint can separated from the hook and seemed to take forever as it floated down to the flagstone deck. Upon making contact with the deck, it launched about half a gallon of Flat Black Rust-oleum onto anything within a 20-foot radius of my ladder. The terrific splat of the can was followed by even more terrific shrieks. Needless to say, Vi and her lady friends were not spared from black blobs of paint on their sun dresses. Only history knows if any of those pretty sundresses survived to tea another day. And there’s no way I am telling how long it took me to work up enough nerve to come down off that ladder.

When Does the Snack Bar Open?
At some point in the early 1960s a couple was hired to manage the Club’s snack bar. Neither of them knew from boat people. And I would argue that neither of them knew from how to run a snack bar. Perhaps their list of references was never called or maybe they were the only applicants.

Anyway, here they were and we were stuck with them for the summer. (Spoiler alert: No they were not rehired the following season.) One disadvantage of this duo was their inability to open the snack bar “on time”, even though they lived in an apartment on the premises. Coffee? Customers were lucky to get a cup before about 1100. Members were constantly grousing about the arrangement, so Johnnie Reinhardt and I decided to “up the ante” of unambiguous complaint.

One day, when the snack bar should have been open but was not, we brought the cannon used to start the day at 0800 up to the 2nd floor in the sail loft. We aimed said cannon right at the wall of the apartment, opposite their bedroom. Inserting a shell into the breech, we pulled the ripcord and created a blast similar to what must have been heard in the trenches in WWI. Immediately, you could hear the couple screaming in the apartment and presently, a door flew open and the guy stumbled out with only his “tightie- whities” on. It may have been unorthodox, but they got the message and seldom were late again. (But we actually felt bad afterwards, when we learned that the lady was pregnant. Sigh.)

The Dreaded Workshop

Today, the Club has a terrific workshop – a separate building with all kinds of room for tools of all descriptions, storage, etc. Well, back in the early 1960s, the Club workshop was a dank cavern underneath the raised living room. You got there by raising a barn door on a rope off of Smart’s Beach. The inside was like a catacomb with a height of about five feet. It had a workbench at the far end and too few lights to see where you were going. During unusually high tides, the water came right in to say “hi” and never really left. Despite its quirks, this was the space where we launch boys kept all of our supplies (including paints, tools and gear). The little black square to the right of the chimney was the entrance to the workshop.
Looking back, I can’t imagine how we survived operating power tools with so much water all around us. Johnnie and I were the first ones to electrify the pier. It’s amazing we didn’t electrify ourselves. One habit we had was to empty our paint brushes after each use on the concrete foundation wall of the workshop. This only came to light recently during the renovation of the Club when our artwork was uncovered. Shockingly, the wall did not get saved for posterity, but I think some photos were taken, to the amazement of those who took them.

Put the Little Water Rats in the Penalty Box
With every decade, there are invariably young kids who hang around the Club. Like water rats, they’re just there - getting underfoot and incessantly following the launch boys. Sometimes helpful, but more often, just there. Grant Tankoos was one. Woody Priest another. But in my tenure as launch boy, our prime water rat was Alec Wiggin. He was like a fly on flypaper. He was always there. So, every once in a while, we would lift him up and drop him into the large box at the end of the pier – where we stored racing markers, lines, and the like. We’d lock the box with Alec in it, go about our business and every once in a while, yell in to him to see how he was doing. I know, I know, it was a horrible thing to do to a little kid. What can I say? It was a different time. At least Alec didn’t develop too many mental scars from the experience as far as I know. After all, he’s still a bit of a water rat.

And lastly, some members have a nerve: Calling for the launch from Ziegler’s Cove. It happened. And no, we didn’t.


Hauling Out Over the Years

The process by which boats were hauled out and maintained at Noroton has changed over the years. In 1945, a marine railway was installed at the northern end of the Noroton waterfront just north of the dinghy launch ramp. Boats were launched via the railway and kept on moorings. You accessed your boat via launch. The boats in the harbor were mostly Stars and Wee Scots, both one-design keelboats. In order to clean the bottoms of keelboat hulls the boats had to be hauled out of the water.

As noted in a 1945 edition of the Windward Leeward (a Noroton newsletter compiled by Anne Franklin which was dedicated to Noroton’s members in the military service), “There is a nice new railway so that there won’t be any excuse for dirty bottomed Stars, as they can be pulled out for a scrubbing very easily.” A hoist was also installed at the time as it was also necessary to move a boat from the railway to a trailer. 

According to the Windward Leeward, “The hoist is the most used of all the new improvements. Except for a few breakdowns, which came at inconvenient times, it has worked very satisfactorily. However, the users seem to me to be taking an awful risk by letting their Stars swing perilously in the air before being set down in their cradles on the beach. But, such are the joys of sailing."

With the installation of the dry sail area in 1964, we got a much easier launching system as well as additional room in the mooring field for the influx of motor boats over the intervening years.


The Saga of the Flagpole

In 1928, when the club was built, a flagpole was erected just seaward of the building. Since the club had only about a four- foot walkway between the building and the water, the flagpole was actually submerged in the water.

As was custom with yacht clubs, the flagpole had a yardarm which flew the American flag much in the way old sailing ships flew their ensign from the yard arm at the stern of the ship. Standing next to the building looking at the pole conjured the feeling of looking forward on a ship like a Captain headed out to sea.

The tradition of a gaff-rigged flagpole has its origins at sea. Because of all the sails carried by the rigging of these vessels, the flag of a nation could not be clearly viewed if it were placed at the top of the mast. In order to keep its place of honor, the national flag was flown off the stern via the gaff. The stern of a vessel was the position of command as the captain's quarters were historically located aft. Early boats also had the nobleman's banner, king's banner, or English ensign staff fixed to the stern rail. As the ship tacks long booms sweep across the stern rail so the ensign staff had to be removed when the ship was under way. Since the captain and other officers were still aft, the nearest position from which they found it practical to fly the ensign was the gaff. Over time, this became the place of honor to display the national flag. When the ship was moored the ensign staff was set up again on the stern rail.

There is no law specifying how a flag should fly on a gaff-rigged pole, instead those responsible typically base their practice on long standing nautical tradition. When the ensign is flown from a gaff-rigged pole a flag flown at the top of the mast, such as a burgee, is not considered to be above the ensign because it is not being flown directly above the ensign on the same halyard.

In 1963, the club embarked on its first major construction project: the building of a dry sail area for storing many of the one-design boats that could be easily hoisted out of the water rather than stored on moorings during the week. Prior to 1963, all boats were moored in the harbor. As part of this construction a larger terrace was built to encompass the flagpole and allow for a sandy beach. As you can imagine, this gave a whole new life for families at the club.

A flagpole needs to be taken down to be repaired and painted from time to time. At some point, our flagpole was put back in backwards with the yardarm facing seaward. It wasn’t until 1991, when the clubhouse underwent another major renovation after, that then Commodore Bill Thomson “turned the flagpole in the proper direction.”


Master Builders

By Ed Clarke (Commodore 1987-1988)

It all began in the early 1980s when more dinghy storage was needed. Rear Commodore Tor Arneberg said that they had decided to build two dinghy floats to be placed alongside the bulkhead between the third and fourth finger floats for eight dinghies. Captain Devers made some drawings for two 12 x 20 foot floats and a group led by Gordon Ettie built them. They used treated lumber for a longer life and to avoid painting every year. The floats have served us well.

