Wolfeboro Corinthian Yacht Club
Nancy's Way | P.O. Box 605 | Wolfeboro, New Hampshire 03894
Heart Of The
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THIRTY years ago…… John M. O’Connell, owner of Northeast Sail and Motor Facility, Inc. in January 1982, sent a letter to Robert Hopewell, a customer and friend, regarding his desire to sell his business. Faced with increasing taxes and aware of accelerating land values and limited lake access, John decided that this would be an optimum time to sell. However, he wanted to do more than just sell the property.
John envisioned the creation of a “yacht club,” a facility where the membership would also be the owners. He wrote a proposal outlining his idea, including the suggestion that a “very handsome club house” be built, and then sent this proposal to 437 existing customers and prospective members. He received a total of 143 replies by letter or telephone, with 112 indicating a substantial and enthusiastic interest in forming a Club.
March 1, 1982, Jerry Lawless, Dick Osgood, Ed Sutherland and Bob Varney, met at the O’Connell residence at the top of the hill, and with enthusiasm and tremendous foresight, made history with their decision to start a Club. Tom Elkinton, Paul Harvey, and Bob Hopewell were unable to attend that first meeting but were also committed to this idea and become charter members as well. This group comprised the first Board of Governors of the newly formed Club.
On March 30 th , Bob Hopewell, representing the NEMS customers, sent a letter to John O’Connell stated that “yes” Northeast Sail and Motor Facility, Inc. was indeed going to become a full-fledged yacht club. The letter outlined the great aspiration for the new organization.
Continuous planning meetings were held throughout the spring of that year. On July 7 a letter was sent inviting all prospective members to attend a meeting at the Wolfeboro Public Library on July 17, to explain the purpose and organization details of the proposed club. This meeting was attended by ninety curious prospective members. Many issues and concerns were addressed as land-based users and “islanders” inquired about on-going access and the long term plans.
The Club was officially launched at that July 17, 1982 meeting, with 40 prospective members committing $3000 each to raise $120,000 (1/3 of “square one” or start-up money) necessary to launch the venture. The agreed upon purchase price for land, buildings, and inventory was set at $510,000.
The next formal meeting was held, again at the Wolfeboro Public Library, on September 18, to finalize the purchase details. The formal “closing” was held on October 21, 1982. The Club started with 71 “charter members” each purchasing a single share for $3000. John agreed to carry a $150,000 note and the balance was raised from bank financing. O’Connell, a former advertising executive and accomplished artist, selected the Club’s new name and designed the Club’s burgee. Bylaws were prepared and annual dues were set at $150 per year to begin in 1983. In December of that year the share values were increased to $3500 to help meet unexpected expenses.
John agreed to stay on as the Club’s first manager as his experience and expertise were essential to the operation of the marine facility and the two existing NEMS mechanics agreed to remain as employees of the new organization. Keeping these mechanics was extremely important to the ongoing success of the venture.
Our first social function was held in June 1983. Geri Gagne (Charter member #1) suggested holding a pig roast, offered to assume full responsibility to “make it happen” and John O’Connell said “why not”. A caterer was hired, the storage shed was cleared and cleaned, and tables were set up. Nautical decorations were strung from boat-to-boat and a band played well into what was a beautiful summer’s evening. The storage shed was used for some years after for all of our social events until we graduated to renting a tent. “Bloody Mary Sunday” on the deck in January became our next social event and continues through today. Charter members who are still active have fond memories of those first social events. Strangers soon became friends and all became a viable part of Club life, many serving on the BOG, working on committees, or helping out in a multitude of large and small ways.
Club finances were often precarious in the beginning. Scheduled winter work for the 1983/1984season was below expectations. The Club had to “barter“ for dock repairs with engine work and the like in order to keep the facilities intact. The most often heard complaint around the Club was about the condition of our driveway as it was so full of “potholes”. Driveway repair and major dock repairs were to be our “first project” but they had to be put “on-hold” until finances improved.
At the annual meeting in 1984, members agreed to have a $100 assessment per share for repair of the road and paving. This was increased, however, to $124 as the “membership did not want a patch job but a proper paving job”. A further assessment of $635 per member was made to cover the needed dock repairs. The Club had two bidders for this major project, and awarded the contract to Winnipesaukee Marine Construction for $53,823. Work was done during the winter months.
Members at the 1984 Annual meeting also decided that we take on nonmembers for storage as a new source of income. Their rate was set to be higher than members’ rates and, to this day, this remains an excellent source of income for the Club. By the end of that year our first Club President, Jerry Lawless, notified members that finances had improved. With six new members and some “belt tightening measures” the Club’s finances were in good order.
By this time, the Club was headed in the right direction, although “hard times and lean years” had forced the price of new shares up to $4300 with $800 allocations helping to fund some of the necessary capital projects. The Club was 85 members strong by the end of the summer of 1984.
1985 saw slight but continued financial improvement. The Club now had 102 members, $10,000 in payments had been made against our debt, and the docks had been repaired and paid for. However, our driveway work had to be postponed and the Club needed to replace the 4000 gallon gas tank.
