Holiday Greetings from Commodore Carlson

While many clubs in warmer parts of the country are open year around, ours has a uniquely condensed season of just eight weeks in which we pack a boatload of socializing, sailing, racing, adventure, and fun!  

Our long “off season” affords ample time for reflection on the past summer and planning for the next, and our Boards have been doing just that.  Indeed, our little Club on the bluff is actually two clubs in one; a Sailing School with 20+ staff, 12 unique sailing, racing and adventure classes for kids and adults, STEAM, and a lunch program, all orchestrated by its own Board. On the ‘yacht club’ side, we offer amazing traditional and new social experiences, access to our fleets and facilities for adventure and fun sailing activities and expanding adult and intergenerational programming. 

With many clubs across the country seeing declines in activity, we are experiencing just the opposite.  Our Sailing School offerings are varied and well subscribed. Our racers are active in area regattas and our sailing team won the SMSA team racing championships. We have expanded intergenerational and adult programming; on the water, adults can choose from formal class instruction or afternoon fun sails. On the social front, never has there been more activity for adults and families – our 3 Fundays last summer averaged 130 attendees and staffed weekends offered waterfront access to our members who wanted to go for a sail or navigate the harbor on a stand-up paddle board.  

All of this could not happen without the work of our volunteers. SHYC intentionally operates on a lean budget and does not have staff to assist in its off-season work or for many of its non-sailing events. We need your help. We are looking for members to assist in the areas of: social events, new member and Sailing School ambassadors, racing, and technology.  Please take a moment to offer to help below.

Many clubs boast fine facilities and programming; however, few possess that special magic that we have at SHYC.  Our secret is not our impressive fleets, club house, Sailing Center or even Chief’s Pier, but rather our people. Stage Harbor Yacht Club is a place where, as Commodore Forger once said, “Friendships Last a Lifetime.” We hope you will join us today as a volunteer!


I am happy to report that throughout the fall and winter; our Board members have been highly productive.  As reported in the Fall Newsletter, in addition to their traditional responsibilities, Yacht Club and Sailing School Officers individually spent countless hours leading working groups in the areas of Buildings and Grounds, Finance, Technology, Member Engagement, Sailing School, Committees and Publications, and the Stage Harbor Wharf Group. Each Working Group offered detailed reports at the Thanksgiving weekend Board meeting.  Here are some highlights.


Working Group Reports

The Stage Harbor Wharf Group - Boasting what I am sure we all agree is the finest location for a yacht club on the Eastern Seaboard, the Stage Harbor Yacht Club facilities are, for the most part, in superior condition.  With our Sailing Center coming on line in 2018 for the first time since purchasing the building in 2006, members now enjoy that structure’s full potential from an educational and social standpoint.  We now turn our attention to the southeast, a corner of our property in need of some attention, specifically the Stage Harbor Wharf (formerly the SHE pier which, when rebuilt, will complete our campus!  

The Wharf Group has been busy. In fact, our most recent meeting was on Tuesday, December 18 at S+V Designs to discuss wharf and boathouse design details.  We hope to complete the planning phase this winter and move toward regulatory approvals and the bidding process in the spring and summer months so that demolition and construction can occur ahead of the 2020 summer.  

We will pay for the wharf’s refurbishment through philanthropy, cash on hand, assessment, and debt.  The Fundraising Team – led by Kelly Friendly, Kathy Lewis, and Andrew Friendly – are already hard at work. We are excited to share the we have secured financial pledges from 100% of our Board members and plan to have conversations with other donors in the coming months.   We are indebted to our Club leaders and to the ambitious efforts of our Fundraising Team. Our philanthropic success will dictate the amount that members will ultimately be assessed, as well as the level of debt that we may be required to take on, if any.  We do not have hard estimates at this point, however, we expect to when we are a little further along in the design process. Please let us know how you would like to be involved in this once in a generation project.

We are designing the wharf to maximize utility and durability in the most cost-effective way possible. We are moving forward with our plan to construct the wharf out of wood, rather than steel and concrete.  Our goal is to complete the wharf planning and early fundraising this spring, then move through the regulatory phase this summer and early fall, with the goal that we can complete construction by the summer of 2020. Indeed, this is a very special chapter in the life of Stage Harbor Yacht Club!