In reviewing the state of our facilities before the 1985 season we focused on the existing floats and began a program for replacement since all of them had been in use for up to twenty-two years. They had been repaired many times after storm damage and wear and tear and needed painting every year. It was decided that we could build them with volunteers under the direction of Ed Devers, who had developed the system.

The Master Builders started with the finger floats. Capt. Devers had some hardware made at a local iron shop to connect adjacent floats, ordered the lumber, Styrofoam, nuts bolts and nails, and did some preliminary cutting and assembly of the basic framing. A group of retired volunteers did the drilling, bolting and nailing. Once we got familiar with the system two or three of us would start the layout and basic framing of the next float while four or five others were bolting up the frames installing flotation and nailing on the deck. It got to the point where we could assemble a float in three days’ time to produce four in seven or eight days by working on three at a time in various stages. The framing was done with the floats inverted and then we could turn them over on blocking and install the Styrofoam and deck. Styrofoam was pre-painted with bottom paint along with the immersed portion of the framing before the Styrofoam went in. Hardware and fendering were the last to go on. An important improvement was the addition of an extra ten-inch plank around the perimeter to the bottom level of the floatation to protect the Styrofoam from erosion and marine growth which likes sunlight.

As the years went by Ed Clarke continued to organize the group when the changes were made in the club managers. We finished the finger floats, the swim float, the long dinghy float and lastly the balance of the other dinghy floats and the walkway to the swim float. We made six shorter walkway panels in the space of the previous five for easier handling. The December “92 storm did some minor damage to the floats when they were scattered around the neighborhood by the flooding and waves. With a crane for just a day, we were able to return them to the dry sail area and return to a neighbor’s good graces.

In 1993 we built a new launch float designed by Jeff Eng using fiberglass tubs instead of Styrofoam. Jeff Eng calculated the loads to determine the proper number of tubs. We, of little faith, wondered if they would float at the right height, but they came out beautifully. In 1994 two more dinghy floats were added along the bulkhead between the second and third fingers. This completed a program that included thirty-eight floats. The program provided a major cost-saving in construction labor. Another important activity of the Mast Builders has been helping to launch and haul the floats at the start and the finish of the sailing season. It has been a great experience, even though the list of those with triple bypasses, artificial hips, minor strokes, arthritic problems and other internal operations grew each year. They all continued to work and enjoyed the opportunity.

The regular Master Builders for all or part of the program included John Abberley, Bob Arrison, Ed Clarke, Bob Crane, Ken Coventry, Eric Hansen, Steve Nightingale, Sam Peirce, Bob Polhemus, Hank Strauss, Peter Wells and Rollie Wiggin. AN Cartoon by Noroton member Pete Wells.


1941-1944 Gordon Aymar's Watch

By Barbara Earle

Barbara Earle grew up at the top of the Gut, next to Gorham Pond bridge. She and her family became club members on their own in the early 1950’s and her son, David, and his family, remain members today.

At a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Yacht Club on November 21, 1941, in a delightful ceremony among old friends who seemed little concerned with Robert’s Rules, Gordon Aymar, also present, was accepted as a candidate for membership in the club, nominated and elected to the Board, and then elected commodore for the ensuing year. Present were Bert Crane (Bob Crane’s dad), Howard Nash, Paul Smart, Uncle Dick Weed, Luther Richardson and Col. Thomas Crimmins. Do some of those names sound familiar? Paul Smart had put down the reins after fourteen years at the helm. 

It is amusing to read the financial reports of those days. Dues were $25 with a “customary contribution” of ten dollars either for the racing program or the use of the tennis court. In 1943 the total operating expenses for the year were $297.60! After the rent was paid to Mr. Smart the balance at the end of the season was $138.65. 

It’s hard to believe that any of us were alive in those dear old days when a buck went a long way. But don’t you remember your grandfather talking about his youth when bread cost ten cents a loaf? These were frugal Connecticut Yankees who ruled the roost in those days. The ladies were allowed a cleaning woman once a week to relieve them of the heavy work. But they still took their turns as hostesses every day much like our “members of the day” in present times.

I find especially charming my father’s words in the minutes about liquor at the club. “On this weighty problem which had vexed so many clubs, we quote from last year’s notice: ‘The old members know, and the new ones are hereby respectfully informed, that there is no bar in the club. This will be evident not only because of the absence of the bar itself, but because it is unlikely that they will see bottles of liquor around the premises. There never was a rule, a law or a notice. Like Topsy, it just grew that way. To spare new members any possible embarrassment from lack of familiarity with this peculiar, almost unique, and apparently satisfactory custom, it is recorded here that the old members seem to leave it at home.” 

And so it remains today with certain exceptions. What a delightful way to deal with a rather sticky wicket!

I never remember that there were many rules at the club. A sense of noblesse oblige and a commonality of interest among the members insured courteous and respectful behavior. One perennial problem was the “borrowing” of rowboats, oars and oarlocks which was looked upon as a heinous breach of etiquette which, if repeated often enough, was punishable by expulsion. I don’t think that ever happened.

Children and teenagers were expected to behave, and usually did, with the exception of the usual hijinks common to all eras. Parents and not the club staff were supposed to keep the kids in line. One bark from Captain John Varga, a tough ex-Merchant Marine Officer, was enough to set us straight. Admittedly, our numbers were considerably smaller. Hilary Smart, Dave and Dick Nash, Dick Rich, Owen Torrey, Ellery Huntington, Ann Franklin and Connie Barnum (Wendy Hokin’s mom) made up the teen gang.

Formal sailing classes didn’t exist. We mostly went out when we felt like it with a couple of cokes in the bilge. The Wee Scots had large air tanks under the seats so our mothers believed we were safe. Social life for both sexes revolved around hanging out at the club, racing on weekends and at Larchmont Race Week. Our summers were delightfully unstructured and relaxed compared to the highly programmed holidays of today’s kids, which read like a Nantucket sleighride. 

We played endless hours of swim tag, hiding under the floats with only a few inches of breathing space. No one ever told us not to jump off the end of the pier. We sat, waterlogged and shivering for hours on the rocks under the pier like trolls and talked about “boys” and later “men.” I don’t remember any place being off limits except the ladies’ locker room, which we could use only when we turned fourteen, the magic age! I even remember Hilary Smart riding an old bike hell bent for leather from the clubhouse down the long pier and off into the mud at low tide. How it was ever retrieved I can’t imagine. It may be there yet. No one seemed to mind at all. 

Like all teenagers, we had our dress fetishes, including beer jackets, those floppy canvas coverups on which your friends wrote messages in indelible ink. We became walking autograph books.

Rubber bathing suits came into fashion (it had something to do with the war effort. How else would such a silly idea get started?) This gave rise to many embarrassing moments when the ugly things got caught on nails which they often did. We giggled a long time over the day one girl’s suit split up the back when she took a serious plunge off the diving board. Why do I still remember Bob Crane’s mother emerging from the water quite topless after catching her suit on the swimming ladder? Bless her heart, she didn’t know it had happened, but we were horrified.

Some parents didn’t approve of Coca-Cola but we would string a dozen straws together and see how far away from the bottle we could sit and still get a drink. Dances were held in the big living room complete with chaperones and records. The end of the pier was well lighted to discourage “necking.” That’s where Harry and I met when we were barely in our teens. He claims we were eleven and twelve.  It was, indeed, an innocent and simpler time.

Sunday tea was a tradition even then. Catherine Gallaher, Peggy Aymar, Marion Taylor, Polly Vickery (Joan Davis’ mother), Marion Widmann and their friends presided with stern admonitions to the children who tried to eat all the cake before the sailors came in. Some things never change

Prize night was the highlight of the summer. Long dresses and tuxedos were standard dress code. A sit-down dinner was served amidst high excitement and anticipation.

