By Dory Gasorek
The Barnegat Light Yacht Club, BLYC, was founded in 1928 by twenty-four people who gathered in their homes near Harvey Cedars Cove. Dr. E. Howell Smith, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Dentistry and resident of 78th Street, called the club’s first meeting. Originally named the High Point Yacht Club after the High Point neighborhood in the borough where it is located, the club changed its name in 1932 after discovering another club already used that name. The new name, Barnegat Light Yacht Club, was derived from the prominent landmark in the area, the Barnegat Lighthouse. Although it may appear that the club was named after a more northerly town on Long Beach Island, at that time the town of Barnegat Light was named Barnegat City. The city’s name change to Barnegat Light took place almost twenty years later.
In 1930, BLYC members bought land on Barnegat Bay at 76th Street in Harvey Cedars for $2000 and constructed a clubhouse for $6000, which is still standing today. The clubhouse was built to accommodate forty families. Annual dues of $25 were payable in monthly installments during the Depression. Initially, the club was primarily a social organization, hosting weekly dinner parties with food prepared by members. Tickets were $2 for adults and $1 for children. BLYC was open from July 4 until Labor Day. Most weekends, member Frank Smith entertained guests with piano music and singalongs. A band was hired for the bigger end-of-season event. Saturday handicapped sailboat races occurred during the season and were open to both members and non-members. It would be many years before there were enough sailboats of one type to run a specific class race.
During the Depression, BLYC membership numbers were low, hovering around thirty. Despite the lower-than-expected level of membership, the club was successful. To help pay off the mortgage and dock, a barroom was added with individual member lockers for liquor, and three slot machines were installed. Alcoholic refreshments were limited to three bottles of whiskey, three bottles of gin and a jug each of Manhattans and martinis per week at the dinners. Once the limited allotment was consumed, members used libations from their private liquor lockers, a practice that continued for another thirty years.
World War II was a challenging time for the club, with most of the men away serving in the military and no club activities taking place. Dues were eliminated and replaced with voluntary contributions to help pay off debts and expenses. After the war, younger second-generation members began to join, and dues were reinstated at $25 annually, with membership hovering at around twenty. A bulkhead was built with a davit and hoist system to lower boats into the water, replacing the method of sliding them into the bay. At that time, there were only two other yacht clubs on the Island, but additional clubs were established in the area beginning in the late 1940s, and active adult racing competitions between the clubs began, especially in Comets and Moths. Other boats, like Dusters, Cats, and Stars, were also sailed locally around Sandy Island off Harvey Cedars on Saturday afternoons with prizes, such as a crab net, a paddle, or an anchor for first place.
During the 1950s and 1960s as BLYC membership grew, the clubhouse underwent renovations, and a T-pier was installed. A standing invitation to participate in sailing races was extended to non-members, a practice that continues to this day, and the club saw an influx of sailing competitors each weekend. By the 1960s, adult sailing had expanded to include Lightning sailboats, which remain a key boat for the club.
Throughout the 1970s, membership increased to seventy. Name badges were established, the porch was enclosed, bulkheads were expanded, and new hoists were purchased. Lightnings and Sunfish were actively sailed.
In the early 1980s, a group of concerned past commodores from five local yacht clubs, including BLYC member William S. Clarke, came together to address the decline of sailing and racing on the Island. This group gathered support from their respective clubs, which led to the formation of the Long Beach Island Yacht Racing Association in 1983. LBIYRA encourages both youth and adult racing among the Island clubs and participation in other regattas. The first Youth Interclub Regatta was held that summer, and every summer since. Young sailors from the Island have raced against each other in Optimist Prams, Sunfish, Laser, and Club 420 boats. Adults also race across multiple classes of boats during Race Week in mid-summer.
In 1986, Maryann Toedtman became Commodore, marking the beginning of women taking on leadership roles within BLYC. Two years later the dock was expanded to include additional boat slips. A large deck was added shortly thereafter. Commodore Allan Wahlberg’s wife, Barbara, initiated a formal ladies’ organization which published a cookbook, organized weekly activities, including the first ladies golf outing, and operated a boutique. By the 1990s, membership had
grown to over eighty-five with several third-generation members. Additional sailboats and power boats were purchased for the youth program as it remained strong with over one hundred children participating.
Over the past twenty years BLYC has continued to support local sailing and social events, hosting the Central Atlantic District and New Jersey State Lightning Championships periodically and maintaining other adult fleets of Sandpiper and Sanderling Cat Boats and Sunfish. As an all-volunteer club, BLYC’s members take active roles across many functions based upon their background, talent, profession, and interest. Weekly socials are held from June to September, with committees planning the evening’s food and entertainment as varied as hosting local bands to themed dinner parties, even game shows. BLYC supports our community, holding fundraisers for the Island library, Southern Ocean County Hospital, the High Point Volunteer Fire Company, ReClam the Bay, and the St. Francis Food Bank. Our youth program as well as weekend adult racing, are open to non-members, and BLYC is the only yacht club on the Island that welcomes community children to participate in our program offerings. As BLYC celebrates its 95th anniversary this year, our members continue to be grateful to be able to enjoy the beauty of Long Beach Island and the camaraderie of others committed to fun, competitiveness, community, and friendship.
THE YOUTH PROGRAM:
The Barnegat Light Yacht Club has been a hub for sailing and swimming activities for community children since the 1950s. Organized sailing races for teenagers on Long Beach Island began during that time. Junior members raced El Toros, Sailfish, and Sunfish over the next two decades. In the early 1960s, BLYC established a formal summer youth sailing program for teenagers on Sunfish and Lightnings. The program also included swimming instruction and was expanded to younger children in subsequent years. In 1985, the club purchased two Optimist Prams as an alternative to the Sunfish in the youth program. Within seven years this boat became the craft of choice for learning on Long Beach Island and around the world. Lasers and Club 420s were added over time. Many BLYC sailors have successfully competed in these boat classes across the Island, at the state level, and even internationally. The key theme of BLYC’s youth program is to develop a love of sailing in young people that will last a lifetime, and the club takes pride in achieving that goal.
Today, the youth program has three parts: traditional swimming, sailing, and a new Sandpiper class. Daily swim classes are available for children ages four to sixteen. Additionally, the club has a swim team that competes against other clubs on the Island throughout the summer season. Sailing begins at age seven in Optimist Prams and continues with Lasers and Club 420s in the teenage years. The club supports racing teams at each age level. For students who do not wish to race competitively, BLYC offers an Adventure sailing program, which features the use of a variety of boats to learn and enjoy sailing in a relaxed format. This summer a new class for six- to seven-year-olds will be offered to introduce children to BLYC’s waterfront program. Through outdoor activities and games, children will learn about the Island, the bay, local wildlife, ocean safety, and more.
Visit www.barnegatlightyachtclub.com for more information. If you are interested in membership, please reach out to Membership Chair Susan Lewis at email@example.com.