HARBOUR YACHT CLUB HISTORY
Painting of the tower, as
in Tower Harbour Yacht Club, which was located on the bluff overlooking
Notes on the Founding of Tower Harbor Yacht Club in 1983
On a sultry Sunday Morning in early Summer, 1983, Don Weston (Nepenthe)
boarded the boat of his slip mate, Tom Germeraad (Rhumb Liner), for
their regular Sunday Bloody Mary and conversation. Don, the
Dean of the Medical School at Michigan State, had a habit of reading
several newspapers on Sunday and had found a cartoon he felt
represented a common interest. The strip showed two Vikings
looking at their worn leather sandals with one saying "lets start a
yacht club so we can get a pair of those fancy boat shoes".
From this shared chuckle, explained Tom Germeraad recently when
reflecting on the THYC beginnings, germinated the idea of beginning a
sailboat racing club. There had been informal racing from the
marina since 1980, but without organizational support. The
racers created race mark anchors from cement poured into cardboard box
Don ("Doc") Weston became the first Club Commodore (1985-86)
and Tom Germeraad the first Vice Commodore and Race Chairman.
Jo Winn became the Secretary/ Treasurer. Jo lived in the Douglas area
and provided local support, together with RJ Peterson, for
weekend social activities. R.J. was very supportive of the
Club development from the beginning.
The new club had a strong powerboat membership from the start and the
first THYC newsletter editor and a historian came from this group.
Tom Germeraad was elected the second Commodore for the 1987-88 seasons.
There had been talk with RJ about a clubhouse. In the middle of the
1988 season, RJ discovered a small building that had supposedly been
used as a chicken coop that he gave to the Club members to develop into
a club. Tom remembers returning from the "Mac" race
that summer to find what other members called the "yacht hut" sitting
in the parking lot. RJ had the building gutted and remodeled,
while Club members cleaned and painted to create our current
clubhouse. In its first year there was no running water or
electricity and kerosene lanterns provided lights for evening meetings.
During this period THYC began a Youth Activities Program as this
generation of club members began to have children and
grandchildren. These activities included dinghy sailboat
races, rowing contests, and Mt. Baldhead climbing races. At
one point in the late 80s there was
an attempt to collaborate with the Saugatuck Yacht Club to provide
boat sailing training (SYC) and large boat racing experience (THYC) for
both Club youngsters. Politics scuttled the effort.
Sailboat racing interest grew to a peak of competition
between 22 boats, with an average of 12 to 15 core racers during the
late 80s. When Marcia Weston, a well liked Club member,
passed away from heart disease, the Weston Cup was inaugurated to honor
the winner of the Memorial Day Race. The cup was purchased with club
member donations and owes its large size to Marcia's popularity.
Of interest is that Don Weston put Nepenthe up for sale in the early
90s. Jim Karczewski and Carol Roberts, who owned separate
sailboats in the marina, combined their resources to purchase this
beautiful boat and continued its fine local racing success.
In the Spring of
1999 Jim and Carol, after some keel modifications to Nepenthe, left
to take her cruising around the world. They donated the Nepenthe Cup,
award for the most races won in a season, before they left.
web site update puts them somewhere north of the Philippine Islands.
The following is a list of Tower Harbour Yacht Club commodores:
||1985 - 1986
||1987 - 1988
||1989 - 1990
||1991 - 1992
||1993 - 1994
||1995 - 1996
||1997 - 1998
||1999 - 2000
||2001 - 2002
||2004 - 2005
||2006 - 2007
||2008 - 2009
||2010 - 2011
||2012 - 2013
||2014 - 2017
OF TOWER MARINA
Until the mid 1950’s, commercial yacht dockage and services
for the Saugatuck/ Douglas area were mostly non-existent.
Yachts coming up the Kalamazoo River would battle for the few spaces on
the pier running from Hoffman Street to the former Big
Pavilion. Most boats would anchor out in the lake (or later
use permanent mooring buoys installed by the Village) to reach town by
dinghy, as some still do.
Frank Denison, a boat builder in the area and in Florida at that time,
purchased a small peninsula on the southwest shore of Lake Kalamazoo
that had been the causeway for the old Blue Star Highway
Bridge. There he built the Pier Marina, the first full
service dockage and storage facility. In the early
1960’s, the Saugatuck Yacht Service was established by a
Saugatuck and Holland Syndicate near the mouth of Moore’s
Creek. It offered over 100 slips and large storage sheds on
site and up on Maple street.
In 1964 Roland E. Peterson came to town after having retired from
operating a successful boat building business in Gary,
Indiana. His company, which he turned over to his son Roland
J Peterson, produced an all-steel river houseboat called the River
Queen, several of which still grace our area. Should your
boat be disabled in the vicinity of the Kalamazoo River, you may find
R. J. Peterson arriving to the rescue aboard his River Queen. The elder
Peterson purchased riverfront property at the mouth of
Moore’s Creek which had been part of the H.D. Moore Park
estate. He cleared and dredged the stream to the mouth of the
river and constructed a lagoon. Peterson also built a substantial home
on the river for himself and constructed, using salvaged material, a
small authentic and working grist mill on Moore’s Creek the
turned its wheel.
During this same period, R.E. Peterson was declared the “man
of the year” by the Saugatuck Chamber of Commerce.
During the short time this “retired” consummate
developer had been in town, he had renewed the old chain
ferry. He then purchased and brought the 346’ Lake
steamer, Keewatin, into Lake Kalamazoo to eventually serve as a lake
steamer maritime museum. The Keewatin, which in 1908 began
Great Lakes work running passengers and cargo from western Lake
to the east coast of Georgian Bay connecting railroad service from
Ontario to Montreal, was retired from service in 1965.
acquired the beautiful ship and a remarkable story to tell about its
transport to its present location. After spending the summer
of 1967-68 aground in the river just below Mt. Baldhead, she was towed
and winched into a dredged slip alongside the Tower Marina
she remained until 1980 when she was moved to her present site near the
fruit-shipping Red Dock.
In 1968 R.E. Peterson decided to move his River Queen plant to
Douglas. For this purpose he bought the vacant building that
was once George Harding’s first hotel. Next the Petersons
purchased the adjacent Terrace Park Resort on the southwest corner of
Kalamazoo Lake for the purpose of building the present Tower Marina.
The new marina was to have a total capacity of over 250 boats
distributed over several long piers. The construction
involved considerable dredging of the marshy south shore and defeating
a lawsuit initiated by local environmentalists. From its
opening day, Tower Marina was a success and nearly doubled the number
of number of boats moored in the area and continues to grow.
This club history was written by John Shack.