Yacht Club Lore
A collection of stories from our members
History of the Wawasee Yacht Club
As Told By Sweet ol’ John Call
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and, although this might be subject to some theological interpretation, the Wawasee Yacht Club. I’ve been asked to write a brief history of the WYC portion, which sort of ticks me off because it’s clear to me that the assumption is that I was there. I was not there for the WYC part, let alone the heavens and the earth as was recently suggested. I did hear some stories from my parents but I was not there for any of this.
Apparently, although I WAS NOT THERE, a few young guys from Fort Wayne had gone to Michigan skiing together. The skiing stories around the WYC locker room (I was there) were mostly about how there were no ski lifts or resorts back then. They just drove until they found a big hill, walked up it and skied down, sometimes twice, before they went looking for a bar. At any rate they discovered that they had a common interest in sailing and as one thing leads to another, they soon had revived the Wawasee Yacht Club with headquarters on the front porch of Bishop’s Boat House. (Bishop’s was just two or three doors west of Sargent’s Hotel (& bar) which was on the west side of the current Lilly property.) They “Revived” the Club with a lot of support from Eli Lilly, another avid sailor who had raced with the original Wawasee Yacht Club. I think Mr. Lilly (whom I had fond memories of long before I knew who he was) saw the club as a revival of the old club instead of a new creation. Coincidentally, Mr. Lilly and Mr. Bishop were good friends.
Racing was the prime motivator from the start. The new Club was formed around the Snipe Class, a new and popular class that had been well promoted by Rudder Magazine ( and is still one of the premier classes of the world). One of the advantages of the Snipe was that it could be easily home built (Debatable) and several of the early boats were very competitively built by founding members Joe Plasket and/or Mac McCammon. The Snipe National Championship was held at Wawasee in 1938 and was won by Darby Metcalf of Newport Harbor, California.
My earliest memories are from the early forties. Club activity was down somewhat at this time because people, particularly Indianapolis area people, had trouble getting gas and tires to get to the lake due to the war effort. Never-the-less the National One-Design class, also promoted by Rudder Magazine, had gained a strong foothold at WYC. I first heard about a Lightning about ‘46 or ‘47 and by the end of the ‘48 season the National-One sailors had all switched to Lightnings. The National-One class didn’t survive. The Snipe class was active at WYC through the ‘54 season and collapsed all at once. Most of the Snipe sailors, except the two Tillmen boats, were from the Indianapolis area and switched to the new and much closer Indianapolis Sailing Club for the ‘55 season. Both Tillmans were now in the Naval Academy which kept their summers full.
That left the WYC as a single class (Lightning) club once again. (It’s worth noting that all this sailing was done in wooden boats with wooden masts, cotton sails and bronze hardware.) Back in the late thirties, the Club was growing fast and needed new digs, preferably on the calmer west side of the lake because all boats were left on moorings during the week and the Bishop location was very choppy. Boats were being damaged. The existing clubhouse was purchased in 1938 (Prox.?) with a lot of help from Mr. Lilly. The membership did all the remodeling work and the pine paneled living room is all that remains of that membership work of sixty-five years ago.
Originally, the existing sail loft was the men’s bunk room, the “Hold” was the men’s locker room, the porch was perhaps a third of its present size, the west half of the recently remodeled kitchen was the entire kitchen and the east half was the woman’s bunk and locker room. The little white out-house still standing at the north end of the dorm was “It”. there were no other sanitary facilities except for a swim in the lake. The cubbies were built as dorms and locker rooms with toilets and showers in about 1946 with membership labor from a Sears pre-fab kit and an old apple house moved from Freman’s Orchard across the street. The major remodeling of 2001 is not yet history. Things remained reasonably unchanged from 1955 until the merger of the WBA and WYC in perhaps ‘96(?). (Although somewhere in there the ladies stopped taking turns cooking for the whole club every Saturday evening.)
Sweet ol’ John Call
p.s. I’ll tell you about my conversations with Abe Lincoln some other time.
Opening Race Day of the WBA
As Told By Alan Fox
While it is widely known that Berkley Duck’s back porch played an important part in the formation of the Wawasee Boating Association, it may not have been recalled at all that his pontoon boat nearly negated all that his back porch contributed.
As preparations for the first race were being finalized, the shortage of manpower required that his pontoon boat be used to put out the marks as well as provide committee boat services. There was a shortage of mark and course management personnel so Pam volunteered to assist the race committee prior to crewing in the race.
Berk drove the committee boat and Pam helped with laying out the course, including dropping the buoys at their appropriate spots. I conducted the skippers meeting and single handed our Y-Flyer out to the race course where I planned to rendezvous with the pontoon boat and pick up my crew.
Berk had a style that was to provide us with numerous adventures in the early days of the WBA, and he promptly introduced me to it. As I was attempting to sail along the port side of the committee boat, he quickly turned 90* left, impaling the Y-Flyer on the left front pontoon. I recall saying something like “Berk, why did you do that?” The race was delayed and the Y-Flyer was towed to shore. Thanks to Duck’s duct tape we patched my boat and Berk and I went on to sail many races, and establish a long term friendship. But it almost ended before it began!