Dad’s three-year tenure came during World War II and because of this and the many changes that affected the entire country the yacht club went into a holding mode. Frills and new initiatives came to a standstill. The minutes state that the club just broke even. In May 1944 Dad reported that a half dozen Wee Scots, a couple of 110s and a dozen Stars would be in the water. Two large sloops and a ketch, he added, “will add dignity and tone to the club”.  

All of the young men over eighteen were either in the reserves or had volunteered for the service. There were enough submarines on the Atlantic side of Long Island to discourage pleasure cruising and on several occasions I remember hearing of sub scares in the Sound, although I’m not sure there was any truth to the rumors. In spite of this, the activities and racing for junior sailors continued and Noroton was always in the forefront of the top-notch sailors, both young and old. The outer harbor was empty of moorings, the Darien Boat Club didn’t exist. There were no boats beyond the end of the pier. Paul Smart wouldn’t believe his eyes if he returned today. Harold and Douglas Nash’s cruising boats floated in stately splendor inside Nash Island’s harbor. Harold Nash’s sported rust red sails which always looked to me like a ship from ancient history.

The Aymar watch reflected Dad’s intense interest in sailing and his love of the sea. I don’t remember much discussion of the Club’s financial matters, sloppy locker rooms or unraked beaches. Maybe my mother took over the concern for the sandy towels and ratty sneakers that lingered for weeks on the white bench at the end of the breezeway. I believe it is still there today. Dad raced with my brother Gordon every weekend with Gordie at the tiller. They often came in near the end of the fleet. Because Dad had written several books on sailing including a wonderful beginner’s manual called “Start ‘em Sailing” in 1941, his family and friends used to tease him unmercifully about his racing record. He took this with great good humor. When queried about the discrepancy between his authorship and his actual performance he would retort “When I want to know more about a subject that interests me, I decide to write a book about it. This forces me to study and think about it in depth. Then I start to write. As an amateur perhaps I can understand how to teach beginners and other nob-professionals better than the hot shots.”

I still remember some of the tips he taught me when we sailed together:   
Let the jib out ‘til it begins to shiver then pull it in an inch       Hand over hand all your lines to be sure they’re clear     Never get your feet mixed up in the lines       Head away from the line for one minute before the start of a race and, leaving a few seconds to come about, head back for the last minute so you'll arrive with the gun at the lineOvertaking boat stay clear    Never cleat a sheet with a jam turn.  It’s too hard to undo in a hurry. 
These admonitions still help me today.  I remember that Dad and I did a lot of harmonizing in our sailing excursions. The whole family sang often when we cruised together during the summers.

Even as children, we were secretly proud that the yacht club was unlike any other club in the area. It was quite unique, and we knew it. There was a steadfast determination among the members to keep it a family club where young and old and all ages in between would mingle, and where the skills and disciplines of sailing would be taught and respected. We didn’t have many frills, but we had a wonderful time together and many of us share happy memories with friends who were just youngsters then as I was.

The Freak Rig Race

The Freak Rig Race was the highlight of the Junior program for many sailors. The rules were simple: it was a race, but you were not allowed sails that belonged to that boat. Kids were in charge of what they were to enter and how it was to be propelled. 

Anything that floated was allowed, leading to some very inventive entries. Who thought a block of ice was a good idea? One of the best constructions was by Rich McCurdy, who took two Jet 14s, lashed them together with boards, installed a Blue Jay boom, added a Lightning main stitched to it as the gaff, added a Lightning boom and used a parachute as a spinnaker.     

Completing the race was not always the objective. Fun, personal expression, and a crash course in naval architecture certainly was. Some were quite simple where you substituted another boat's sails, but those were quite few. Kids got creative. Ian Falconer, now author of the Olivia books, was the gold standard when it came to the Freak Rig Race. He turned his Blue Jay into Noah’s Ark.  

Animal heads poked out of port holes.  The sails were not the center of the show.

Ian on he left with his dog and Craig Sinclair were Mr. and Mrs. Noah. To their instructor, Basil Lyden, it was all about looks! During the celebration of the rebuilding of the club in 1992 there was an adult Freak Rig Race where every Commodore was assigned an Opti and towed behind Tom Ross’ motor boat.  



Ideal 18s

An Ideal Way to Get Out on the Water

In the early 1990s, Pequot Yacht Club wanted to find a boat that could be raced but would be comfortable for older sailors as well as a stable platform for beginners. They asked Noroton’s own Bruce Kirby to come up with the design – he came up with the Ideal 18. In addition, clubs up and down the sound were dealing with members who did not have the time to keep a racing boat in top form. Many clubs decided it was time for a club owned boat that lived on a mooring.  

At this time, the Noroton Ensign fleet consisted of 10 boats and was concerned that a club owned fleet would seriously impact their viability. It was decided that Noroton would buy the boats, but they would not be allowed to race on Sundays with the other fleets. They would be used in Ideal competition with other clubs on the sound and for members to sail and learn to sail.

Within a few years, Ideal 18 regattas were being held at neighboring clubs. Noroton’s racers, both experienced and those new to racing, began participating. Use of these boats for women’s events became increasingly prevalent.    

With the decline of the Ensign fleet Noroton invited the Ideal 18 sailors to race on Sundays. To increase participation and improve results, a new Learn to Race program was developed for the women and was later expanded to include men and families. By the early 2010s team racing was in full swing at the club and the Ideals were the perfect boat for a new Learn to Team Race program.  

The Ideals have grown in popularity and are now used throughout the summer for competition and learning. Women’s sailing was one of the first programs to use the boats. For over 20 years women’s sailing has prospered, teaching women that they are fully capable of taking control of a sailboat. Since then we have added Learn to Sail, Learn to Race and Learn to Team Race. On any given day the Ideals are filled with families and members who just love getting out on the water in a quick and easy way.



Cartoon by Pete Wells, a Noroton Member was best known for his creation, the cartoon The Katzenjammer Kids. Pete lived in the bay, sailed his catboat at Noroton and began to draw cartoons for the club.

Sailing is a self-governing sport which means it's completely up to sailors to abide by the rules and uphold the fairness of racing. It's a matter of integrity and sailors learn the importance of playing fair and respecting the rules of the game. In sailing, the conditions are ever-changing. That being said, there are rules and rule books and people don’t always agree on what happened in conflict situations.  

Since sailing began at Noroton there needed to be ways to solve these conflicts on the racecourse. In the 1945 Windward Leeward (a newsletter started during the war to keep those Noroton members apprised of what was happening at the club), the following was posted:   

Last Wednesday evening the first of a series of dinghy protest meetings was held. There were two protests. The first was Stu Repp in 545 against 500 (Bill Middleer) and X115 (Norma Fincke). After a long discussion, the Committee consisting of William Richardson, Gordon Aymar, and Harold Nash disqualified X115. The second protest was between Wade Woodworth and Priscilla High. The Committee disqualified Priscilla.

Wade Woodworth Sr., the Chariman of the Committee, gave some useful and helpful information involving the protests. Although there have been no other night meetings since, there are meetings held after every dinghy race on weekends.    

By the 1950s there was a strong bond amongst sailors: there were rules and you were on your honor to obey them. The fundamental principle of sportsmanship was that you retired from the race when you knew you had broken a rule. If you were not sure, and another boat protested you, a protest committee would take testimony from both boats and decide if either broke a rule. The penalty was a DSQ – disqualification from that race.  

