• History

    The Camden Yacht Club prides itself on its customs and traditions, which originated with the grand age of steam yachts.

    Thanks to the staff of VillageSoup and Knox County Times and Jim Bowditch for the following history...1906-1968 & 1969-2006


The Camden Yacht Club was organized in 1906, and twenty years later Cyrus H.K. Curtis donated the club’s harbor-front property to the town. The property encompassed 1.5 acres at the time of the gift and included a clubhouse built by Curtis in 1911-1912. In 1922, he replaced the club’s wooden bulkhead with granite, and by 1926, when he gifted the property to the town, the land and building were valued at $100,000.

At its inception, there were two types of members of the Camden Yacht Club those who owned a yacht and those who did not. Members with yachts were in the minority, according to documents from the collection of Albert Bennett, now housed at the Camden Area History Center.

In 1929, the Camden Yacht Club arranged its first motor boat regatta. According to the minutes: The Chairman of the Regatta Committee gave a report of the activities of his committee and of the very successful and spectacular affair they pulled off. He reported total receipts to be $4372.66 and total expenditures of $3,772, thus leaving a balance of $600.66.

Regattas continued in 1930 and 1931, and were also profitable. By 1931 the membership had peaked at 150 and the minutes note that the Club is proving to be an important factor in the summer social and sporting life of the community, which is very gratifying to Commodore Curtis, through whose generosity these benefits have been made possible.

By 1932, however, the full weight of the depression began to be felt. Economic conditions bore rather heavily on our membership as we had 20 resignations. There were 32 more resignations in 1933. The Chairman of the Regatta Committee reported that on account of the economic conditions, no activities in that line had taken place.

In 1933, both Commodore Curtis and Vice Commodore Law passed on. It was a passing from an era focusing on motorboats to one focusing on sail, as it was also the first year of the HAJ boat fleet. At the 1933 annual meeting, The Chairman of the House Committee…remarked on the enthusiasm created by the new one class boats, and the keen competition in the races. There were no events in the Power Boat and Outboard Motor sections. All racing was confined to the Shark [HAJ is shark in Swedish] boats, which has created marked interest in younger members.

In about the mid-1960s, boat construction had shifted from mostly wood to largely fiberglass. This meant that used wooden boats could be purchased rather inexpensively, if the owners didn’t mind coping with upkeep.

These changes also created more opportunities for boating. By 1965, active membership, excluding children, had risen to 315, including 85 boat owners. Parking had become a real issue by that time.

In 1966, in addition to inter-club team racing with Christmas Cove, North Haven and Northport, the club competed for the ODay Single-Handed Championship, the Prince of Wales Bowl, the Mallory Cup, the Sears Cup, and the Adams Cup. This was a year of racing triumph with CYC being first in Maine and second in New England.

With the Vietnam War well under way, the demographics were such that people did not come to the area for the entire summer, but rather came for a month at the most, or just weekends.

In 1967 the addition of a fleet of 420s was considered and recommended, based on a large number of such boats at other clubs. This took the club in a different direction than it would have gone with heavy keel boats; 420s are lightweight go fast craft which have been very competitive. It was noted that these would only be suitable for racing in protected waters, and not for sailing in the Bay.

By 1968, the first four 420s were purchased by the club and were subsequently sold to members. A Junior Yacht Club was established within the larger yacht club, consisting mostly of children in the sailing class. The Junior Yacht Club had its own officers, committees and activities, and even issued a set of rules governing conduct at dances: All people under 21 years of age, coats and tie, four sets of chaperones, no smoking inside, no drinking, no loitering, notify police to include dance in their patrol.


In 1969 the 420 fleet expanded to seven boats, while the use of HAJ boats for instruction declined. While there were 70 participants in the sailing program in 1970, interest in the HAJ boat races was off significantly. By 1971, the Camden Yacht Club decided to go with a summer manager, thus relieving the steward of some duties. For the first time, it appears, sailing and cruising instruction was offered to ladies in the club. The social season included hosting the Eastern Yacht Club and the Corinthians

By 1972 there were a lot of young people involved at the Camden Yacht Club, with membership up to 193. Wooden skiffs that had been used in the sailing program were sold and replaced with Boston Whalers, equipped with new motors. Attempts to hold cruising-class races fell short, with only a few boats showing up. The sailing program, meanwhile, continued to attract robust enrollment, with the number of would-be sailors continuing to exceed the supply of boats.