Members of the Wharf Team have had successful and productive communications with Town officials with regard to our respective projects and those conversations remain ongoing. As this project got underway over a year ago, we explored many options with the Town; including the possibility that the Town might construct the entire project (both its pier and ours) in some sort of lease arrangement. These discussions were complicated legally and financially, and the Club ultimately decided that it was in the best interests of its members to undertake the project on its own and construct a traditional wooden replacement wharf that would respect the historical setting on Stage Harbor and be cost effective. The Town, on the other hand, plans to construct a steel and concrete structure – something much more industrial in nature – to meet its needs. We have, nevertheless, let the Town know that we are committed to working closely with it during the process, that we are open to future lease arrangements that might allow use of our wharf in the off season and that our goal is to serve the long-standing history of sailing on Stage Harbor and to be good neighbors.    

The Wharf and Fundraising Teams will be sending you Stage Harbor Wharf updates as plans and fundraising efforts progress.  In the meantime, if you have questions about the wharf or want to assist in any way, do not hesitate to contact Drew at [email protected] or Kelly Friendly at [email protected].


Immediately following the 2018 Annual Meeting, the Building and Grounds Working Group hit the ground running. Committee Chair Bill Driscoll and Matt Evans walked every square inch of the property and produced short, medium, and long-term recommendations for capital spending.  Mark Simonitsch did the same with a focus on Chief’s Pier.  Jim Shakin then took this data and produced a capital spending plan for the Club House, Sailing Center, Chief’s pier, floats, and wharf maintenance.  The spending plan was spread out year by year through 2022, with maintenance totals averaging between $30,000-$45,000 annually.  We of course would not be able to maintain our buildings, pier and grounds on such a lean budget if it were not for the generosity of our members volunteers.  

In the closing weeks of 2018, we will be replacing: the clubhouse front door, the French doors that lead out to the terrace, and all south and east facing windows.  Additionally, the hot sun and prevailing southwest breezes have got the better of the beautiful awning that Commodore Stephen Daniel designed and installed in 2011. Sperry Tents is now building a new replacement, and a debt of gratitude is owed to the Shakin Family for covering the costs of constructing the awning and to the Bainbridge family for donating the awning fabric!


The Finance Committee - led by Jim Shakin, and including David Leary, Chris Ritchie, Regina Shakin, Jake Siewert and Jane Frye - spent the Fall preparing the 2019 budget and looking at the Club’s medium-term spending needs versus its resources.  In this context, we have worked with many of the other groups in order to establish medium term cost estimates for our fleet, buildings & grounds, staff and technology, as well as medium term revenue estimates for YC dues, initiation fees, and SS fees.  Our next goal will be working on detailing the costing and funding of the Stage Harbor Wharf project, and fitting that into the medium-term plan.  We are likely to finish 2018 with a larger annual surplus than originally budgeted, and this, combined with several years of strong surplus, puts us in a good starting place for looking at the coming project.

Among other accomplishments at the Thanksgiving meeting, the Board approved the 2019 budget. Highlights include a plan for a nominal increase for staff salaries, bringing them more in line with peer clubs.  Membership dues have remained largely flat for 2019, however, we have fine-tuned some categories.  Also, Important Note to All Members, if you have reached any milestones, for example, you no longer have any minor children or have children that are now eligible to enroll in Sailing School, or you are changing among Junior/Adult/Family/Senior categories, you should send an email to Member Administrator, Sara Frye and to Bethany at Meservey Accountancy.  To review new membership dues, initiation fees, and member category definitions please follow this link.


Having worn nearly every hat at SHYC, Regina Shakin has taken on Vice Commodore duties with the skills and grace to which we have become accustomed.  Now charged with planning ‘all things social’ at SHYC, Regina has committee chairs in place for our ever-expanding panoply of social offerings.  We do, however, always need willing volunteers to make all of our events run smoothly so be sure to sign up to help out. Indeed, social events play an important role at the club in maintaining a connection both for members with children in the sailing program and particularly for those who do not have children or grandchildren learning to sail.  We have intentionally developed programming and devoted resources to engaging all members in social events at SHYC.


