The Belmont Yacht Club started life in 1973 as an equal opportunity organization, providing leadership opportunities for both men and women in yachting. The tradition continues through several women commodores including support from Chicago Yachting Associaton Past Commodore Betty Lerner who is herself a Past Commodore of BYC.
Past Commodore Scott Baumgartner helped BYC celebrate our thirtieth year admirably. There were the usual boating activities and social events, but always with an eye to our legacy from past club members and our dedication to improvements for those club members who will follow. In Scott’s two year reign as Commodore, he led us to a new dockage and helped spearhead the renovation of the club ship and a newly developed picnic area. The popularity of the picnic area demonstrates Scott’s legacy for all patrons of the harbor.
An important tenant of our organization is boater education. Many of the founding members of BYC were active in the Power Squadron and for many years BYC held Saturday morning classes that provided training for all boaters. In 2003 BYC hosted a lecture on how to deal with medical emergencies at sea and sponsored two days of free safety inspections for Belmont Harbor boaters organized by Education Chair Jack Callahan.
Many boaters know BYC because of the gas dock service that we provided until the reorganization of the Marine Division of the Chicago Park District. Other than a club member whose boat blew up at the gas dock, BYC enjoyed managing the fueling facility for over twenty-five years.
While the gas dock was a lucrative venture for BYC, we spent most of our history searching for a home, and we worked to find a clubhouse for years. While the club was close to having a home several times, something always intervened. We even used the Park District Archery Building across from the harbor as home base for several years. The Archery Building and grounds were the site for carnivals and festivals. In 1991 BYC hosted the CYA Summerfest there.
In 1991, BYC sponsored Bill Pinckney, a Past Commodore, who became the first African American to sail around the world alone. Bill was back in Chicago during the summer 2003 for the Tall Ships Festival with his newest boat, Amistad, which Bill uses as a vehicle to teach history and tolerance.
In 1999, BYC found a home in the John B. Mack, a 42-foot houseboat. It has provided the home in the harbor for which we had been searching. John Mack was a Past Commodore of BYC and CYA, and was active in the Chicago boating community for years. John may be best remembered for spearheading the protest against boater surcharges that were proposed in 1986. BYC was also proactive in working for a protective breakwall for the harbor, another dream that has finally been realized.
In 2005 we replaced our club ship with the John B. Mack II, a 53 foot by 16 foot barge. The new facility will privide us with much needed space for our activities. It includes a warming kitchen, bar, office area and 2 heads. We are also able to seat 3 times the people for events.
The John B. Mack Memorial Predicted Log is held each year in honor of John’s memory. Current Commodore Charles Goes brought the competition home a few years ago by concluding with dinner for participants and guests at the club ship. BYC has also hosted the Waukegan sailors before the Chicago Waukegan Regatta for several years. In 2004 BYC started a new tradition, a short-handed sailing regatta. The There and Back Regatta had 13 registrants for a 47.1 nautical mile event. These events along with many other activities continue our support of both sailing and power boating.
One fun event that includes both the sail and power fleet is the progressive dinner where we go from boat to boat for various courses of cuisine. The newly developed picnic area worked very well for feeding large crowds and for hosting music and dancing.
Venetian Night has always been a big event for Belmont Yacht Club. In 2004 our hard work once again paid off with the first overall prize for David and Marla Russo’s Island Time. It was decorated as Gilligan’s Island. BYC has had a tradition of placing for over 10 years in Venitian Night including many past overall first prizes.
Two prestigious awards are presented each year in remembrance of past members. The Buckbinder Award is for the most outstanding contribution to the progress of Belmont Yacht Club. This beautiful Helmsman’s Wheel trophy of rare woods was established in honor of Edward Nathan Buckbinder because of his spirit of unselfish and unstinting service, outstanding club loyalty and unflagging co-operation.
The Gordon Award is a traveling trophy in memory of Michael M. Gordon, who was a BYC Commodore in 1980. This award is given each year to a member who has accomplished a navigational feat. The honor of this award is highly respected by our members and keeps us all striving to reach for higher goals and new triumphs in navigation.
As we look forward, we will continue to build quality friendships through our mutual love of all things afloat. An old newsletter listed the club’s purpose in terms of commitment. Belmont Yacht Club is committed to member communication, boater education, public service supporting the harbor, and good times and a full schedule of activities for all. Onward to the next 30 years!