Thunderbird Yacht Club
In the years since its official founding in 1972, Thunderbird Yacht Club (TBYC) has a history that could be the envy of similar clubs that are much older. Often people become affiliated with an organization, knowing it to be a going concern, but giving little, if any, thought as to just what made it that way – taking for granted the accomplishments arising from the foresight of early members, the sweat of many more, and the capacity of the early Boards of Directors for shouldering frightening burdens of debt.
It was not to boast of TBYC’s accomplishments that 1979 Commodore Ken Dale compiled a Club history; rather it was to provide the vast majority of members with a brief account of what had transpired over a relatively short span of years to bring TBYC to its present stature.
In addition to acquainting newer members with Club events leading to the present, it was hoped that older members would find themselves recalling those early meetings, cruises on which we had such good times, and the work parties where men and women and sometimes whole families pitched in and helped to utilize the many, many dollars of “scrounged” materials that would never have reached our Club were it not for the fact that certain of our members were experts at locating spare hardware and lumber.
Older members will find themselves recalling some of the sadder occasions and will pause to remember the real privilege that was theirs to know, work and play with such folk as Andy Rathie, John Girard, Dennis Girvan, Marg Humphries, Bill Barton, Chris Slater, Dr. Bill Mitchell, Ethel McIntrye, Mac Russell, George Patrick Sr., Norm Jorgensen and Harry Lee. They were all there at both the “laying of the keel” and the eventual launching. Their memory will remain.
It all began in the late 1950’s about the time Thunderbird Marina was built. Andrew Rathie, Bert Warrick, Cyril Ward and Jon Strachan, all boaters who moored at Thunderbird Marina, began boating together. They cruised to Silva Bay, Genoa Bay, Degnen Bay and Telegraph Harbour. Genoa Bay – because of its facilities – was the favourite spot and was their rendezvous most weekends.
It was not long before this group started to refer to themselves as members of the “Thunderbird Yacht Club”. Some say it was because of the Thunderbird Marina connection, but Bert’s daughter Linda says the Club name came from a thunderbird wooden piggy bank that Bert kept on the boat.
One occasion found Andy Rathie and Bert Warrick docking at the Seattle Yacht Club where, as members of the Thunderbird Yacht Club, they were accorded all the hospitality and privileges of members of an accredited club! Later, Bert made several more trips to Seattle, and always received the same treatment, a most cordial welcome.
Bert and Andy agreed that they should pursue the forming of a bona fide club, but late in the 60’s Andy moved away from the area and plans were shelved. Upon Andy’s return in 1971, he set about to rekindle the interest of the group, suggesting they should seriously proceed with the formation of a club and having it formally registered under the Societies Act of B.C. In June of 1971, 58 individuals met at Gleneagles Golf Club to consider the idea.
Other boaters at Thunderbird Marina were canvassed and by June 1972 the Club became a reality with a charter roster of some 58 members. Initially, the constitution and bylaws of Burrard Yacht Club were adopted with some stipulations as to size of boats, etc. A ceiling of 100 members was also adopted, which remained in place for many years. These restrictions were put in place for a very good reason – the Club’s objective was companionship in cruising and out-moorage for members - an impossibility if numbers and sizes of crafts were unlimited.
The first slate of officers consisted of:
COMMODORE BERT WARRICK
VICE-COMMODORE DON McLEAN
REAR COMMODORE BOB ANDERSON
FLEET CAPTAIN ANDREW RATHIE
There were 10 Directors drawn from the general membership, some of whom were members’ wives. An immediate campaign began to recruit members, and it was no time before the magic number 100 was reached, in which there was a sailing division of about 15.
Out-moorage remained high on the list of priorities with Bob Anderson clocking many hours on the “Kemo Sabay” in search of suitable spots for the safe moorage of members’ craft after a day at sea.
To maintain continuity of effort, Bert served a second term as Commodore and Bob continued to ride herd on outstations. The first Sail Past was held in 1973.
Finding a Home
It is to be noted that in Bert’s message to members in the 1974 roster, he said “…we have obtained a lease for the foreshore property at Ekins Point in Howe Sound and have installed 280 feet of floats there.” In the same message, Bert announced “…we have also provided moorage at Secret Cove.” These were modest and unassuming statements considering the time and effort that went into long, tough negotiations for the Ekins water lease with the bureaucratic process in Victoria on the part of Bob Anderson.
For some years prior to this, Howe Sound was a popular cruising area for Bob, Mike Dale, Mike Frost and others. After the Club was formed, and Bob began a search of the shore of Gambier for a likely spot, Harry Smith (a Club member and operator of “Smitty’s” at Gibsons) suggested that the Club should take a look at Ekins Point and the quiet bay it sheltered. After a successful pursuit and the lease becoming a “sure thing”, Harry was instrumental in getting the original moorage facilities in place. Since then, Ekins has been home base for TBYC.
A quick assessment of the history of Ekins Point Landing will reveal it was named by Captain Richards of the HMS Plumper circa 1860 for Admiral Sir Charles Ekins who served with the Royal Navy from 1781 to 1841. Admiral Ekins was captain of HMS Defense (74 guns) from 1806-1811. Prior to World War II, a Japanese group ran a shake bolt operation at the top of the island, skidding the material down the mountain via log chutes to the road that leads away from the main Club float. When the Japanese were moved inland after Pearl Harbour, they left literally miles of shake bolts piled six feet high around the lake and the top of the mountain. These too have disappeared. In that area, a homesteader named Charlie Linfot trapped large prawns close to shore and operated a fairly large apple orchard east of our present location. This proved a good source of supply for the boys who would from time to time visit the orchard. Some of our explorer types might search for this orchard. Hullah Bay, around the point from our property, was the headquarters for the Huloha Ski Club. Art Hullah leased that part of the foreshore now occupied by Thunderbird Yacht Club (so we are told). The club disbanded about 1962 on the death of Hullah.