In addition to social planning, Regina leads the Member Engagement Working Group which is focused on meeting the needs of our new members during and after the initiation process. The inclusion of new members is an important part of the Club’s history and we are committed to ensuring that the membership process and first years of membership are fun and smooth.  Her Working Group includes: Inga Walker, Susan Gotschewski, and Maryann Smith.  In addition, Regina has recruited Trude Goodman Tiesi to Co-Chair Membership with Johanna Cahoon and Jane Frye.  The team is spearheading a new look for our Inquiry and Proposer Forms on the yacht club website, streamlining the process for introducing and welcoming new members to the club.


The new Sailing School Committee – led by David Leary and comprised of Drew Carlson, Regina Shakin, Chris Ritchie, Kathy Lewis, Audrey Fenton and Maryann Smith – is off to a busy start. This standing committee will work to ensure smooth operation of the Sailing School and to evaluate its programming. The committee has been focused on the financial aspects of the program, its adventure offerings and lunch program as well as staffing for 2019. 

Other Sailing School fall work has also been moving ahead full steam. The Sailing School has worked closely with the Treasurer and Finance Committee to ensure Sailing School needs relating to fleet maintenance and key facilities work is reflected in the budget process and has undertaken a close look at staff compensation to ensure that it reflects the current market and allows us to recruit and retain the best staff.  We are excited to announce that Chris Beard will return as our Program Director for summer 2019!


The Technology Working Group, led by Rear Commodore Chris Ritchie, composed of Denise Ritchie, Sara Wilson and Sara Frye, submitted a proposal to enhance the functionality of our website host, MemberClicks, in the areas of Sailing School Registration, Attendance, and potentially Merchandise Sales.  With funding approved, this winter the group will be interviewing tech experts to assist with streamlining the above functions. Once selected, during the winter/spring time frame the team will follow a methodology outlined to design, develop, review, test and implement MemberClicks enhancements for the Sailing School.  One objective is to utilize limited external technologies that won’t tie the club to maintaining a complex solution.  We will work closely with Chris Beard and David Leary to make sure initial prototypes meet their needs.  The workgroup is ensuring the current methodology continues to be supported in case of unforeseen challenges with the new enhancements.

In addition to focusing on technology, Chris is executing his Rear Commodore Duties related to fleets and racing, including the development of fleet expense tracking to monitor annual spending on all vessels.  He is working with the Finance Committee to identify capital expenditures for future fleet vessels and has obtained approval for acquisition of a new powerboat, coach boat motor and 3 new BIC sails for 2019. He is also identifying additional vessel expenditures for the 2019 season. Chris has also reached out to coaches and fleet captains for feedback to assist with setting the 2019 sanctioned regatta schedule and improve our racing program at SHYC.


 Coordinating our Calendar and Committees involves innumerable moving parts - establishing important dates for major club and sailing school events, confirming the Sailing School schedule, social event dates, committee chairs, staff listings, and let’s not forget the all-important Stage Harbor tide schedule for the summer of 2019!  Managing this process with aplomb is Audrey Fenton.  Check out the Important Dates that she has coordinated and be sure to block out your favorite SHYC summer events!


Need to update your sailing kit?  Perhaps a spray jacket, life vest, or booties?  SHYC staff model foul weather gear


Check out the following sites for sailing related Holiday Gift Ideas. 

APS        Team One Newport      Sturgis Boat Works


In closing, on behalf of the entire Board, we wish you and your family a happy holiday season. If you are in Chatham, be sure to stop by the Club on New Year’s Eve day, 12/31, at 10:00 am for coffee, donuts and hot chocolate, catch up with friends new and old and get an update on the exciting plans to rebuild the Stage Harbor Wharf!  


Wishing you Health and Happiness in the New Year!

Drew Carlson-Commodore, Regina Shakin-Vice Commodore, Chris Ritchie-Rear Commodore, Jim Shakin-Treasurer, Bill Driscoll-Secretary, David Leary-Sailing School President, Audrey Fenton-Clerk


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