In the late 1950s, Bill Cox Jr. was leading the Long Island Sound Lightning Championships by a wide margin going into the last race. “We rounded the weather mark well ahead of the next boat, and by the time we approached the reach mark we were a leg ahead of the next boat. Knowing that Bill liked to cut things close, I asked him not to hit the mark. You guessed it. He hit the mark and even though there was not a boat around, we withdrew from the race, thus losing the series.  Carl Vanduyne did the same at the ‘68 Olympics in Mexico. Best to be able to sleep at night..."

By the 1970s, the sportsman attitude began to lag and, not surprisingly, the bully began to appear in sailboat racing. Perhaps it happened as sailors who played other sports had learned to keep playing until the referee blew the whistle, or life had moved on and kids used to yell things like “Port Right Rudder Rule” to confuse another sailor and get their way.     

Around the turn of the century, the fundamental principle of sportsmanship continued to be the foundation of our ‘self-regulating’ sport. However, over time the penalties became less severe. When you broke a rule, instead of being expected to withdraw (retire) from the race, you could take a 360 degree turn if you touched a mark, and a 720 degree turn if you fouled another boat. On the other hand, if you caused an injury or damage by your foul, you must retire.   

Over time, protests have become a burden to time stressed sailors. Many who are fouled don’t bother to protest. Sailing has partially caught up with other sports that have referees to call the fouls. Trained umpires serve as on-the-water judges in venues like match racing and team racing, and now more recently some fleet racing and Olympic medal races. You are still expected to play by the rules, but when competitors can’t resolve the incident by one of them taking a penalty, the umpires can step in and impose a penalty on the boat that broke a rule. 


Remember the Dyers?

By David Earle

At NYC back in the day (early 50s) if you muddled around in small boats as a junior you probably did at least part of it the original Dyer Dink, an iconic wooden lapstrake 10-footer built in Warren, Rhode Island by, and named after, Bill Dyer. It was a sweet little boat, classically handsome, round-chined—and therefore somewhat tender—and all wood, which required amounts of annual maintenance that would provoke second thoughts today.  

But maintenance was part of its attraction. Few boats were immaculate, ours included, but you noticed the ones that were and it seemed that owners who cared enough to scrape, strip, polish, paint and varnish also tended to be winning skippers. There was a seriousness of purpose that translated from backyard to starting line. Much of that labor was invariably parental, but nonetheless, season by season, lessons were offered, information absorbed, and skills gained. By our mid-teens, we understood the 60/100/180 sandpaper progression, the art of tipping and not to varnish in the hot sun.

Why did these elegant little boats disappear? Fiberglass played a role, and Dyer was using fiberglass as early as 1949, but a major driver was the War Department. The government asked him to supply lifeboats that could be carried aboard small minesweepers and PT boats. They dropped stacks of Dhows over shipwrecks to provide survivors a place to await rescue. As recalled by Anne Jones, Bill Dyer’s granddaughter:
The government came to my grandfather during WWII and asked him to build a boat that would fit in nine feet of space and hold nine men. The original 9’ers (the Dyer Dhows) were plywood and were used on PT boats. I have pictures of them being loaded on big transport planes and even one showing nine of our men standing in one out there on the river and it was still floating.

The Dhow was hard-chined and flat bottomed, which offered improved stability and could hold up to four people and 650 pounds. They could also be rowed and powered with a small outboard, which made them versatile and ideal for junior sailing programs. Today, Mystic Seaport has 50 Dhows, the largest fleet in North America, of which 48 are sailed regularly.

David Earle is a third-generation member of Noroton who grew up there in the 1950s sailing Dyers, Blue Jays and Lightnings. In later years, he co-owned a Pearson 31 with his father and now cruises with his family aboard a Grand Banks 32.


2021 Kirby Cup

September 25-26, 2021

Results:                                                 Round Robin 1     Round Robin 2     Total Wins
New York YC**      2                            4                          6           
Vineyard Haven YC  4                            2                          6       
Larchmont YC      3                            2                          5     
Seawanhaka YC    1                            1                          2
Noroton YC           0                            1                          1             
** New York YC wins on second-level tiebreaker

Day 1: The club, boats, competitors, and RC were all ready! But while the breeze had a nice glimmer in the sun from atop the club deck, it was no match for the tide, which made team racing untenable.

Day 2: Racing got underway on schedule and PRO Glenn Morrison and his team ran 2 full round robins within the time limit.

New York Yacht Club (helms: Brian Doyle, Will Graves, Chris McDowell)

Margo Kirby (pictured with Scott MacLeod) presented the awards!


2021 Viper 640 Women's NAs


2021 Viper 640 NAs

DAY 1: The opening day of the 2021 Viper 640 North American Championship completed three light air races for the 39-boat fleet, including 7 Noroton YC teams. The sailors came from California, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Virginia, Maryland, Louisiana, Iowa, Maine, and Quebec and Ontario, Canada. It started out as a day when nobody was expecting to race due to a dire forecast of very light winds. All the weather models called for 3-4 knots and then even less. But after a two hour shore postponement, PRO Sandy Grosvenor (Annapolis, MD) started in the middle of Long Island Sound when a light 5-knot southerly filled in at about 1300. With only three points separating the top three, and each of the teams winning a race, the Day 1 leader was the Great Scott team of Jay Rhame and Peter and Rachel Beardsley(Mamomoth Lakes, CA). “The key today was to get off the line cleanly and connect the dots of breeze,” said Rhame. Third place in Race 1 was Bada Boom, Noroton's Bob McHugh and Justin Scott. 

With the very light and variable winds, the ebb tide became a significant factor. After numerous boats “kissed” the windward mark, competitors rounded with a generous amount of caution so as not to have to do a penalty in light air. With the wind constantly shifting, predominantly to the right all day, and with a strong ebb tide, PRO Grosvenor “walked” the windward/leeward courses using leeward and upwind leg course changes to give the sailors a more balanced course from a time on port/starboard basis.  


Manton Scott - Inspirational Sailor

Sears Cup winner (’69), Collegiate All-American (’72) and inspirational leader in small boat sailing who was electrocuted by an overhead powerline when stepping the mast of his 470 at an away regatta. The tragedy became a driving force for eliminating overhead power lines at sailing venues across the country.   


The Start Heard ‘Round the World - 1970 America’s Cup Race 2 from onboard Intrepid

By Peter Wilson


 The NYYC Race Committee abandoned Race 2 on the second windward leg due to dense fog, fortunately when Intrepid was ahead and on the starboard layline.  Gretel II called for a lay day. The morning of the resail was fair weather with very light wind, pretty normal for Newport in September. We were just past Castle Hill Lighthouse on the long tow out to the America’s Cup buoy when my very good friend and tactician Steve Van Dyck was suddenly stung by a bee who, unbeknownst to Steve, was sharing his can of Coke. Steve had an allergic reaction severe enough that he needed medical attention. He was quickly helicoptered to the Newport hospital where he was treated and later recovered with no ill effects. As we had already left the dock, the rules of the Match would not permit a delay.
For Full Story: 1970 Intrepid Start


Reminiscences - Star Sailing at The Noroton Yacht Club in the 1940s

By Owen C. Torrey, Jr.
Owen was a lawyer who at age 37 went to work at Hard Sails and ending up revolutionizing the sail making industry. The two major innovations were moving from cotton to dacron and introducing intricate mathematical equations according to aerodynamic theories to sail design. This also meant that these designs could be reproduced again and again without repeating the cut-and-try processes of the oldsters. Told by a group of Connecticut hotshots that the curve was too radical, Hard made it anyway. Bill Cox put it on his Lightning, won the world championship in Buffalo, and Hard's orders began to soar. He later became a president of the YRALI. He was a member of American Yacht Club and New York Yacht Club.    
The summers I spent sailing Wee Scots and especially Stars at Noroton in the early 40’s were some of the happiest of my life. They marked the beginning of a career on the water and many friendships that have lasted all my life. It was a truly delightful atmosphere in which to grow up.