During the first two years, a pattern for Club events was established. This was generally followed up to the mid 2010’s: a Spring Cruise on the long weekend in May, the annual Sail Past in June, the Fall Cruise on the Labour Day weekend, followed in November by the Fall Dance, ultimately renamed the Commodore’s Ball. Prizes and trophies for the year were presented at the Ball and at this time the Bent Prop trophy is won for “unusual seamanship” after much secrecy. In the early stages, cruises were made to Silva Bay, Manana, and on one occasion, Wigwam Inn. As Ekins became better developed, it also became the venue for most events.
Don McLean became the second Commodore in 1975 and it was during Don’s year that the Sailing Division was given its’ release, from which was born the “Tiddly Cove Yacht Club”. The split was on an amicable basis and the new club got off to a good start financially by having its share of accrued dues returned. Meanwhile, Don kept Bob Anderson in the all important job of finding outstations, and by the time Bob assumed office as Commodore in 1976, his message read in part “…we have been fortunate in procuring space at both Pender Harbour and Silva Bay. This now assures us of two outstations in the Gulf Islands – Telegraph Harbour and Silva Bay – and two on the Sechelt coast – Pender and Secret Cove.”
The Fight for Ekins
At this point in time, we had neighbours to the east of our Ekins floats occupying water lease #388. This lease was in the name of Jack Sterling who owned the land (6.8 acres) fronting on the bay. The lease was sublet by the Martins and for many years the floats in that area were known as the Martin floats. Jack Sterling had a small float on the point of land comprising the west shore to Thunderbird’s water lease. This was not a legal float, but as Sterling owned the land, it was considered to be his access to it.
As our activities grew and as Ekins Point became more and more the centre of these activities, members began to realize what a valuable piece of wilderness the Club had, and just how much more valuable it would be if we had it all – both water and land. At this time Jack Sterling was making comments on his eventual retirement, and Bert Warrick and Bob Anderson initiated informal talks with him about the possibility of the Club acquiring his land on condition we could also have the water lease used by Martin upon its expiration. These informal talks continued to the point where Sterling stated an asking price of $57,000 for his land and the floats on both leases. Up to this point in time, it had been a conversation, but now we had Sterling’s agreement to give the Club first right of refusal.
Succeeding Bob Anderson as Commodore in 1977, Alan Humphries and his Board gave serious consideration to Sterling’s offer, endeavoring to invent a method whereby the Club could “swing it”. During this period, the Club membership was aware of the various discussions and there seemed to be two camps – one anxious to become property owners, and another not so keen on seeing the treasury depleted or dues increased. They were quite happy with the status quo.
Meanwhile the Club continued to function under Alan’s guidance, floats were improved on water lease #2413 and permit to dredge was obtained to give us more depth toward the shore end of the moorage.
By mid-1977, the Club was faced with the necessity for definitive action one way or another. Commodore Alan and his Board called a general meeting of the members for September 10th to be held in the “Park” on Sterling’s land which we were using much as squatters would, but with Sterling’s less than enthusiastic permission. This meeting was for the purpose of resolving our dilemma. Bert Warwick gave a very complete and concise run down on events leading up to the meeting and while there were those present who would act immediately, it was decided that the matter would be put to the whole Club membership and a mail-in ballot was taken. This ballot resulted in 87% of those voting being in favour of making the purchase, provided we could be assured of obtaining title to both water leases in our name upon their expiration.
The Directors then began a series of meetings and discussions with the Parks Branch of the Department of Lands in an endeavour to get the assurance we required in order to proceed. We were between a rock and a hard place on this. We had friends in the Department who wanted to see us satisfied, but there was no unanimity among the bureaucrats. There were those, including a deputy minister, who were wholly opposed to our plea and were adamant that the property in question would become a Provincial Marine Park.
By this time, we were into 1978, Ron Suche’s year as Commodore, and still nothing had been resolved. All arguments fell on deaf ears and it appeared we were close to losing our battle. With the feeling that if we owned the land we would be in a preferred position regarding the water leases, the Board proceeded contrary to the exact terms of the ballot and went ahead and bought the land, borrowing the necessary funs from the Royal Bank for that purpose. What was not generally known nor appreciated is that one member, namely John Swallow, who was Club Treasurer at that time, put up personal collateral on our behalf pending getting funds from the membership via debentures. What we did not reckon on was the possibility of a number of members backing out of the situation, and we ended up with a large bank loan and an exodus of members from the Club.
Club Directors were indebted to members who remained loyal and carried out their commitments. The great disappointment, quite unexpected, was the loss of members who were being counted on to honour their obligations in accordance with the result of the ballot.
