Cedar Island Yacht Club

In The Harbour

By Katherine Stone

The very first yacht club ever featured in this column was the Buffalo Yacht Club, back in 2012. I chose to start with this particular club as it was the only one that had clubhouses in two countries: the United States and Canada.Canada is deeply tied to the United States as their number one trading partner, enjoys many cultural similarities, and a shared language; so this seemed like a fun way to start what has now become an ensconced column in every issue. However, the Buffalo Yacht Club is not the southernmost yacht club in Canada, as that distinction lies with the Cedar Island Yacht Club, still in the same province and on the same Great Lake, but way to the west, and still with great connections to the United States.

The community of Gosfield, situated along the north shore of Lake Erie, was settled by United Empire Loyalists of German descent and British immigrants along the Talbot Trail. The climate was favourable with productive soils and the early settlers depended on the natural resources of the area for the growing and selling of vegetables and fruits. Nineteenth century writers referred to this area as “Canada’s Paradise Garden.” By the end of the 19thcentury, Canadians and Americans alike were flocking to Paradise Garden, which had become a popular summer playground for revival meetings, picnics, and reunions. Incorporated in 1901, Paradise Garden became known as Kingsville,which was named after its founder, James King. Hiram Walker was also influential in capitalizing on the tourist potential by building the Mettawas Hotel in 1889, and the two railway lines (L.E.E. and D.R.R.) in 1888, which ran from Windsor to Kingsville. I’m sure that he also had a lot to do with some other things in that area too, as Hiram Walker’s famous Canadian Club Whisky would become Canada’s top export whisky to the United States.

Home Away From HomeStrategically located 30km from Windsor, with a small-town friendliness and ideal growing climate, Kingsville is the perfect setting for greenhouses, agriculture, boating, and wineries. It is not only a choice destination, but also a starting point for ventures toPelee Island and the shores of Michigan and Ohio with regular ferry services. The Cedar Island Yacht Club (CIYC) is adjacent to Cedar Island, a tiny bit of residential land between the yacht club and Lake Erie. On the 42nd parallel, it is Canada’s most southern yacht club. It started out as many clubs do, with a group of friends who shared a common passion. And so it was for several friends who began racing sailboats on Sunday afternoons in the Cedar Beach Regatta in 1971.

 Ten directors sat down and established the CIYC in 1972, acquiring the derelict Cedar Haven Lodge located on the south end of the property. The following year, the lodge was torn down and additional docks were added to the initial 45 wells. On the north end, an existing five-unit motel was quickly converted to a temporary clubhouse. That same year, one of Lake Erie’s famous winter storms provided one foot of water to cover the property. So what did the industrious members do? With the help of 1,100 tons of rock and 125 tons of topsoil, the property was raised two feet! Renovations then started on the five-unit motel and the newly remodeled clubhouse was dedicated in 1975. Many renovations were made over the years, including an addition to the south side of the building in the early 1980s.

At Work On Their BoatsNext came the engineering of the sandsucker to deal with the constant problem of a sandbar that continually drifted in frontof the harbour entrance. The local authorities did not feel that it was their problem to deal with at the time, so the enterprising members again got together to build a sandsucking barge with their own manpower and money to help dredge the harbour and cut a path through the sandbar. Club millwrights and welders volunteered their expertise and an abandoned barge with a pump was purchased for “scrap price.” Add a 960 cubic-inch diesel engine, hydraulic system, pipes, boom, renovations, and viola…fora bargain price of $17,000, a 30-foot barge was now operational! Although she did her job well, there were concerns that she might sink due to some safety and structural issues. Sadly, only two years later, it was decided by the membership that she should be sold…for a mere $33,500!!

Various dredging firms were used at great expense to the club over the next 20+ years until Little Toot was purchased. A partnership was formed with the town of Kingsville, Melton Bros. Marina, and CIYC to take part in a pilot project to reduce dredging costs at the harbour mouth. The yacht club would purchase and man the workboat, the city would provide the funds for the retrofit, and Melton Bros. Marina would provide the retrofit manpower and then launch and store the boat. Thanks to an excellent working relationship, this initiative is still in place today.

Launch TimeThe clubhouse now needed the members’ attention, and in an aggressive move, the membership voted to demolish the old, renovated clubhouse. In 2005, a dedication ceremony was held for the beautiful, new clubhouse. Three years later, a pavilion on the east side would be added for additional protection from the elements. Just last fall, an extension was added to the deck to provide more room for social functions along with new dock racks and a fresh coat of paint for the clubhouse.

Knowing that good boat handling and knowledge of the wind and water were essential for the club’s survival, 40 students enrolled in the ‘Learn to Sail Program’ offered through the Ontario Sailing Association’s Mobile Sailing School at the club in 1984. This launched CIYC’s own ‘Learn to Sail Program,’ which now employs three Sail Canada certified instructors to teach Sail Canada’s Basic Cruising Standard. This is the only keelboat program offered in the area and has proven to be a huge success. Women also have a fabulous six-week program called ‘Island Girls Sailing Adventure,’ where many women from the community go on to fulfill a lifelong dream of cruising or racing by learning first-hand how to handle a sailboat. To ensure the future success of the club and encourage the next generation to take on the lifelong enjoyment of sailing, one of the club’s future priorities is to establish a Youth Sailing Program.

In The HarbourFrom the AGM potluck to soup/chili cook-offs to the Maple Leaf Regatta Fish Fry, the club members have an active and fun social calendar. CIYC is also involved in many community events like ‘Explore the Shore’ and ‘Sail for CF,’ which has raised more than $40,000 over the last seven years for Cystic Fibrosis. Lasting friendships are made as members are continuously interacting while racing, cruising, or contributing their 20 hours of service to the club. There are boundless opportunities to get involved with social events, grounds upkeep, haul/launch crews, or Little Toot dredging.

At the 40th Anniversary Celebrations, Commodore Darlene Priestley was presented with the brass cannon used in the 1970s to start club races, made by club member Dave Elcomb.The story goes that apparently someone on the RC boat forgot to remove the ramrod that pushed the shell in before the lever was triggered to start the race. The boat starting closest to the committee boat received powder stains on their genoa as they crossed the start line. Sure seems like a novel way to find out if you were OCS! At the commodore’s sailpast, the cannon was ceremoniously shot off to remind members that it still worked.Rumour has it that another past commodore almost got hauled off to jail as he did not know the race mark locations had to be registered.

Recently, a task force was put together to determine the vision statement, goals, objectives, and long range plans for CIYC. Commodore Paul Cairoli felt that, “The strategic plan was a bold move to get the club more in tune with its future, identify areas where we were doing well, areas that needed attention, and those that we were not even aware needed attention. We have since adopted the plan. It will be a living document reviewed annually and revised as conditions warrant.”

Of the many ideas, beautification of the grounds and docks took high priority along with thevision statement,which was true to the ethos of the club and maintained the following values:

– CIYC is a vibrant, fun sailing club with full membership located on the shores of Lake Erie.
– CIYC is dedicated to their members’ total enjoyment of its wonderful atmosphere, the beautiful grounds, facilities, and programs that make up the Club.
– CIYC should strive to be the yacht club where people of all ages and like interests will want to be.
– CIYC will be a model by which all other yacht clubs measure themselves.

As Essex County’s most southern club, it sure has great enticement value. The club burgee says it all: The canary yellow represents the sunny skies of Lake Erie, the Kelly green embodies the topography of Cedar Island, and the royal blue the warm waters of Lake Erie…a perfect combination!

Cedar Island Yacht Club
982 Heritage Rd
Kingsville, ON
(519) 733-2555

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