I should explain that my home was in land-locked Scarsdale. Prior to World War II, my parents customarily rented out our home in Scarsdale for the summer and rented a house in West Falmouth on Cape Cod for our use. For five of those summers, I was packed off to a boys camp in Pennsylvania for two months. The camp stressed horseback riding and did not offer sailing, although there was a lake and the campers were allowed to have boats of their own and use them on the lake in free periods during the afternoon. One of my friends had such a boat, an eight foot pram with a single sail. He had no interest in it, and in return for two cartons of chewing gum allowed me to use it for the whole two months. I learned to sail it by trial and error.  

By 1939, the summer I was 13 years old, my parents abandoned the idea of going to Cape Cod and instead rented the Repp house in Darien and joined the Noroton Yacht Club. I was retired from camp life and enrolled in the “junior program” at Noroton. That needs explaining. In those days, the Club was pretty much the creature of Paul Smart. He built it; he was Commodore; he ran it. The junior program consisted of a fleet of Wee Scots, most of which were owned by Paul and chartered for the season to the parents of children like me. Mine was number 193 and called Duckling. My parents were not boat people and were very apprehensive about letting me go out alone on the water. Luckily, Bob Crane, who was older than I by more then he is now, was available to give sailing lessons. I claimed to know how to sail because of my experience with the pram at camp so my parents arranged for me to sail with Bob and abide by his opinion of my skills or lack of same. He passed me and I was allowed to sail alone.  

The program at the Club was very simple. Weekends there were races for the Stars, of which I think there were about 12 or 15, and the Wee Scots, of which the number was 8 or 10. The Star group, which was the envy of all the kids, was dominated by Paul Smart and included Harold Nash, the Vice Commodore, his sons Dick and Ben, Hilary Smart and his brother Paul G., Clarke Nickerson and others. The Wee Scot group included, besides myself, young Bill Ziegler, Dick Rich, Gordon Aymar, Meffort Runyon and others. The races were run from Paul Smart’s Power Cruiser, Adelaide. They always started and finished off nun 4 at Peartree Point. The courses used certain of the harbor buoys plus nun 28, which used to be off Long Neck Point, and the nun off Smith’s reef, which I think is now a Bell.  

Between races, the boats sat on moorings; there was no dry sailing. Launching and hauling of boats was fairly complicated. There was a marine railway at the north end of the beach, on which a cradle could be let down into the water and hauled up again to where a crane could lift the boat from the railway cradle to a permanent cradle or trailer. Power was from an old and cranky engine and winch. The cradle didn’t always stay on the tracks. It didn’t necessarily fit all boats, either. If touched by an unfamiliar hand, it instantly rebelled and went out of service.  

We kids spent most of our days sailing the Wee Scots for fun. The games included tag, backward racing, steering by sails only. When we tired of sailing we’d swim off the pier with more water games. For the life of me I can’t remember that there was ever any adult supervision, although the club employed two men to keep things shipshape and in good condition, and I suspect they were keeping an eye on us. Today, I suppose they’d be launchmen, but we had no launch then. One got to one’s boat by rowing or sculling a dinghy. Those two were jacks of all trades. Both were named John, and hence were called Big John and Little John. I think the senior one, Big John, was John Warga. I can’t remember Little John’s last name. I do remember that both were great with kids.  

I spent 1939 and 1940 sailing my Wee Scot, but in 1941, when I was 15, I finally got my Star. It was a brand new Parkman and it cost $888, less sails. The sails came from Prescott Wilson for around $200. The boat’s number was 2002 and I called it Cygnet as a step up from Duckling. I later had four more Stars, but this was the major milestone for me. I was now able to race in the fabulous world of the Star boats against real sailors. An early experience was very humbling. A major event in the Long Island Sound Star world was Noroton’s Race Week. This event, which was held in June, drew some 40 or so of the best Star sailors in the northeast. Our local ace was still Paul Smart, who had a Mid-Winter Championship or two to his credit, but he was eclipsed by visitors such as Stan Ogilvy, Bill Picken, Harold Halstead, Whitney Steuck, John White and more. In 1941, this regatta took place when my new boat was only a week or so old. In my first major race, I got off the starting line in good shape and found myself among the first five boats on the weather leg to the Cows bell off Stamford. Approaching Shippan Point from the east on a port tack, I found myself about to cross the famous Bill Picken’s FoFo on Starboard. I cleverly tacked in front of him and he cleverly punched a hole in my transom with his bow. We never did find out what a protest would have decided about my being too close (today I think I’d win, but under 1940 rules and cases I’m afraid I wouldn’t), because I tacked again in toward the eastern side of Shippan Point and pronged a rock hard enough to knock a chip out of the front of the keel. I ultimately finished in the tank and Picken lost interest in protesting. I was glad to escape.  

The Noroton Race Weeks were major events for many years. Later years brought names like Skip and Mary Etchells, Arthur Deacon, Walter Von Hutschler, Pam O’Gorman and more.  

The local racing in 1941 and 1942 was mostly for local monthly and season prizes, of which there were a lot. We did send an entry to the midgets which then were held once at least in Stars at Manhasset, but I’m not aware that we ever bothered with the juniors; it was more fun to stay home and race with the adults. The year the midgets were in Stars at Manhasset, I was our skipper. We broke down in one race and finished poorly in the series. Interestingly enough, the winner that year was Bob Mosbacher. Competition in the local races was very keen, although none of us ever beat Paul Smart in Melody for a series. I think that my new boat gave me an edge over my contemporaries. Hilary Smart was sailing Nutmeg, #1110; Freddy Campbell had Rhythm, #1288; Clarke Nickerson’s Argo was #765. A coveted prize was the James Starr Nash Trophy, given by the Nash family in memory of their son who was lost in a frostbiting accident in the Hudson River. This was given to the junior (under 17, I think) with the best season score in Stars, and I was very pleased to win it. In later years that trophy was awarded to the overall winner of a Fall Star Roundup consisting of weekend regattas at Sea Cliff, Huntington, Cedar Point and Milford. I was even more pleased to be able to win it again in that configuration.  

Noroton’s local prizes were awarded at summer’s end at a banquet in the club house. Paul Smart was the master of ceremonies and he made it into quite a show. It was fun for the sailors, especially us younger ones, but I got the impression that the non-sailing adults such as my parents would liked to have seen an earlier ending to the evening.  

1942 was the last year most of those my age were able to continue sailing. In the summer of 1943, Hilary and I were both freshmen at Harvard where we roomed together. In 1944 and 1945, we were both in the army. He was an air cadet, and I was a rifleman. We returned in 1946 both to Harvard again as roommates and to Noroton sailing. That was my last year as a member. In 1947, the family stopped renting houses in the summer and my parents and I joined the American Yacht Club in Rye (I also joined Larchmont because by then we were dry sailing Stars and American had no hoist). In retrospect, I had only a few years at Noroton, but they loom large in my memory. Our age group, give or take a few years, included the Campbell clan, Bibs and Norma Fincke (sp?), Tony, Sandy and Sue Widmann, Dick Rick, Bill Ziegler, Anne Franklin, Hilary and young Paul Smart, Gordon Aymar and more. As a group, we spent many hours at sailing, swimming, tennis and so forth. They were happy hours. It was during that time that Gordon Aymar Sr. wrote his book, Yacht Racing Rules and Tactics, which consists of many pictures illustrating how to do this and that.  His model in most of those pictures was Dick Rich, who after the war roomed with Hilary and me at Harvard. Dick became a career Navy fighter pilot and was killed in Vietnam.  