Ron Suche’s year as Commodore saw a constant battle with Victoria bureaucracy with regard to the water leases. Interest rates were hovering around 15%, and together these factors presented a very uncomfortable situation. When it became evident we were fighting a losing battle, we then entered into negotiations to sell the property to the Parks Branch on the understanding we would get an extension, as tenants, for a further five years of enjoyment of the property. According to the Department brass, this was an accomplished fact, but when the chips were down, they had no authority to act. It was then that we offered to turn the whole property, lands and floats, over to the Parks Branch for a fixed price and vacate, hoping they would consider another spot for us.
Here too, was a “solid deal we could count on”, but the Department failed to come through, keeping us dangling by making no commitment in any direction. Ron’s year was rapidly drawing to a close – a year that started with 80 boats and this number was decreasing at a rapid pace!
Determined to get some action, Commodore Ron Suche delegated Club members Jim Patrick, Harry Lee and Ken Dale to stay with Victoria until we could bring the whole matter to a conclusion. After several trips of a fruitless nature to the capital city, they went directly to Premier Bill Bennet with a letter signed by Vice Commodore Ken Dale, in which the department of the Honorable Sam Bawlf was accused of treating us in a cavalier manner and of being responsible for the drop in Club membership, and perhaps the collapse of the whole Club. At last we got action! Coincidentally, Sam Bawlf was removed from the Ministry and replaced with James Chabot.
Chabot sent an emissary to Vancouver to get the facts, and upon the return of this man to Victoria, we got word that the Ministry was no longer interested in our property and that the leases would be forthcoming immediately. The leases were issued on the day of the Club’s Annual General Meeting in January 1979 and picked up by Ken Dale on that day and taken to the meeting.
This did not mean the end of our troubles, however, for we were losing members faster than we could recruit. The roster for the year 1979 – Ken Dale’s year as Commodore – showed a total of 68 boats. Interest rates were still high and climbing, but it was felt that we would somehow overcome our problems. We therefore borrowed additional funds of $5000 and “piled” the floats at Ekins Point. Piling was required to minimize maintenance and save an annual charge for moving them to winter safety.
By the time David Sterling succeeded Bob Warwick as Commodore in 1981, the number of boats listed in the roster totaled 98. During the recruitment process in the early stages, the Directors approved boats of the length of 45’ overall, which also proved to be a big help in bringing our numbers up to strength. Increasing the membership of course meant a decrease in debt, and through the diligence of the Directors under David and later Harry Lee, “non-debenture” holding members gradually took up debentures and new members were taken only on condition of buying a debenture. This greatly improved the Club’s finances – dropouts were paid for the return of their debentures and the bank debt was completely wiped out.
At the beginning of Commodore Tom Hourigan’s year (1983) one of the officers’ tasks was to negotiate an extension for the water lot leases which were expiring at the end of 1983. Several meetings were held with the Department of Lands and at the Commodore’s Ball, Commodore Tom was able to announce that the lease had been extended for a period of THIRTY YEARS! It was also during 1983 that the Boardwalk to the Annex float, the stairs to the Longhouse and two new floats were added.
In 1983 Spring Cruise saw the beginning of “themed” events and the entertainment team under Evelyn Lau produced a full Chinese feast. The Earthey, Bowden, Flanigan team at Spring Cruise 1984 brought a Greek theme complete with sexy belly dancers (Tom Hourigan and Crawford Ward!). Grace and Ed Lee followed that Fall with Mexican theme and food and a tradition was born. Since then our Spring and Fall Cruises have had a variety of imaginative themes – Pirate, Wild West, Hobo, Neon, Guys ‘n Dolls, Maritime, Hillbillies, Mardi Gras, Scotland the Brave, Disco, 60’s, etc.
In 1985 three new float sections were constructed by the “Squamish Float Factory” (aka Norm Barr) and put in place for the Spring Cruise. Outmoorage stations were expanded to include Gibsons Marina making a total of 8 cruising destinations available to Club members. At year end, assets in the Club had increased to $117,500 and liquid assets in the form of cash and short-term deposits totaled $31,783.
Also, in 1985, this effort of writing the Club’s history was begun as a joint effort of Past Commodores, headed by Ken Dale and including contributions, stories and outright fibs provided by Bob Warwick, Bert Warrick, Bob Anderson, Harry Lee and others. Marion Warwick slugged it out side by side with the men on many a weekend. Barb Warrick and Barb Anderson both served as Directors in the formative stages of the Club, and for many years the former kept her eye on the sick as our perennial “get well” gal. Many other first mates continue to make valuable contributions.
Members of Note
The Past Commodores felt that the Club’s history would not be complete unless credit was given to those whose untiring effort contributed to the establishment and subsequent growth of the Club. In no particular order:
BUSTER McKINNON: Buster and his wife Trudy were early members who were always there when called upon.
CYRIL WARD: Cy was an early contributor to the Club, serving on the Board and active in the acquisition of outstations.
MIKE FROST: In our early years, Mike was a tower of strength, an excellent seaman and the only member to have won recognition for a daring rescue at sea.
ALAN HUMPHRIES: Alan looked after our treasury. Any figure quoted you could be sure was the right one. An intrepid seaman, he has crossed the Gulf when others stayed back.
BILL MITCHELL: Dr. Bill was one of the more enthusiastic boaters dedicated to predicted log racing.
FRED JAY: Fred could always be depended on to produce the impossible – spare lumber, hardware, wire, rope would be waiting on the dock for us.
CAL CARROL: Our original water system is largely due to Cal’s generosity.
JOHN SWALLOW: John was a dedicated Secretary-Treasurer through the toughest financial times the Club experienced.
