Thunderbird Yacht Club
A Brief History, continued...
Finding a Home
It is to be noted that in Commodore Bert Warrick’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.
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
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. Over the next four years a lot of effort and emotion was expended trying to make this a reality. Some of the hurdles to overcome involved negotiating a price the Club could afford and reaching a balance between those members who were for acquisition and those who wanted to maintain the status quo.
Meanwhile the Club continued to function in 1977 under Commodore Alan Humphrey’s guidance, floats were improved and a permit to dredge was obtained to give us more depth toward the shore end of the moorage.
In September 1977, the results of a mail-in ballot showed an 85% approval for acquisition. Unfortunately, the Club lost a number of members over this issue. And there were additional obstacles encountered at various levels of the provincial government. Finally, in January 1979, the leases were issued and by 1983 they were extended for a period of 30 years.
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 totalled 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.
It was during 1983 that the Boardwalk to the Annex float, the stairs to the Longhouse and two new floats were added. That year Spring Cruise saw the beginning of “themed” events. 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. Out-moorage stations were expanded to include Gibsons Marina making a total of 8 cruising destinations available to Club members.
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. 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.
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 a monthly renewable option on the property forming the north boundary of our bay. Taking advantage of a gap in the option renewal by BYC, the Club achieved 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.
In 1993 Commodore Larry Nash, with Gail as his mate, saw several new 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. 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 at Ekins.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
The most popular activity – catching prawns for Happy Hour. And maybe a few crab.
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). Today’s website is www.thunderbirdyachtclub.org The Club also took a giant leap into cyberspace by sending the Ekins Echo and announcements to many members via email. 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. Tina and Jack’s Sail Past was attended by 53 member boats, the most in Club history.
During this decade, the Ekins dock replacement program was undertaken. Without the expertise and guidance of several key members, this would have been impossible. Special recognition to Kim McFarlane, Ross Richardson and Reg Allen. Additions were made to the Longhouse providing more seating and deck space.
2005 – 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.
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 program 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. Sail Past honoring Commodore Bob Gautschi 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.
Commodore Reg Allen had a very busy year in 2008 with the final big year of effort for the dock rebuilding program. 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.
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. This was the first year that the Commodore (Les Morton) was saluted in a sailboat! Also, at the work parties, shower enclosures were constructed on both the Main and Annex docks and continue to be well used today. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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 and in 2016 the membership cap increased from 110 to 115.
In 2018 Commodore Stephen Leahy assumed the helm, after 3 years as Vice Commodore. This was the first year that major events were consolidated with Spring Cruise/Sail Past held over the May long weekend. Our outstation at Gibsons was reduced from 4 berths to 3 due to reduced usage. The Club increased the membership cap from 115 to 125.
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.
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. The Fall Cruise and Commodore’s Ball were combined over the September long weekend and became the Fall Commodore’s Cruise.
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.
TBYC has evolved over it’s 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 will certainly 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.