October 27, 2005

While South Florida was scrambling to prepare for Hurricane Wilma, and then to recover from the hit, the hard working sailors of the Gulf Coast were getting themselves back on the water in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In some cases, they’ve been sailing for weeks, and in all cases, they are sailing in spite of huge challenges.

Mobile Yacht Club Commodore James Green reports that, six weeks on, the owners of boats that were scattered into the trees and up-bayou by Katrina now face costs of $150-200 per foot for recovery—with a crane and trailer, plus truck or barge— and that’s before they face boatyard repair prices in a world where labor is scarce and up by 35-55 percent. It’s no wonder that many beat-up but still-sound boats are not out sailing. But others are.

Southern Yacht Club, New Orleans, is one of several clubs that put racing fleets on the water last weekend.

Mobile Yacht Club will be on the water (again) this weekend, and (again) they’re not alone. The numbers are down but spirits are full.

I write this as a member of a club that once was destroyed in a devastating fire. Out of the difficult times that followed, life in our funky, temporary bar/restaurant facilities in a former sail-drying room is remembered vividly and fondly thanks to the spirit of a mission that lifted us. In many versions, I see that same spirit alive now on the Gulf Coast.

Read on for 1) A report on Southern YC’s Closing Regatta; 2) A report on Mobile YC’s upcoming Closing Regatta, 3) A notice board for helping junior sailors and junior programs damaged by the hurricanes, and 3) Notes from other clubs (and the Fish Class championship) plus a bottom-line commentary from Pontchartrain Yacht Club’s Staff/Vice Commodore, Jane Eshleman.

Southern Yacht Club no longer has a clubhouse (an interim facility is planned), but it does have sailors, a front lawn, and a fleet. Commodore Corky Potts, inviting the fleet to Southern’s 156th Closing Regatta, wrote, “it is time to get back to furthering the sport of sailing. The Board cannot think of a better way to do this than to continue the traditions that find us hosting the 156th annual Closing Regatta on the front lawn of SYC overlooking Lake Pontchartrain.”

Re. special considerations: Participants were notified that, “The City of New Orleans may set up a checkpoint somewhere on the way to SYC with the National Guard manning the point. We will be handing out Passes at the checkpoint.”

New Orleans Yacht Club members pitched in, allowing racers—invited from clubs all-around—to use their hoist. NOYC also ran a message board, during the worst of the flooding, that helped to glue people together (until the flooding took it offline).

SYC’s Sunday, October 23 regatta had 16 PHRF entries and 30 one-designs—Daniel Meade led the club-owned Flying Scot fleet; Julian Richards led Lasers, and Ross Kirk took the Optis (see Southern Yacht Club). It was a good day. By way of thanking the race committee, wag Bill Wright suggested, ” We should put Bunny and Tim in charge of the Mayor’s Rebuild New Orleans Committee.”

And this note from Arthur Zatarain reflects the complexity of the storm and its consequences: “Because my boat, (Gusto, (a Bristol 34) escaped serious damage, I felt a bit of ‘survivor’s guilt’ when hearing sad tales from less fortunate sailors. But seeing both victims and survivors smile in Sunday’s sunshine made me want to hoist my sails for the first time since the storm. Despite the loss of boats and buildings, the SYC spirit is alive and well! I look forward to seeing our nautical morgue cleared of everything Katrina.”

MOBILE YACHT CLUB, on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay, Alabama, relaunched its Thursday night races on October 6. This week marks the final Thursday night of the season, and the club counts the coming Anniversary Regatta this weekend (October 29-30) as its 159th.

Mobile YC commodore James Green is someone who counts himself “lucky” because his yacht club came through with a building and a harbor that were damaged but recoverable. The clubhouse roof was damaged and the stairs taken away, along with other damage. As far as the harbor goes, “There was a bar/restaurant nearby that largely ended up on top of it,” Green says. “We’ve rebuilt many of the finger piers, but not the ones that need new pilings, and we’re faced with costs that are a bit surprising. Do you have any idea of the price of a marine electrical receptacle for a dock? Try $3-400 each.”

The harbor at Mobile YC does not yet have power to run the hoist for this weekend’s regatta (which is also a benefit for diabetes), Green says, “But if we have to, we’ll use a generator.” He expects a turnout of about twenty boats for the races, and plenty more than that in the way of personnel.

Green counts himself lucky also because his own boat survived Katrina, though it won’t be racing this weekend. Invisible is an Ericson 38. “I found it a mile north of the clubhouse, braced up against a tree.” The boat is now in a boatyard, “But I still don’t have an estimate for repairs,” Green says. “The hull was scuffed, but there aren’t any holes. All the stanchions were yanked out, but I’ll say this for Ericson, that didn’t cause any cracks in the deck.”

Nearby on Mobile Bay, Buccaneer Yacht Club last weekend hosted the annual championship for the Fish Class, 15-footers developed circa 1920 and raced ever since in the Gulf Yachting Association. The fleet of about half a dozen represented all or most of the surviving Fish fleet. The winner on straight firsts was class veteran Don Brennan of New Orleans YC.

Across Mobile Bay, Fairhope Yacht Club has also had fleets on the water. And in South Florida, they’re planning to try again to have the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. The new dates are November 3-6. If nothing else, power outages at nearby hotels would have made it impossible for the show to go on.


There is now an online Exchange where young dinghy sailors who have lost gear in the recent
hurricanes can post requests for boats, gear or summer camp place donations.

Clubs and individuals can offer their help too!. Please note that KSE is a relief site where gear,,etc. should be donated. It is not a place to sell gear or look for a coach (unless your club will hold a position open for a displaced Gulf instructor). Go to: Katrina Sailors Exchange


In the November issue of SAIL we present our coverage of Hurricane Katrina, compiled in the early days after the storm. Jane D. Eshleman, vice commodore and past commodore of Pontchartrain Yacht Club (PYC), on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, wrote as follows:

In reference to the article by Kimball Livingston, Goodbye to the
Known World
, Yes, we were left standing, but the devastation was so
great that the facility had to be demolished. We held a “wake” for
the club on October 16 – our first function since Katrina/Rita – and
had 140+ members in attendance. Southern Yacht Club held their closing
regatta on October 23, with over 300 attendees. Pass Christian Yacht
Club has had gatherings at private homes and has enjoyed excellent
attendance. I can’t speak for all of the clubs on the Gulf Coast that
were destroyed, but all indications point to rebuilding. Knowing how
competitive these area sailors are, giving up on our clubs is not even
an option! We are all still sailing and racing with whatever boats
are still seaworthy, and I can report on behalf of Pontchartrain Yacht Club that NOT ONE MEMBER has resigned in the aftermath
of the storms. Clubs are about the people, not the buildings, and in
that regard, rather than saying
we’ll be back, I’d say we’re still here!

Jane D. Eshleman

Vice Commodore

Past Commodore 2002-04

Pontchartrain Yacht Club

Jane, thanks for the note. I see that you’re having a deck-building party on November 12 for the interim clubhouse. Our best to you and to all.

Kimball Livingston





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