GEORGE AND JIM PATRICK: The original large barbeques, bridge, ladders, slide and more came by their generosity.
KEN DALE: Ken was involved with the land deal to purchase the property at Ekins as our spokesman in Victoria. He and Bert Warwick cleared the land the Longhouse is on. He also was the Club’s first historian.
DAVID STIRLING: Dave was instrumental in making any changes to our bylaws and as such became our constitutional expert.
DOUGLAS ANDERSON: Doug kicked off the first in a long series of “Special Event Cruises”.
ERNIE KELLS, BOB WARRICK, HARRY LEE: These three had one thing in common – the desire to help. No matter what the problem, if singly or together, they could not solve it, then forget it!
NORM BARR: As head of the “Squamish Float Factory” and Commodore, Norm’s contributions were enormous.
TOM HOURIGAN: Dr. Tom was an untiring worker at work parties and as a doctor he was great with a chain saw!
ERIC BUTLER: Eric took over from his father-in-law Lloyd Goodings as Secretary and ensured that the Club ran smoothly.
PETER BROWN: Stepped into the position of Treasurer on the death of Don Smallbone. Peter controlled the Club finances and also monitored competitive boat and facilities insurance rates.
(At this point, the Club history was continued by Ed Lee.)
In 1986, with Ernie Kells as Commodore, the trend to larger boats in the Club continued and a major dredging job in the main float basin was undertaken. One memorable work party constructed the steel ramp to the new 10’ x 140’ Annex dock in Norm Barr’s Squamish machine shop. Norm and Ernie both professed welding proficiency. Flare ups and flying sparks attested to their skill. The ramp continued to function for many years until the big windstorm in 2006 when huge trees crashed into the ramp and it was destroyed.
In 1987, Commodore Crawford Ward, whose 32’ Grenfell, Luna Sea, had hit a dead head earlier and sunk, and so was subject to fits of unreliability, had the dubious honour of being towed to anchor for his Sail Past and towed back to North Vancouver after the reception.
The growing number of new, younger members with children tended to gravitate to the Annex floats, and with their exuberance it became known as the “Party Dock”. A generation gap grew between the two docks. As the younger members’ children and dinghy motors grew, they naturally wanted to exhibit their skills before an audience – in front of the floats. This further increased the tension between the old and new members. Ed Lee, known as “the old guy that water skis” assumed the role of bridge between the two docks. Nevertheless, the water ski problem dominated more than one AGM until Wilf Burnett moved that a ski float be constructed and located at the NW corner of “Thunderbird Bay”, with rules established that skiers would towed counter-clockwise from the float, never entering the bay past a line between the north and south headlands. This ski dock lasted one season, unfortunately attracting a lot of non-members availing themselves of the convenience of having a large ski dock. After one weekend of not being able to use our own dock as there was a group of non-members camping out on the dock some of our teenagers got together and redesigned the float to 1/3 the size and made it portable. This enabled the members to tow it out and anchor when a member wanted to use it and bring it back when finished.
The founding members who had developed the Club during it’s 15 or so years began reaching the age of maturity, and gradually gave up active boating and became Social members. Founding member, Past Commodore and at that time still cruising Ed Lee died. All this created a significant drop in our membership.
Another Fight for Ekins
Thunderbird had long had approximately 20 people who shared membership in Burrard Yacht Club (BYC). Most of this group were active supporters and users of Ekins outstations. We were amazed to learn that Burrard Yacht Club had taken an option on the property forming the north boundary of our bay. BYC had a monthly renewable option on the property from Lex Hanson (who had been a TBYC member in 1982) and applied for rezoning to Group Recreational with a water lease extending almost to our own. Several acrimonious sessions followed, culminating with a hearing in West Vancouver municipal hall between TBYC and BYC before the BC Ministry of Forests and Lands and the Islands Trust. Taking advantage of a gap in the option renewal by BYC, Norm Barr, Eric Butler and Ed Lee met with Lex Hanson for 3 hours in Trolls’ Restaurant in Horseshoe Bay, coming away with a signed agreement of sale for $52,000 cash subject only to ratification from TBYC members. This was done at a Special General Meeting on May 24, 1989 at the Avalon Hotel in North Vancouver. (BYC subsequently purchased upland property and obtained a water lease in the bay adjoining to the north.)
Financing for the new property was arranged by raising annual dues by $60 to $360 per year and members had the option to prepay $500, giving us more cash for a down payment, but thereby avoiding the $60 increase forever. Toni and Frank Chambers held the mortgage of $39,375 at competitive rates with the Club having the privilege to prepay any amount at any time. This mortgage was paid off in short order.
Ed Lee started 1990 as Commodore with the financing in place and manageable and the docks in good repair. Several BYC members left and new members were hard to come by. The effects of the recession continued. Uniflite, Tollycraft, Prowler and Canoe Cove yacht manufacturers all declared bankruptcy. We mourned the death of Treasurer Don Smallbone.
With the new property mortgage in place, the old debentures became irrelevant and in 1991 the Board of Directors under Commodore Bob Atherley established the initiation fee of $1500. This included first year dues.
In 1993 Commodore Larry Nash, with Gail as his mate, saw several new and younger, active members join, and with the continuing growth of the Squamish contingent (a really enthusiastic group) Thunderbird was firmly set as a family club. Energy was running high and work parties were productive and well attended. Charlie Blake spark-plugged the work parties with free beer at lunch and “Super Soup” for dinner. Every summer weekend saw a dozen or so boats at Ekins. Gibsons and Snug Cove were also full. Thanksgiving at Ekins grew popular with pot-luck turkey and ham dinner. Several members boated all year, celebrating New Year’s Eve on the water.