Sailing and especially sailing Star boats was the common thread in all our activities, and it has continued to link our lives even though we don’t all still operate from Noroton. Hilary and I have been lifelong friends. At Harvard, we were co-skippers of our entry in the Star Intercollegiates held at the Coast Guard Academy in both 1947 and 1948 and we won both years, beating, among others, Bobby Coulson of Yale. Hilary went on to take the gold medal in the Star Class in the ’48 Olympics. It was through him that I wound up as Woody Pirie’s crew in the Swallow Class at the same Olympics, in which we got the bronze. I still take pride in the fact that my name is on the large ship’s wheel in the Noroton Yacht Club living room as the winner of the 1939 and 1940 season championships in the Wee Scot class.  

I’d like to close with a few words about Paul Smart. He was by far the most remarkable man I’ve ever met. In World War I, he served in the field artillery in France and won a Distinguished Service Cross, our second highest. He taught American History at Oxford. He played varsity hockey at Harvard and helped put himself through Harvard Law School playing semi-pro hockey. He was brilliant and tireless. He built the Noroton Yacht Club and gave it the initial direction and organization which enable it to grow into the strength and merit is has today. He served long and well as president of the Star Class and later as head administrator of Olympic yachting (I forget the title). I think his contributions to our sport are as great as those of any one you could name. More to the point, he was a tremendous help to me on many occasions when things weren’t going just right.


Noroton Yacht Club's Cartoon Laureate Peter Wells

By Bob Wells

Long-time Noroton Yacht Club member Peter Wells was born with saltwater coursing through his veins. His dad, John H. Wells, was an accomplished yacht designer who instilled in young Peter the itch to simply “mess around in boats”. In the early 1930s Peter and Bill Cox, Sr., among others, started the country’s first junior sailing program at Larchmont Yacht Club. During WWII, he captained a PT boat in the Pacific as part of America’s “mosquito fleet”. He and his wife Helen moved to and built a house in 1947 at a land-fill community on the coast of Connecticut called Noroton Bay. At that time, less than a dozen houses stood in The Bay – not to mention a lovely structure, The Noroton Yacht Club.

Cartooning? Well, it all began at Yale – where Peter graduated as that school’s first student to major in Fine Arts. He created the first “illustrated” record album cover for a single disc (Prior to that, records came in books with craft paper sleeves). Apropos of just about nothing, Peter also invented the use of cactus needles for Victrolas… and advancement with a miniscule life.

In the early 1940s Peter wrote and illustrated a variety of children’s books, one of which, Mr. Tootwhistle’s Invention, won 1st prize in the New York Herald Tribune’s Spring Book Festival of 1942. The Pirate’s Apprentice soon followed, as did a job working for King Features where he wrote and drew Katzenjammer Kids comic books.

What endeared Peter to so many Noroton Yacht Club sailors was his continuing stream of cartoons gracing Yachting and Motor Boating magazines. But beyond this, Peter was one of those people who constantly had a need to unleash illustrated giggles on everyone. Other Club members who “gaff” (and I don’t mean rig).  Doctors. Neighbors. No one was out of reach for one of his cartoons. In fact, during a memorial service held for him at The Club in 1995, over 300 of these little drawings graced its walls in remembrance. His classic map of Noroton to this day hangs on the second floor of The Club on the hallway to the heads.

Some look to the west of the Club’s pier and still remember a lovely little white catboat that helped remind people sailing has a history worth keeping. Below are some of Peter’s cartoons, including the map that hangs in the clubhouse.


Noroton Memories

By John Rousmniere

John Rousmaniere is an American writer and author of 30 historical, technical, and instructional books on sailing, yachting history, New York history, business history, and the histories of clubs, businesses, and other organizations. An authority on seamanship and boating safety, he has conducted tests of equipment and sailing skills, and led or participated in fact-finding inquiries into boating accidents. He has been presented with several awards for his writing and his contributions to boating safety and seamanship.

I spent my childhood in Cincinnati, where the big thing was the Redlegs, but was brought East to Oyster Bay when I was 11 and discovered sailing. I sailed Blue Jays at the Cold Spring Harbor Beach Club, which is only seven years older than Noroton, and like Noroton is family-oriented and does not have a bar. I first came across the Sound to Noroton in the late fifties to sail in the Junior Championships. The Beach Club had a large tennis crowd (there are two tennis balls in its burgee), so, due to the shortage of boy power, I was on the Junior crew almost every year between age 12 and age 18. Since the previous year’s winner always hosted the current year’s Juniors and since Bill Cox, Jr. and Kevin Jaffe won regularly, many of these events were sailed off Noroton. We always stayed with Vi Crimmins, who had a Cold Spring Harbor connection.  

I have four vivid memories of the juniors, all involving Noroton. First, one year sailing off Sea Cliff, an incompetent powerboat operator steamed at high speed across a tow line and all the Lightnings smashed together; Kevin Jaffe – who then was the defending Sears champion – had by far the loudest and most correct reaction.  

Second, there was the immense challenge of the finals, with only five boats in a goldfish bowl surrounded by what seemed to an adolescent to be dozens of spectator boats. We made the finals very rarely; Noroton was always there. Third, at Pequot in 1961, we lost a very close series to Lester Abberly. And fourth, in 1962, when I was an instructor at the Juniors, I remember going out in Briggs Cunningham’s massive tender Chaperone: swinging out from the Noroton pier, he kicked the stern in too quickly and her afterquarter rubrails split a piling almost in half.  

My next visit to Noroton, I believe, was to sail in one of the first Tiger Cat National Championships. We sailed across from Cold Spring Harbor in a cold, wet easterly and tried hard to keep up with the Noroton people, who were more familiar with these strange vessels and, anyway, were more skilled at sailing in a sloop than we were from our deep, flat harbor on Long Island. That was when I met Bill Cox, who in subsequent years I came to know better when he and his brother Gardner and Bill Thomson sailed 5.5 Meters at Seawanhaka, where I had migrated to sail Finns.

When I was a Noroton member in the late 1970’s, I raced Lasers in the evenings, day sailed in a dory, and occasionally raced in one keelboat or another with Bob Bavier, Bob and Jim Crane, Bill Cox and Andy Kostanecki. I was fortunate in my shipmates and we did well. Jim Crane had the most remarkable skill in making a boat sail fast off the wind.  

I remember two hard blows. In a Soling regatta in 1977, one of those powerful, sudden October southeasters that we dread sprang up without notice and beat the daylights out of us. I got in out of the worst of it thanks to a jib sheet traveler that went astray at the top of the first leg, and we got the boat into the club and out of the water. Some of our competitors ran up on Smith’s Reef; others strained their masts.  

That storm blew straight onto the club, and many mooring pendants snapped. A bunch of people spent the afternoon charging around, grabbing drifting boats and towing them to shelter. One of the Pearson 35s was heaving up on the little beach as Sid Rogers and I climbed aboard followed closely by her owner, who magically produced the ignition key and backed her off just as the stern was swinging onto the sand. Although the seamanship performed that afternoon was pretty astonishing, we were all too well brought up to congratulate ourselves publicly. There being no bar, we could not have had a backslapping celebration, anyway. So we set our jaws firmly but modestly and went home: all in a day’s work.  