Governor John Sununu and the state of New Hampshire gained control over mooring fields and docks on Lake Winnipesaukee in 1985. Fortunately, the Club’s mooring field and dockage was firmly established and recorded in 1982, but the Club was never-the-less forced to go to court against the State in order to preserve and protect this important asset. The new oversight had a provision, which remains in effect to this day, prevents the Club from any further expansion of dockage or mooring field. At various times the Club has approached the State for additional permits, most recently in the fall of 2001, but such requests have been denied in every case.
By 1986 our membership roster had increased to 115. One of the earliest major capital expenditures occurred this year with the purchase of a used crane. It was located in Texas and purchase cost with delivery totaled $34,083.92. This was small by today’s standards but it gave the Club almost 13 years of solid service.
Club members voted in 1987 to purchase the Route 109A Storage. The “lower shed” was relocated and construction of a second storage shed on the site satisfied the Club’s winter storage needs and eliminated the renting space off-site. Members were interested in building a new Club House at this time, and discussions led to the development of some preliminary sketches. Continued economic weakness precluded the building of a Club House although, on a brighter note, the Club was able to make additional debt reduction payments during the year.
Continuing towards greater financial stability, an important milestone occurred in 1988 when the Club was able to pay-off the second mortgage held by John O’Connell. The Club still had the SBA note and the crane loan was outstanding with the Wolfeboro National Bank.
The Wolfeboro Corinthian Yacht Club hosted the National Ensign Championship Regatta in 1990, with John O’Connell and Ed Sutherland serving as co-chair of the event. This six day event attracted the top boats from across the country. Multiple races were held and the festivities culminated in an awards dinner held at the Brewster Academy boathouse.
In 1993, our dream for a Club House finally became a reality. It was created by raising the slant roof of the original shop building to create a second floor and adding the deck area. This turned “a blight on the waterfront” in to an attractive and more fitting design although it required another assessment. The Clubroom and kitchen was built in 1995 with a generous contribution of $18,000 from one of the Club’s members. It has been continuously updated over the years through contributions of both time and money from other members. John O’Connell has donated nine original nautical watercolors that are prominently displayed on the walls.
The Club continued to struggle during the next few years. John O’Connell officially retired and the Club went through a series of managers during the next six years. The Club continued to provide a high level of boat maintenance and repair service.
In 1995 the Club began to realize measurable improvements in revenue, profit and operational efficiency. A survey was also conducted to assess member ideas and to determine the future direction for the Club. The outcome at that time was to “maintain status quo”: little growth and maintain the mix of Club/marina at the present level.
In 1995 the club replaced its aging launch with a custom built 22’ Eastern.
In 1998 the Club, in order to comply with new state regulations, installed a new 6000 gallon gas tank with state-of-the-art monitoring equipment at a cost of $40,100. A very significant event occurred with this improvement when the Club was able to pay for this large expense from cash flow without further borrowing.
Our next major purchase occurred in1999 with the acquisition of a new crane. A special meeting was called on September 18, 1999 to authorize the purchase of a new one as the most recent inspection had indicated numerous mechanical and safety issues with the old one. After much discussion concerning used versus new, and lease versus buy, a decision was reached to purchase a new crane for $179,500 with a $5000 allowance for our old one. The new and vastly improved TEREX was delivered later that month. It featured the largest lift capacity on the lake at 30 tons and offered complete computer management of load level versus lift angle and height. It was and remains quite a remarkable machine and the Club has been able to enjoy an excellent revenue stream from its heavy lift capability.
The new millennium has seen the Club continue to strengthen its financial position. The combination of strong economic times, active membership, and strong Board oversight set new records for both gross income and net profits. The Social activities at the Club increased in both number and scale. Member attendance was up measurably and the Club’s vision of a social organization has been fully realized.
A new policy was developed regarding share sales and available operating capital has allowed the Club to purchase old shares as they became available at their lower rate and then resell them at the new rate of $15,000. This resulted in a net gain of over $100,000 to the Club in 2001. This also has had the side benefit of adding new members to the Club that are both active and offering new ideas.
The Club has implemented many new policies and procedures and cleaned up a number of issues. From employee benefits to performance reviews, the Club’s operation has become more business-like. New computers were installed equipped with the latest accounting software, and our manager and technicians were sent to classes and courses to improve their skill sets.
Several significant capital projects have been planned, budgeted and executed since the turn of this century. The complete resurfacing of all Club docks with synthetic TREX improved both the esthetics and function. The gas dock was completely rewired to provide better service and comply with code. Many new pieces of equipment and tools for the shop were budgeted for and purchased, including two new trucks. Much of this was paid for from operating cash flow and most importantly we were able to continue to pay down our outstanding debt load at the same time
More than TWENTY years ago…… a vision was conceptualized and today we, the 112 members of the Wolfeboro Corinthian Yacht Club, are deriving great benefits from the hard work and determination of those early members. It is now our turn. We must build on all the wonderful accomplishments of the past twenty years and conceptualize a new vision and a plan so that 20 years from now, we can once again celebrate, feel proud, and honor the WCYC and its members.