We had thought that the insurance on the floats at Ekins was sufficient at $50,000 value until the storm in the winter of 1993. The inspection by the insurance appraiser valued our floats at $180,000. A new sense of reality of the value of our property, plus the value of providing popular outstations activated the Board of Directors to raise the initiation fees including the first year dues to $3,000 effective January 1994.
1994 – Commodore Harry Stant started work parties in March and continued them until Thanksgiving. Tom Davenport donned his diving gear to position plastic air barrels under water-logged floats, a skirt was placed at the Annex ramp to keep those pesky deadheads out, a new fiberglass water tank was installed up at the creek. Wayne Emsland, with Bonnie Emsland and Gwen Stant as “chainmen”, surveyed and flagged our combined property – 17 acres in all! A perimeter trail was planned. Wayne Potts registered a record number of 24 kids for the Fall Cruise fishing derby. Paid membership was at 96.
1995 – Neil Biddlecombe became the second Commodore in the Club’s history to have his Sail Past rained on. Fortunately, the historic tug, Ivanhoe was present under the sponsorship of Brian Lucas, so the Biddlecombes took their salute protected from the elements on the tug’s broad decks.
Under the gung-ho leadership of Dan Miller, work parties built a new tool shed, complete with sundeck. Hammer and saw experts Kim McFarlane and Wayne Potts kept the crew working, and the club reached a new plateau of members’ comfort with the construction of a steel roofed privy, discretely located behind the Longhouse. Entertainment Chair Mark Huston, a firm believer in “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” ran a Las Vegas casino at the Fall Cruise and raised enough money to buy a generator for shore power.
The tug Ivanhoe was used again in 1996 for Rupert Himmelsbach’s Sail Past. After much debate, the Club’s Directors rented the Annex floats for one weekend to the Hunter Yachts Association for their annual rendez-vous. Though somewhat controversial, the exercise provided a welcome cash payment, plus 3 new members bringing our rank to a full 100!
Ron Cullen used the RCN support vessel HMCS MORESBY to take the salute for his Sail Past in June 1997 and also had the honor of presiding over the Club’s 25th AGM that year. Membership stood at 92 Active, 11 Honorary and 14 Social. Norm Barr and Tom Hourigan were awarded Honorary memberships.
Ross Richardson started his term as Commodore in January 1998 with a letter to all members. Ross reminded us that for its past 25 year history the Club had been financed through enrollment fees and annual dues, but it was the members’ own contribution of materials, expertise and work that has produced the docks, grounds and structures at our prized Ekins outstation. Total dues collected in 1997 were $39,811. The cost of our outstation program alone was $27,000. In recent years participation at work parties had dwindled to a loyal few. In 1997 an assessment of $100 was made to members who did less that 8 hours club work throughout the year. Some members felt this was a cheap way out, so the Directors increased the amount to $250 for 1998. Exceptions could be made for serious illness, but it was pointed out that there are many ways Club work could be done without heavy physical work. Initiation fees remained at $3,000 but annual dues were set at $500 and the boat length assessment eliminated. Social members dues increased to $75. It was a full and busy year for members and particularly the Board of Directors who were forced to defend the Club and themselves against a lawsuit from an irate member.
Dan Miller started 1999 as Commodore well organized and full of plans, but family pressures and an out of town posting caused his abrupt resignation in April. Vice Commodore Norm Jewison stepped in and led the Club to a fun and successful year. He and Lesley decided to wait until the next year for their Sail Past.
John Sapinsky and Cesare Gianna prepared a comprehensive member survey. Divergent returns showed how difficult a Director’s job is. For example, many said we should eliminate all outstations but Ekins, while an equal percentage replied they had joined only for the outstations.
Paul McFadden, whose significant physique was exceeded only by his exploits, had work parties resurface and delivered aligned docks, a new finger on the Main dock, a new wooden floor in the Longhouse and new stainless steel galley facilities donated by Jack Pearson. Gus Fortier’s son-in-law Larry Hargrove, a guest worker at our April work party, suffered a badly broken leg and had to be evacuated by air ambulance.
After 5 court appearances starting August 20, 1998, on October 7, 1999 Judge J.K. Shaw dismissed former member D. Kondopulos’ claim as frivolous and awarded costs of $2,070 to the Club, later reduced to $1,035.
Jim Gladstone brought in 7 of 13 new members, bringing the total to 87. Time continued to take its toll as founding members Marion Warwick and George Patrick died. Their legacies live on in our Ekins water system and the barbeque.
(Norm Jewison then takes on the role of Club historian.)
The new millennium - the 2000’s
Norm Jewison completed his successful two-year stint as Commodore by turning over to the incoming Commodore Kim McFarlane a Club with full paid up membership of 100 and over $50,000 cash on hand. Willi and Ernie Kells were elected Honorary members. Enthusiasm continued to grow – the docks were full on weekends and work parties well attended. 2001 Sail Past saw 54 boats salute Kim and Joanne.
Outstations Director Gordon Nex’s survey showed nights spent at Ekins almost double all other outstations combined. Our demographics evolved and changed with hardly a water skier in sight and the kids’ tree fort neglected and removed. The most popular activity – catching prawns for Happy Hour.