Eventually I succumbed to the demands of single parenthood and my need to back off from racing. My son Will later spent a rewarding summer in the junior program, and I came back from time to time to see and sail with friends.  

In the late eighties I became involved with a series of instructional sailing videotapes. When we decided to do a tape on small boat sailing and racing, Wally Ross loaned us a Sonar. The Sonar fleet kindly agreed to stage a race for us to film. Some skippers, in honor of the occasion, hoisted brand-new sails. We went out on a humid Sunday afternoon. Black clouds far to the north were passing safely down the Merritt Parkway toward Bridgeport. Halfway down the leeward leg, remarkably, the squall doubled back, dumped 30 knots and hail on us, and blasted everybody right back to Smith Reef as they struggled to douse their ruined sails.  In order to capture on tape the sounds of a precise, disciplined crew in the middle of a yacht race, we had miked Margo and Bruce Kirby. Most of the words that were audible over the sound of cracking yarn-tempered cloth were too loud and disorderly to be much use except as entertainment.  

A few months later, when I felt I could safely return to Noroton, we videotaped a Sunday afternoon race on a better day. In editing the footage, we took the highlights of the twice-around course, sailed in optimum conditions and with wonderful sportsmanship, to create a thrilling 15 minute race that, I think, is not only the ideal but the reality of this splendid corner of the world. 


Larchmont Tow, Noroton Jr Program 1961-1969

By Chris Wilson
I surfed into the Junior Sailing Program on the crest of the baby boom, and as a result there were 13, count ‘em, 13 boys all born in the same year who all had boats (affluent bunch that we were). It was competitive: getting someone to crew for you was like waiting in line at the DMV to get your license renewed. The best days were when we put the rivalries aside, went out among ourselves, “tuning up” our blue jays, often single-handed, leaning out into our hiking straps in the last afternoon sunlight. To this day, my pin number at work has always been my old Bluejay’s sail number. Or there were the days when Steve Bachman tied us to the mast of Bob Smith’s P-Cat, beat-up lifejackets over our heads, and we stormed out into an impossible Easterly. Or later, with Ti Hack as ballast for borrowed Finns.

Probably my best memories aren’t from racing at all, but from that long-gone institution, the “long tow” to Larchmont or Manhasset Bay or Pequot. We’d hunker down for the three, four, six hour trip, plan elaborate lunches, sneak into each other’s boats, launch water balloons. We always seemed on the edge of adventure: once coming back from Pequot our tow was hit by a squall. The Marshall twins’ blue jay capsized, and the mast broke when Rich Sharpe tried to
(as you had to then) “quick tow” the boat to empty the water out. We all shivered as the line of boats drifted around, tangled up, rocked in the waves, before the Committee Boat started pulling us all (Marshalls included) again. But mostly I remember that when we got back to Noroton, Rick assembled us all in the “Scuttlebutt,” and thanked us for hanging in. Now there was an instructor.


Flag Etiquette

Fly It Proudly - Fly it correctly                    

Whether for festive or informative purposes, each yacht owner should be familiar with the protocols that apply to all the types of flags typically flown on a vessel, whether she be sail or power. 

When in international waters, flags indicate the vessel’s nationality. When entering the water of a country not of the vessel’s origin, it is required that you fly the flag of the host country out of respect. You may also be required to fly a Q flag to quarantine the boat until given permission to come ashore.

Before the VHF radio, it was common to use code flags to send messages when on the water. When requesting a launch, one used to blow a horn three times (to get the attention of the launch driver) and hoist the “T” flag (to signify which boat was requesting the service).

Yachts owners also used to design their own private signal flag which was registered with Lloyds Registry (still in operation and now digital) so a yacht could be identified by her owner from a distance. This is still in practice, but not nearly as common as it once was. There are currently 2 flags that are commonly used on most pleasure boats today: the national ensign and a burgee. When either of these is being flown incorrectly, this can be taken as a sign of disrespect. 


This flag is the most important flag on a vessel. It is used to identify a vessel’s nationality. As with any national flag it must be flown with respect. 

There are three things must be considered: Position, Size and Timing.
·       The ensign must be flown in the position of honor
·       The ensign must be the correct size for the vessel
·       The ensign must be flown only during the day

The Ensign, as the most important flag on board, and is flown furthest aft, though not necessarily from the highest point. Normally, the ensign is flown from a staff on the vessel’s stern. No other flag should be flown from this position. Sport fishing boats, which cannot fly the ensign from the stern when underway because of interference with fishing lines, fly the ensign from the aft end of the tuna tower on the centerline and often leave it there when not underway.

Flying a flag bigger than is suggested for the size of your vessel does NOT mean you are more patriotic. Rather, it is a lack of respect for proper flag etiquette. The fly (length of the flag) should be one inch per foot of overall vessel length, with the hoist two-thirds of the fly length. Owners should select the closest ready-made size for their vessel.

Just as with a country’s flag flown ashore, an ensign should be flown ONLY during the day (0800 to sundown). If you will not be aboard at sunset, you should take the ensign down when you leave. If a vessel gets underway before 0800, however, it is permissible to fly the ensign when conditions are such that it can be seen by other boats.


Flying the burgee is an important part of displaying a member’s pride of belonging to a yacht club. It should be displayed both night and day while your boat is in commission. It is taken down only when a sailboat is racing. Traditionally, the burgee is flown at the main masthead on a sailboat and from the bow staff on a powerboat.
When you are in the home waters of your yacht club, you should always fly that yacht club’s burgee.
If you belong to more than one yacht club it is appropriate to only fly the home club burgee when in home waters.


On special occasions like a yacht club’s Commissioning each year, or any club wide celebration, vessels often “dress ship” with a rainbow of Signal flags. This is not just for sailboats; power boats can dress ship too. Traditionally, this string of flags begins at the water’s edge at the bow, to the highest point on the boat, and then to the water’s edge at the stern. 


It is customary for a yacht club to display messages from the Club’s flagpole. In general, the American flag, the club burgee and other signal flags will be flown from the Club’s flagpole from 0800 hours to sunset every day during the season when the clubhouse is open. Common flags flown in addition include race signal flags, storm warnings and the national flags of visiting dignitaries. When the American flag is flown at half mast at the White House, the same should be done at a yacht club.

During the celebration of Bruce Kirby’s life, displayed on the Noroton flagpole were: the Noroton Burgee, American flag, the three Commodore flags, indicating that three Commodores were on the property, and the Canadian flag which was hoisted and then lowered as a tribute to Bruce who was a Canadian citizen.

At sunset a short ceremony, referred to as colors, is observed when lowering the Club burgee then the American flag. Everyone outside on the grounds or on the clubhouse deck should stand if able, remove cover (hat) and silently face the flagpole until the flag is fully lowered. The ranking Flag Officer, a past Commodore or senior staff will call out “as you were” or “carry on” to signify the end of the ceremony. If inside the clubhouse you may remain seated.


The True Story of Volunteer

By Jim Linville and Tom Ettinger

Looking back on it, it is amazing that Noroton members put up with the narrow, cramped Paul Smart, our committee boat, for so many decades. Oh how it rolled! Memories of being thrown from side to side as you picked your way from the shelter to the afterdeck come flooding back, not to mention how the flopper stoppers - minimum stacks of three per side - were more effective at chafing through their attachments than stopping the rolling. Maybe it was the turn of the century that opened the door for new thinking but in any case, by 2001 it was decided that it was time to turn the page on the old Paul Smart and move on.  