The old Captin Archie launch was replaced by a new fiberglass launch generously donated by Wayfarer Marine. Family Races were reported to be increasingly popular with the membership, using a more informal rating system. It was even suggested that all of the large boat races should be run under the PHRF rating system.

During 1978 several of the older HAJ boats were being reconditioned, and 1979 saw a revival of HAJ boat races. Wednesdays were open grill nights to coincide with the Wednesday night seminars. The Board agreed to purchase a screen for use at the Wednesday Night Seminars, out of their own funds. While aging boats led to decreased enrollment in the sailing program, the HAJ boat fleet was reported to be stronger with seven boats now active in races.

By 1980, Frank Akers had investigated whether the CYC clubhouse might be listed in the National Historic Register, providing some assurance that it would continue with the same architecture. The 1983 season found the Club very active in racing; new boats were purchased for the sailing program and over 100 children and adults were enrolled. Twenty-three new members joined the Club in the summer of 1984, bringing the total membership to the cap of 240, including 116 boat owners and 124 social members.

1985 was a tumultuous year. A lawsuit against the Club, brought by a former club steward, continued throughout 1985, and was not resolved until it went to trial in May of 1987. Ultimately no money was paid to the plaintiff, but the Club incurred considerable expense defending itself, and was not able to recover these costs.

In 1988, the Comfortable Cruise program was established in order to give women of the club experience in big-boat handling. Also in 1988, Camden Yacht Club hosted the Wooden Boats feeder race. At the January meeting, the board heard that there were 109 boat-owning members and 123 social members.

At the end of the autumn in 1989, the officers proposed a revamping of committee structure. It was decided to hire a person to run the office apart from the steward, long-range plans for maintenance were established, and the boat-owner s surcharge began to be eliminated. Membership was capped at 250 persons. Comfortable Cruising and the Camden-Castine race went well. In 1991 a fleet of J/24s, some owned by members, some not, was sponsored by the Camden Yacht Club. It was hoped that, over time, the J/24 owners would all become members. Both parking and dinghy tie-up gave evidence of severe crowding.

In 1992, sailing instruction was made more professional” by having instructors certified by the USSA and having CPR and first aid basics. The exterior balcony was enclosed in 1993, and there was a full racing and cruising season including an extended club cruise, the mini-cruise, Camden-Castine Racing, PHRF racing and Wooden Boat activities.

By 1994, there was again a discussion about a new class of boats, this time at the smaller end of the spectrum. Optimists, which superseded Turnabouts, were well received by students and instructors. In 1995 windows and a rug enhanced the exterior balcony for small group meetings, and The Henry A. Scheel Camden Yacht Club transoceanic cruising flag was announced.

In 1996 the club progressed with e-mail addresses being shared for the first time. In spite of bad weather, the Optimist fleet was represented in the state championships, and a CYC contestant won. The Camden-Castine race was retitled the Pen Bay Regatta, as Castine took a breather from the race. Proposals to increase the size of the membership surfaced in 1997 as the length of the waiting list increased and the membership cap increased to 275 in 1998. Tuesday fun races, the Codger Cup, were scheduled for every other week for adults.

By 2000 volunteer help declined dramatically, the victim of shifting demographics and the two-career family, forcing the club to become more professionally run. In 2001 the first Lasell Island CYC picnic took place in glorious sunshine. There was a very active and successful racing season in 2002. The 420 team from Camden won every race in the Maine Interclub Racing Circuit, two 420 sailors entered the Bemis Trophy and went on to win the regionals, the Maine State Finals, and placed 5th in the national semifinal event.

In 2003, racing patterns changed again; the J/24s were the only active fleet of larger racing boats. As the demographics changed and more members are year-rounders, the CYC had more winter and spring get-togethers.In 2004 plans for the centennial celebrations got underway. Racing included J/24, Camden-Castine, two King of Spain races, and the Codger Cup. A new women s cruise following the season took place into Merchant s Row and Butter Island.

2005 was another very active summer, helped by good weather. A lot of sailing events took place again: J/24s, Codger Cup, Camden-Castine, King of Spain. The mini-cruise was a big success with 23 boats taking part. There were 150 participants in the junior sailing program, and the Wednesday evening Sunset Seminar Series enjoyed another great year.