Headed up by Ray Dennis and supported by Charlie Blake, the 2002 Spring Work Party was attended by an unprecedented 80 people and Fall had 64 workers present. A lasting reminder of the generosity of Roy Butler, demolition contractor, plus the engineering and organizational skills of Paul McFadden, was the installation of galvanized steel walkway connecting the Annex and Main docks, today fondly referred to as the Green Mile.
TBYC got it’s own website: www.thunderbirdyachtclub.com (thanks to Deanna Haskins). Grace and Ed Lee were elected Honorary members.
After many years at the Stanley Park Dining Pavilion, the 2002 Commodore’s Ball honoring Brian and Stephanie Jamieson was held at the Holiday Inn, North Vancouver. Record numbers enjoyed good food and service, plus the convenience of rooms to overnight on the premises.
The 2003 boating year for TBYC was memorable for several significant reasons which are surely all related. For the first time in Club history, Thunderbird had a female Commodore, Tina Smith.
One of the hardest working members in recent memory, Tina, along with her erstwhile mate, Jack, was surely proud of the outright enthusiasm Thunderbirders demonstrated at Club events throughout the year. The Spring Work Party attracted 33 boats and 72 eager workers who helped install a fabulous new finger in the middle of the Main dock at Ekins, the first of several new floats falling under the Five-Year Dock Replacement program and built by TBYC members at Burrard Yacht Club under the able supervision of Past Commodores Kim McFarlane and Ross Richardson. At Spring Cruise those numbers jumped to 41 boats and 102 people!
Tina and Jack’s Sail Past was attended by 53 member boats, the most in Club history. The only glitch in an otherwise great weekend was the reckless transit of a large powerboat which threw a huge wash and caused major damage to several boats and pilings – fortunately, the culprit was caught and made to pay!
Fall Cruise attracted 39 boats and 99 people, and the Fall Work Party boasted 35 boats and 71 workers. The final social event put the stamp of approval on a wonderful boating season with an unprecedented 103 people turned out to pay tribute to Tina and Jack at the Commodore’s Ball at the Holiday Inn in North Vancouver.
In 2004 under Commodore Cesare Gianna, and ably led by Kim and Ross, the Ekins Main dock replacement program continued with 3 new sections built in record time and set in place. Additions were made to the Longhouse providing more seating and deck space. Lots of volunteer hours were put in by members this year to keep Ekins in good shape. The Spring Cruise theme was “Red Green’s Great Outdoors”. The Club also took a giant leap into cyberspace by sending the Ekins Echo and announcements to many members via email. The weather was great that summer, so Ekins was well used.
2005 – With Commodore Carl Ingraham, dock replacement at Ekins was once again the focal point for the Club. A new one-piece main dock extending out to the front was added. A new stainless-steel countertop with sink was also installed in the Longhouse, making Club functions much easier. The Spring Work Party tested the metal of those who volunteered in heavy rains. A new outstation at Shawl Bay on a 2-year trial was added in partnership with Burrard Yacht Club. Due to poor attendance, this outstation was discontinued in 2008. The Entertainment Committee provided the Club with a full slate of events including a first ever “Movie Night” at Ekins, complete with popcorn. Our membership list remained full at 100 members.
Under Commodore Michael McCready, the dock building work party kicked off 2006, constructing a 14’wide breakwater dock for the main floats, demonstrating members’ well developed skills for dock construction. The new dock was installed at the Spring Work Party along with a new barbeque for the Longhouse, courtesy of Bud Cooper. This was the year the main generator was moved to the tool shed. Late 2006 saw severe storm damage to the Ekins docks, challenging members with lots of repairs and some new docks in 2007. The year started and ended with a full complement of 100 members.
The winter storm damage made it necessary to significantly expand our dock building programme yet again.165 feet of breakwater dock was built for Annex as well as 112 feet of new dock to connect the breakwater to the Annex ramp. In order to accomplish this, our 2007 Spring Cruise became an extra Work Party. Poor weather did not keep the volunteers away, and in the end, the new docks were in place and all of the usual trimming, brush removal, and painting was done. A new propane water heater was fitted in the Longhouse. Sail Past honoring Commodore Bob Gautschi and his wife Audrey was held under sunny skies and Fall Cruise, “Scotland the Brave”, was well attended. The Club remained financially healthy, and our full roster now had 10 prospective members on the wait list.
(The Club’s history was then continued by Janis Ostling.)
Commodore Reg Allen had a very active year in 2008, which started off with an inspection trip to Ekins by a number of members in February. The objective was to stake the lease extension notices, check safety ladders and inspect docks. Surprises are always in the works and damage was found to the Annex dock due to two “deadheads”. So, another year began and the pace of activity resumed.
Yearly events got underway with committee structuring, Echo and Roster production, and the final big year of effort for the dock rebuilding program. A total of 210 feet of new docks were built by members at Mosquito Creek Marina. The Spring Work Party completed the dock installation, and the tired old “Squamish” dock was finally retired, and the Annex dock got its last new finger. Rebuilding all the docks over five years was an ambitious endeavour and one the Club can be proud of for many years. The memory of how bad our old docks had become is surely fading, although reminiscent stories of the old “party dock” will probably remain with us for some time.
The water lease extension was approved by the Provincial Government this year after considerable effort by a number of members. This will allow for dock expansion should it be needed in the future.