Our ‘committee’ of Tom Ettinger (PRO for the men’s and women’s 470 Course at the Atlanta Olympics), Jim Linville and John Schultz started the process by looking at several other club’s signal boats and developing a long list of features strongly influenced by Ettinger’s and Schultz’s race management experiences. We settled on a 36’ hull as max length to allow the boat to be hauled at the club and established a max budget figure of $150,000.  

In March of 2001, Linville and Ettinger traveled to the Maine Boatbuilders Show in Portland where they zeroed in on a Northern Bay 36 as the ideal hull to finish off for Noroton’s purposes: the beamy, relatively hard chined boat was universally hailed by working lobstermen as stable, easy to work from in rough conditions, fast for the power, and able to carry large payloads. We connected with the owner of the Northern Bay molds and received several recommendations for shops that could finish the boat to our specs. One of those recommendations was Keith Otis of Otis Boatworks in Searsport, ME who was billed as savvy on technical details and comfortable with ‘working’ versus ‘yacht’ finishes.

Keith’s references were generally positive and his finished product was widely respected, so when the words “different” and “his own man” were used, we might have paid closer attention. But then he promised to deliver a finished boat by May of 2002 at our budgeted price so off we went - signed contract and deposit made in the spring of 2001.  

Our first road trip to ME to check on the build was in early Fall of 2001. We were expecting to find significant progress, so our jaws dropped when upon entering Keith’s shed we saw nothing but the hull with a few stringers in place. "Not to worry," explains Keith over dinner and drinks that evening at one of Belfast, Maine’s fine seafood restaurants, "your delivery date is fine."  

Our second visit was in January of 2002 and again, little progress could be seen. Yes, the engine was in, as were the ballast tanks and fuel tank, but not a lot more. And now there was a second Northern Bay hull next to ours. "That’s my son Travis’ race boat," explains Keith. "Not to worry!" Keith exclaims over another fine meal (does he drink bourbon in the summer, too?) at his favorite restaurant. Are you starting to get the picture??  

Come early Spring, Tom stops by on his way from dropping his dog off with a trainer but wait: no boat in the shop. Volunteer is missing! Turns out Keith had sub-contracted the job to a neighboring builder, Wayne Canning and Volunteer now lay in Wayne’s Belfast shop. Wayne proved to be the builder we should had in the beginning, incredibly skilled with fiberglass, hardworking, totally responsive to our input, and an all-round good guy. Of course, Tom couldn’t get out of town without buying Keith and Travis dinner even though Wayne was doing all the work – if only to find out how Travis’ now complete race boat was running.  

Finally we were given an August 1 finish date, four months after our hoped-for launch. But even with Wayne’s herculean efforts the boat didn’t come out of the shop until the first week in September. Jim and Tom drove up in a rental car arriving early afternoon to find Volunteer in the water at the Searsport town dock with Keith, Travis and Wayne scurrying about putting on cleats, installing the wiring for the compass and electronics, screwing the deck and bridge seating in place…a total madhouse. But by late afternoon she was deemed ready for a sea trial and out we went. And we loved the boat.  

Jim and I spent one last night in Belfast and of course we took Keith (and Travis) out to dinner…at the same restaurant, with cocktails first of course. Turns out bourbon goes year ‘round. Along the way we were regaled with stories about lobster boat racing: how to bump your diesel’s horsepower by hooking your back yard grill’s propane tank to the intake manifold, and what happens when you drop the 1,000 horsepower 12-cylinder WWII Rolls Royce Merlin Spitfire engine sitting in the back of Keith’s shop into a Lobster boat (the prop wash starts cutting the rudder in half after a few 50 knot runs).  

Noroton’s committee boat brothers Jim and Tom left Searsport early in the a.m., destination Hingham for the first of two overnights on the way to Noroton. We brought our own inflatable for a life raft and our handheld VHF and GPS were our full nav/com suite, the rest of Volunteer’s instruments still being in their boxes. And during that first day at sea, we learned that the Northern Bay hull was absolutely the right choice.  

A good northeast breeze picked up as we exited Penobscot Bay and the following seas started to build, by early afternoon we couldn’t see the horizon or even nearby boats when we were in the troughs. We soon realized that the boat was rock steady when coming down the face of a roller. It would just not trip or veer when bottoming a trough. And since the seas were now REALLY big we decided to have a little competition. Could we get our new craft surfing? How fast could we go? With our hand-held GPS taped to the bridgedeck, we each took turns: wait for a big wave, power up as the stern lifts, bury the throttle to start the surf, then hold on as, stern up, we rocketed down the face of the comber. Howls of elation after each surf as we backed off the throttle and ran into the back of the next wave, spray flying up from the bow and drenching the windshield. The winner? Ettinger, by a few tenths of a knot. Speed??  We will never tell and we can assure you our record will never be broken!  

It was dreary and drizzling when we entered Noroton Harbor, but there was a crowd of about 20 cheering members waiting on the dock to welcome us. Of course, all of them piled on Volunteer for her first unofficial Noroton outing and we headed out to the Sound to show off her stuff. We had already tested Volunteer’s stability by having everyone shift to one side: she barely noticed. Jeff Eng did the honors docking – Jim and Tom wisely chose to let someone who was used to handling a boat with 3,000 pounds of extra payload do that job – and Volunteer was officially christened. She has served Noroton well ever since.  


The George Hooker Table

The clubhouse (which was rebuilt in 1990 as the sills were found to be 6” below grade) is now a showcase for the Hooker table. This table was constructed from the cedar siding that was from the original Noroton Yacht Club. These boards were 6” wide and 1” thick. The cedar planking used for the table is a soft wood and somewhat fragile, however it is resistant to pests and infestations. Cedar was often used as planking in boats as it offered resilience to the elements and seas. Its durability made it adaptable to boat building as well as its soft texture and lightweight qualities. In addition, it is used in musical instruments, decking, and fencing: it has good finishing qualities.   

Club members George Hooker and Bud Corning saw all this cedar being discarded and asked if they could have some of it. They took the lumber up to George’s workshop. George, who had been doing furniture refinishing for a local antique dealer, set to work and when the club was commissioned the next spring, George presented the club with this table. For 15 years this table lived in the lower living room of the clubhouse as a jack of all trade. One week it was a display for hats and belts for sale, and another it proudly displayed food and drinks whatever event was being held at the club.   

Many of the items from the old clubhouse never fit in with the limited space and brighter new clubhouse. Long gone are the massive wrought iron chandeliers which hung in the upper living room, and the intricately carved knee braces from the World’s Fair that adorned pillars on the terrace. On the other hand, the wonderful Noroton Yacht Club sign that for many years hung over the breezeway welcoming members and guests now is welcoming people as they climb up the front stairs to the new clubhouse. The ship’s wheel which once was a star trophy in the 1930s and hung over the fireplace in the upper living room is now in the hallway between the Men’s and Women’s room. The lantern that once shone over the Noroton Yacht Club sign is now presiding over the grass terrace. And most of all the Hooker Table, a beautiful reminder of everything that is important at Noroton -  history and volunteering - stands proudly welcoming one and all to our new clubhouse.  

It is a reproduction of a shaker trestle table. It is a two-pedestal table with a stretcher running between the legs to hold them in place. The stretch extends through the legs at each end with a wooden wedge passing through the stretcher to add stability to the table.  

Due to the softness of the cedar used in the table has been restored several times. The original burgee has been replaced with a burgee made from Birdseye maple and the chevrons of quilted mahogany.  


The Gut and Rings End Landing


Secondary address