During the Club s bicentennial year, 2006, Club historian Jim Bowditch noted that demographic patterns and boat designs and materials continue to evolve; the love of being on the waterfront and aboard boats is a constant that spans across the generations, and will continue to attract members to the Club.

Architect John Calvin Stevens

The following story written by Christopher Glass appeared on knoxvillagesoup.com and the Knox County Times “Camden Yacht Club, Celebrating 100 years, 1906 – 2006″ supplement June 21, 2006.

The Camden Yacht Club building is one of the last Shingle Style works of Maine s greatest architect John Calvin Stevens of Portland. By 1912, when it was built, Stevens had pretty well abandoned the style in favor of the more formal Colonial Revival. When asked by Cyrus Curtis to design the club building, Stevens returned for inspiration to some of the cottages he had done 20 years before, especially the development on Cushing s Island in Casco Bay. In “American Domestic Architecture,” the book that he and his then partner Albert Winslow Cobb published in 1889, Stevens supplied picturesque sketches, one of which titled Summer Saunterings shows the landing at the island and the Sargent cottage, which are clearly antecedents for the design of the Camden Yacht Club.

In the book there is a call for architectural attention to structures of a somewhat transitory character. In the purple prose of the time, Stevens and Cobb wrote, It is indeed of far more importance that during our day and generation we live wholesomely together in brotherly love and something like community of efforts, than that we build splendid, long-enduring monuments to capture the wonder of coming generations. By the time the Camden Yacht Club was designed Stevens had been the architect of record of Portland City Hall and what is now the Hyde School, so he was familiar with enduring monuments. But the yacht club was clearly an expression of community of efforts.

One other influence in the design was the growing interest in Japanese architecture exemplified by the publication of Portland native Edwin S. Morse s “Japanese Homes and their Surroundings” in 1886. The intricate framing on the porte-cocher is suggestive of Japanese framing, and the overall hipped mass of the building is like the thatched-roof country houses of Japan.

The builder of the club was local architect-builder Cyrus Porter Brown, who also built the Capen and Hager houses along Bay View Street to design by Stevens, and who designed as well as built what is now the Rogers house on upper Chestnut Street.

Because of its significance to Camden s history and its connection with Cyrus Curtis and John Calvin Stevens, the Camden Yacht Club was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Christopher Glass moved to Maine to practice architecture in 1970. After living in the Rangeley area for a number of years he and his wife Rosalee moved to Camden, where he opened his practice in 1974. He has designed numerous houses and additions and has been active in historic preservation. For nine years he was author and illustrator of the Newsletter for Maine Citizens for Historic Preservation, and he is currently vice president of Maine Preservation. For 12 years he was a member of the Maine Historic Preservation Commission. He received the State of Maine Historic Preservation Award in 1991, and the Maine Preservation Statewide Historic Preservation Honor Award in 2000.

Cyrus H.K. Curtis

Cyrus H.K. Curtis, benefactor of the Camden Yacht Club and its longest-serving commodore, and publisher of magazines such as Ladies Home Journal and The Saturday Evening Post, surely wrote many notable comments during his lifetime, much of which was spent along the coast of Maine.

There are two kinds of men who never amount to much: those who cannot do what they are told and those who can do nothing else.” Cyrus H.K. Curtis

Curtis belonged to more than one club, yet to the CYC he gave a special gift. On August 23, 1926, Curtis surprised those attending the Club’s annual meeting by giving the yacht club property to the Town of Camden.

George Phelps
J. C. Strawbridge
Chauncey B. Borland
Cyrus H.K. Curtis
Chauncey B. Borland
P. Exton Guckes
John Ames
Ambrose Cramer
Richard H. L. Sexton
John Ames
P. Exton Guckes
Richard H. L. Sexton
Albert Chatfield
John Taylor
George Todd
Robert Eddy
George Thurber, Jr.
George Todd
John Whitney, Jr.
Albert Emanuel II
Frank Akers
George Lawson
Alfred Osgood
Dana Barnes
John Taylor
George Lawson
James Bowditch
John Foskett
Sid LeFavour-Clemens
Sidney Lindsley
Barton (Woody) Emanuel
Christopher Beebe
John Sherman
Marie Underwood
Robert Rooks
Ann Pattison
Peter Van Alstine
William (Sandy) Welte
J. Randall Whitney, III