The two work parties this year accomplished many tasks: enlarging of the galley storage area, galley faucets, completion of the galvanizing of the main dock ramp walkway, repair to the Annex dock from deadhead damage, Main dock improvements, annual power wash, a new slide on the main dock, considerable deadfall and underbrush removal, firewood stacking, plywood skirting, installation of new fire extinguishers, safety ladders and trail clearing. Additional dock benches were also installed this year through Bruce Blair’s craftsmanship and have become centre pieces for summer “Happy hours”.
Spring Cruise was a great success, hosted by Randi Jones and Annette Wiltse with a “Toga” theme and attended by 20 boats and 65 people. Commodore Reg Allen has been particularly interested in developing closer ties with our neighbour Burrard Yacht Club and the weekend included some combined activities with them. Everyone enjoyed the reciprocal visits although TBYC lost the volleyball game despite the best efforts of Cecil and Randi Jones.
The weather was challenging for Sail Past with storms causing some “no shows” but fine clear conditions at Ekins allowed a flawless event to recognize Commodore Reg Allen and Amy aboard Scapa. Everyone enjoyed the weekend’s festivities well hosted by Les Morton and Janis Ostling.
The Fall cruise with a Mexican theme, organized by Dorothy Fallan was a great success (23 boats and 74 people) with added entertainment by husband and Skipper Ray, walking away with the Mangled Prop Award through some disagreement with the tide tables and vessel draft.
The year ended with a fun filled Commodores’ Ball attended by 100 members, full membership, an eager waiting list, an active long-term planning committee, and a new executive ready to go for 2009.
With the completion of the docks replacement project, the Club’s focus in 2009 turned to addressing the Club’s sustainable financing and planning for future capital expenditure projects at Ekins. The Long-Term Planning Committee, chaired by Vice Commodore Les Morton, worked throughout the year exploring the Club’s options.
With a significant wait list of 16, it was obvious that the Club was in demand and to that end, several financial changes were made. Entrance Fees increased from $3000 to $4000, Annual Dues were a reasonable $850, and the work assessment increased to $350.
2010 was a good year for Vancouver after hosting the 2010 Olympics and for Thunderbird Yacht Club. After resignations and new members were tabulated, the club began the year with a full complement of 100 members. Participation was excellent at all official events which included: Spring Work Party, Spring Cruise, Sail Past, Fall Cruise, Fall Work Party and Commodore’s Ball. Members were able to enjoy mooring at our newly constructed docks at both locations with plenty of room for all.
This was the first year that the Commodore (Les Morton) was saluted in a sailboat! Les and his wife, Janis had enjoyed participation in the club for eight years, serving on various committees during that time.
Also, at the work parties, shower enclosures were constructed on both the Main and Annex docks and continue to be well used today (2020). Big thanks to Wayne Wiltse and Wayne Potts.
The Commodore’s Ball was held for the first time at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club and was enjoyed by the 88 people who attended.
2011 dawned with the Club’s second female Commodore, Dorothy Fallon, overseeing a busy Club. The water lot leases were under review and it quickly became apparent that they needed to be updated and expanded. Our land property was rezoned, and both these activities were undertaken by Past Commodore Les Morton. This was the year that the threat of the gravel pit at McNabb Creek raised its ugly head and with Burrard Yacht Club and several other groups, the Friends of Howe Sound Society was created. The goal was to demand an integrated land use plan for all of Howe Sound, and to strenuously object to the proposed gravel pit across the waters from Ekins.
The Spring Work Party was combined with Spring Cruise, with 66 in attendance. The tent pad area was created opposite the fire pit and a huge thanks to Wayne Potts and all his helpers. Bruce Blair and Reg Allen put together the new dock picnic tables, which continue to be well used and enjoyed by all. Fall Cruise was an “Octoberfest” theme with 30 boats and 70 people partying into the wee hours.
Sail Past was held under clear skies with 42 boats saluting Commodore Dorothy, and Captain Ray Fallon’s barbershop quartet, the Moe Tones, serenaded Dorothy and the Club. The Commodore’s Ball was held once again at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club with 69 in attendance.
2012 - Commodore Bill McNeney had a glorious year and he always referred to himself as the “Commodore of the Commode” – after a heated discussion at the Spring Work Party about improving the outhouse scenario, it was moved to a different location. The roof was extended on the Longhouse deck. The Spring Work Party was once again combined with Spring Cruise, 60 people partied to a Disco 80’s theme.
Les Morton had the water leases updated and the Future of Howe Sound Society continued their efforts in battling the McNabb Creek gravel pit proposed by a Calgary firm, Burnco.
Sail Past was held under sunny skies and 38 boats and 74 people attended.
This was the year that the membership cap increased from 100 to 110.
2013 saw a drop in membership and we started the year with just 94 members. The average drop in membership over the previous 10 years was 7 per year. The Spring Work Party had 51 people and 31 boats contributing to the improvements at Ekins with the construction of a brand-new outhouse, ongoing improvements to the Longhouse and the creation of the Tiki Bar. Spring Cruise this year was a western theme.
On July 30th, 150 boats rallied to the “Save Our Sound” event held off McNabb Creek. Thunderbird and Burrard co-hosted, and the Friends of the Howe Sound Society were pleased with the participation and press coverage that followed.
The Fall Work Party only had 22 in attendance as the weather was very rough, blowing 40 knots in Howe Sound. The Fall Cruise had 50 people in attendance for a 50’s theme.
