Yacht Club kicks off summer boating season

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 10 June 2021 at 4:52 pm

Club with 100 members aims to make organization more community friendly

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Oak Orchard Yacht Club members Paul Gray and Bob Frost, both past commodores, wait to raise the American and Canadian flags during ceremonies Saturday to celebrate opening of the summer boating season.

WATERPORT – Like all social organizations, the Oak Orchard Yacht Club has gone through changes.

If the new commodore, Bob Hodgins of Batavia, has his way, he’d like to see a lot more changes taking place this year – most of all, making it a more community-friendly club.

“One of the things we recognize is there is a perception of the Yacht Club as being stand-offish,” Hodgins said. “We want to change that. We have a board of 11 and they are a great group. They are like-minded and work together.”

Hodgins pointed out the sign in the front yard of the Yacht Club which reads “Members and guests only.” He has changed that by adding signs saying, “Memberships available. Docks available,” hoping to send a more welcoming message.

“We’ve got a wonderful facility here, and we’re trying to make better use of it,” Hodgins said. “Chap’s Diner in Elba runs the restaurant and bar, which is open on Friday and Saturdays from May through September.”

The Yacht Club recently invited the Oak Orchard Neighborhood Association to have their annual meeting there.

“This was a good experience,” Hodgins said. “They are our neighbors, and many had never been here before.”

He said they also recently had a pseudo-senior prom for kids who missed out on their senior prom last year due to Covid. He said it was a wonderful event, with kids coming from all over, including New Jersey and Delaware.

They have invited Leadership Orleans 2021 to have a meeting at the Yacht Club on July 8.

“This is a great opportunity to bring young community leaders into our club,” Hodgins said.

Hodgins is also working on having an open house at the Yacht Club for different segments of the population, possibly with a chicken barbecue and music, which would be open to the public.

Officers of the Oak Orchard Yacht Club stand for the Pledge of Allegiance during open ceremonies signifying opening of the boating season. Commodore Bob Hodgins is second from left.

“This is a club developed and kept up by its members,” said Hodgins wife, Mary Lu.

OOYC welcomes both social and full members. Social members have the privilege of visiting the club and enjoying the amenities of the dining room and bar. Full membership is for boaters and includes a dock. Anyone wishing more information on becoming a member on either level may contact Hodgins at (585) 409-9869.

OOYC, which currently has 100 members, was founded in 1938 and began operation at the current site of the public boat launch on the east side of Oak Orchard River, near the harbor mouth at Point Breeze. Club activities centered on cruising, both sail and power, and an active one-design racing program.

In the early 1970s, New York state cast a covetous eye on the old site and began the push to the club’s current location on the west side of the river, about a mile upstream. During this time, members faced the herculean task of arranging funding, getting permits and the construction of the current yacht club. It was then that the tradition of being a “working” club was really cemented. Capital was secured not only by mortgage, but also by members contracting for their docks for 10 years in the future. With funds in hand, the membership spent the winter of 1972 on the ice constructing the docks. The clubhouse was also built entirely by volunteer labor. Only the main structural parts were contracted out.

The years since have seen gradual improvement to the facilities and expansion of services to members. In the early 1980s, additional land was purchased on the west side of the road to provide a buffer between the club and increasing residential surroundings.

According to their website, the club is now in the fortunate position of enjoying a debt-free facility in a beautiful location. Their vision for the future is to continue to maintain and improve on the physical structure and to stay true to the yachting traditions of all who gave so much personal effort to create what they enjoy today.

Jeff Plummer of Waterport steps away from the miniature cannon, which he fired three times to signify opening of the boating season at Oak Orchard Yacht Club on Saturday night.