How I Almost Didn’t Join the Wawasee Yacht Club
by Susan Sharp
My friend Karen convinced me to go sailing with her on her Sunfish - a maiden voyage so-to-speak - just to see if I would like it. Well, as many people know, a Sunfish does accommodate two people, but not really very well. Our tacks were perhaps a bit clumsy, with two adults shifting about, but all in all we were sailing along fine and having a grand time. Then, on a tack, the wind direction feather indicator, at the front of the boat, got tangled in the halyard on the spar and it was about to break loose. So, since Karen was skippering, she headed into the wind, let out the main, and slowed our progress so I could snake out on the deck to fix the problem. Just as I was doing this, a huge puff of wind caught the sail, yanking the main sheet out of Karen’s hand, and causing the boat to jibe. I was caught off-balance and knocked into the water by the boom. The boat screamed off on it’s new tack at break-neck speed as the main sheet grabbed hold of my sunglasses, my cap and trailing pony tail, dragging me along under water like a fishing lure. I could hear commotion on the surface as Karen shouted and grappled to gain control of the main. After what seemed like eternity, I felt her hand tugging at my head. My cap and a big clump of hair came off in her hand, but I was freed from the tangled mess and my head popped out of the water like a cork. I took a deep breath of much-needed air, caught hold of the boat and shimmied back on. Karen sat at the helm gripping my cap, sunglasses and knot of twisted hair. We were both pretty stunned at first and then the tension eased with gales of laughter when I retorted that I had heard of club initiations before, but this was the ultimate in ridiculousness. Oh, and by the way, the feather wind indicator was lost, believed to still be resting in the depths of Lake Wawasee.
The Superstition of Christening Boats & Yachts
By J.B. VanMeter
Sailing has turned us into a superstitious lot of characters. Mother Nature holds your fate, whether crossing the Atlantic or trying to be the first to the north shore of Wawasee. She’s known to be quite unpredictable, unfair, and sometimes unrelenting.
When dealing with Mother Nature on her terms, we rely on our boat and our wit, the latter being of question. Ideally, we are one with Mother Nature as our boat safely delivers us to the Promised Land. Too often, we find ourselves at her mercy. No wonder the close attachment between man and boat. And, no wonder, we often find ourselves talking to the inanimate object that is our boat. In these conversations, the boat needs a name-- and it is a good rule of thumb to treat your boat like a lady. Her character is soft but can reflect the temperament and elements of the great outdoors: Beautiful and a pleasure, but always a bit unpredictable, very complicated, and then there is that dark side...
“She” needs a name, aiding in communication, reflecting her personality and feeding the notion that Mother Nature would never harm another woman. Good ol’ Mother Nature could care less about the guys on our boat, so maybe she will show some compassion for our lady.
Not all boats are named after women. Some have more patriotic themes: “Intrepid”, “Freedom”, “Stars and Stripes”. The well known Buddy Melges names his scows after ducks. E-Scow sailors have chased “Teal” around the course for the last few years realizing they would need a shotgun and a dog to catch the Olympic champion. Many E-Scow teams incorporate the beloved “E” into the name of their craft: “No-Guts-No-Glor-E”, “E-Racer”, “Hack-E”, “Bolles-E”. Whatever the name, though, the boat is referred to as “she”.
My crew and I are new to E-Scows. We were naturally drawn to the class because the sails are big, they can travel “wicked fast” and the competition is really good. A few years back, a WYC member was transitioning from fast boats to fast cars, and offered his E-Scow, “Sassy,” to us. We took, and were off to the races.
“Sassy” she was! Without measurable wit, we took her out and she had her way with us. Keeping her pointy end up was more difficult than we ever imagined. Was “Sassy” a sailboat or a rodeo bull? We learned that names have meaning, and her name fit like a glove. But rule #1 of owning a boat (or so I was brought up to believe): It’s bad luck to change her name. AND never, ever, fool with luck and superstition. Hmmmm. Who knows what could happen? What a dilemma...
Something had to give--Her name had to change. It was a big risk, but our last chance at taming her personality. One Sunday morning, using a piece of masking tape and a Sharpie marker, we went to an interim name: “The Boat Formerly Known as Sassy.” Suddenly, she treated us a little better. After some thought, reflection, and libation her permanent name came to us: Why not something with a triple meaning? Two of us on board hail from Lake Tippecanoe....you know, Lake “Tippe”. She did capsize often, and she was, of course, a fine E-Scow.
So, we named her after our home lake, equally reflected her past affection to capsize at will, not forgetting the E. “TIPP-E”. How fitting.
So, her name is not very patriotic and we have no ducks on board. However, we seemed to have survived the curse of changing her name and everyone feels right at home. Knock on wood, we are looking for another great season on Lake Wawasee.