This was the year that the maximum length of a new boat to join the Club was established at 50’.
Commodore Diana Lyons led a very eventful 2014. At the Spring Work Party, the pizza oven construction began, and the expansion of the deck was also completed to finish the area off. Joseph and Lisa Falconer were the primary drivers of this project and of course Cecil Jones played a supporting role in the construction. This project took many weekends of labour as the bricks had to cure, the outside needed to be stuccoed, the wood storage areas needed to be constructed and lastly the granite countertop was installed, courtesy of Doug Gordon. Wayne Potts led the construction team on the deck’s expansion and storage areas, naturally. The pizza oven changed the way the Longhouse was used and served to really give this area purpose, other than 2 or 3 times per year.
In addition to this major project, Leslie Milligan was very keen to have WiFi at Ekins, and she and Mobie led the charge to have it installed on the point. While it has had some hiccups over the years, everyone agrees it has added much for the members enjoyment at Ekins.
Spring Cruise was hosted by The Milligans, Potts and McNeneys and a number of other Squamish members. The theme was murder mystery and the crime happened on “The Love Boat”. Nine members played out the murder mystery for the rest of us to watch during cocktail and dinner hour. This was so much fun and hasn’t happened before or since.
Sail Past was a beautiful day, with over 40 boats participating. Lisa and Randi lead a team to put out an amazing dinner, created in the pizza oven. So delicious! Fall Cruise was a blockbuster event hosted by Shelley and Mark Smith and a number of the “RVYC folks” with Mardi Gras as the theme. There were over 120 members in attendance for this event, which started with a dingy parade and ended well past 1am in the morning. Fall Work Party also took place with all major projects completed that had been started earlier in the year.
Ray Dennis was Commodore for two consecutive years in 2015 and 2016, the first time this had occurred since 1999. 2015 will always be remembered as the year of the burgee uproar and the issue of changing the Club’s burgee was resoundingly resolved at the AGM.
The Board reviewed membership and added two important opportunities – to offer a 50% discount off Club entrance fees for an immediate family member of an Active Member and the one time opportunity for an Active Member to transfer their Active membership to an immediate family member.
In 2015 two mooring buoys were added north of the Annex docks for member use.
In 2016, we saw continued improvements to the WiFi system, repairs to the docks from the 2015 and 2016 windstorms, and the transition to the new Societies Act requiring us to amend our Bylaws.
The membership cap increased from 110 to 115.
2017 Barry Ehrl returned as Commodore. This year Ekins had a marine dock survey completed, and the introduction of the Non-Voting Active Member category to allow more than 20% of another yacht club members to join Thunderbird up to a maximum of 10 within the membership cap.
In 2018 Commodore Stephen Leahy assumed the helm, after 3 years as Vice Commodore. This was the first year that events were consolidated with Spring Cruise/Sail Past held over the May long weekend. Fall Cruise had a cowboy theme and the Commodore’s Ball was held at the elegant Vancouver Lawn Tennis and Badminton Club.
Our outstation at Gibsons was reduced from 4 berths to 3 due to reduced usage.
Best of all, the gravel pit at McNabb Creek, which the Club had been battling for years was finally turned down by the regional government authority.
The Club increased the membership cap from 115 to 125.
Jim Ptycia became Commodore in 2019. Jim’s amazing talents at producing events continued and he did not slow down as Commodore. Many wonderful live performances and musical evenings, combined with movie nights, karaoke, and lots of activities will be Jim’s legacy.
This was the year that Annual Dues increased to $1100 and the work assessment hours increased from 8 to 12.
The Fall Cruise and Commodore’s Ball were combined over the September long weekend to the Fall Commodore’s Cruise and the theme was ABBA.
2020 and Looking Forward
2020 and the start of the new decade seemed bright with 121 Members, strong financials and Commodore Cathy Dietrich looking forward to a great year. Then COVID 19 hit and everything changed. The Club could not host events and “wear a mask, social distancing and wash your hands” were our mantra. “Be Kind Be Calm Be Safe” messaging was everywhere. At Thunderbird, we were indeed fortunate to be able to get out on the water and gather in small numbers at Ekins (while still social distancing). Interest in joining TBYC was high and we ended the year with a full membership of 125 and a small waiting list.
2021 brought our second year of Covid, restrictions and health mandates. On top of that, our province experienced severe weather throughout the year with king tides, bomb cyclones, extreme heat, atmospheric rivers, devastating forest fires and heavy flooding. Ekins became our haven and many members put in many hours to maintain our “jewel”. Commodore Mark Smith (being a party guy) kept hoping we could gather and celebrate something, anything! Finally, over the September Labour Day weekend, about 130 very happy Thunderbirders honored Mark at a rain-soaked Sail Past and the next day partied hearty at sunny and warm Margaritaville! We ended the year with a full membership at 125, a healthy wait list and lots of interest in joining our fine club.
TBYC has evolved over its almost 50 years of official existence. We have a diverse group of members from all walks of life who are all passionate about boating and we pride ourselves in being a friendly boating community. We have 125 Members, 4 outstations and fabulous facilities at Ekins which now has over 2,000 feet of docks.
2022 will mark our 50th anniversary and we look forward to marking this auspicious occasion with many celebrations. We recognize the founding members who put so much time and energy into the Club's development and growth, without which we would not have our fabulous facilities today.