I am proud to be past commodore of the Windsor Yacht Club - the best club on the Detroit River - Past Commodore 1961, Edward E. Boutette

Windsor Yacht Club Heritage

The Early Years

Past Commodore Alphonse Gignac recalls the early days of the forming and operation of the Windsor Yacht Club. He relates as follows:

The marina was operated and owned by a Mr. Frank Barr. It consisted of broken down timber break walls and the yard was usually a muddy patch. There were a number of boat owners who, in the summer of 1936, decided to form an organization of boaters who occupied this marina.

We negotiated a lease with Mr. Barr to build a modest clubhouse on the point which is here the present clubhouse is located. The lease was $1.00 per year. We proceeded to build a cinder block building with a cobblestone fireplace on the point. The members volunteered their services and the clubhouse was built by the members in the main.

Across the harbour to the east on what was an island at the time, there was parked the boats of Ted Villeneuve, Harry Gignac, Dr. Simpkins, Dr. Pepin and Mr. Zalev. Frank Ellis, one of the charter members had a large sail boat parked on the west side of the harbour. Harry Holland was his longtime friend and crew member.

Over the winter of '36/'37, we had a number of meetings in private homes regarding the formation of a yacht club.

Winter activities of course were modest in comparison to activities now, but there was a lot of euchre, bridge, and poker playing.

World War II broke out in 1939 of course and gasoline was rationed with the result that there was very little boating activity during those war years.Image

Harry Gignac loaned his boat to the RCMP to do patrol duty on the Detroit River from Lakes St. Clair to Erie and it was only after the war's end that activity of the Windsor Yacht Club pepped up and a greater number of projects were initiated to expand and improve the facilities of the club.

The first major expansion took place in 1945 when an addition for dining and kitchen facilities were added. This took place when Harry Chevalier was Commodore.

Danny Bell was Commodore in 1949 and it was during his term that the Maple Leaf International Classic was inaugurated. So of the early winners were Lou Faragal, Bill Cantrell, Chuck Thompson, and Danny Foster. There were seventeen races held in all, the last one being in 1980. The large trophy in the club commemorates this series of events that took place during the early days of the club.

At the insistence of Larry Deziel, later Judge Deziel, we decided to incorporate so as to protect the membership from personal losses.

The formation of the club was in a turmoil because there was a movement by a group to call the club the Riverside Yacht Club, with headquarters at the Riverside Tavern which has since been destroyed by fire, but was located just west of the Riverside Brewery.

There was considerable controversy regarding establishing our headquarters in a commercial tavern and during the winter Ted Villeneuve headed a group in opposition to this previous move. The rival group formed the Windsor Yacht Club and the Riverside Yacht Club became a thing of the past before it even got started.

1948 Heritage

WYC Executive Board

Jan 24, 1948
Seated left to right:
Mr. Paul Mailloux, Mr. Phillip Ouellette,
Mr. W. Villeneuve, Mr. Earl Langlois

Standing left to right:
Mr. William Gibson, Mr. John Pilon,
Mr. Daniel Bell, and Mr. George Vulcic
However, there was a reconciliation of the two groups, and they joined together to form the Windsor Yacht Club and the charter papers were issued subsequently on May 9, 1937.

As I recall it, we had about forty members. The initiation fee was $10.00 and the quarterly dues were $5.00 or $20.00 per year. From these modest beginnings, the object of course was to take advantage of the recreational facilities available to us in the way of water sport, fishing, etc. as it is now.

I don't recall that we had a bartender, but we always had beer on tap in the clubhouse with a cigar box to pay for the beer on the honour system.

8th Annual Commodore's Ball

Eighth Annual Commodore's Ball

Mr. Al Drennan, Past Commodore, presents the Commodore's Colours to Mr. M. L. Chevalier, the new commodore.

I can't conclude my remarks without mentioning a number of men who were members in the early days and who contributed so much to the club's expansion. The name that come to mind are Ted Villeneuve, Skipper Breeze, Don Douglas, Walter Cole, Al Drennan, Harry Chevalier, John Thompson, Walter Villeneuve, Bill Bowman, Frank Ellis, Harold Ormerod, and John Morris. In fact it would be almost impossible to name the literally hundreds of men who have contributed to the success of the Windsor Yacht Club throughout the years.

End of "The Early Years"

The Growth Years "1961"

These are memorable events of Past Commodore Edward E. Boutette in the years as director and flag officer from 1958 to 1962.

In 1960, I had the honour of "burning" the mortgage of the building and property of the WYC (Due to the illness of Commodore Van Durocher).

In 1961 as Commodore, I had one of the best Board of Directors. They were very co-operative and hard working men. Four of these directors become Commodores - Henry Bondy, Austin Beneau, Vernon Holmes, and John Charlton.
Windsor Yacht Club in 1965 1961 Boutette
In 1961 in the southeast area of the club, the island was taken out - new wells were installed. A back wall was built by B.A. Oil Co. at their cost for a 10 year lease. We had two gas pumps, a lift and marina building in the same area. Also, the parking lot was asphalted.

On Good Friday, 1961 - Henry Bondy, Secretary Norm Reaume and myself bought in Detroit a bar (used) - which included bar rail, stove, 2 refrigeration units, back bar cabinets, temprite cooler and bar accessories for $350.00 (duty $35.00) and all delivered to the WYC by Henry Bondy's Truck. The bar rail and some of the refrigeration equipment are still used in our present bar (previous club facility). Our members installed all of the bar as volunteers with no charge to the club.

Windsor Yacht Club -1965

My wife Mary and myself have enjoyed being so closely associated with all the members of our club through the years. We represented the WYC at all Commodore activities and Regattas of the Detroit River Yachting Association.

I am proud to be Past Commodore of the Windsor Yacht Club - "The best club on the Detroit River."

Past Commodore 1961
Edward E. Boutette

Where has the time gone? - 1966

Expanding Harbour
Winter Project
Twenty-eight years of membership have slipped by with the fun, fellowship and memories being beyond description. The club in 1959 consisted of two small buildings, nothing fancy, a kitchen that is now a storage room and a porch. Full credit should be given to Past Commodore William (Trader Bill) Hucker for turning the club around from a place to play cards and drink beer to the fine boating and social establishment we have today. It was Bill who interested myself and many others of that year 1959 (you will note the year as being popular in your membership roster) to begin planning the many projects relating to the harbour and clubhouse.

 I got involved early, as I believed then as I do now, you only get back what you put into a club. I was most active in providing entertainment and serving as house chairman. Resurrection day started when I moved the open house from my home to the Yacht Club.

I had for many years an open house New Year's Day at my home and when the guests reached over 100, it was apparent people were at a loss as to what to do with themselves, as most places then were closed. Today it is one of our more popular events, evolving to include the changing of command, now a formality that has come to be tradition.

I was present at the Twenty-fifth Anniversary celebrations, acting as M.C. for Past Commodore Henry Bondy. I established many parties, the most famous at the time, hiring Billy Hapated and his Manhattan Jazz Band for the opening of the new dining room addition in 1964. The cost of the band was $800.00 (about $3,000.00 in today's currency), and needless to say the Board thought I was crazy. The only way I could "pull it off" was to hold the club harmless of any loss, so I recruited twenty members who pledged $40.00 protection money. I feel it was one of the most successful parties the club ever held and when I wanted to bring him back a year later there were no questions asked. The club gained new notoriety and members from these events.

Verna and I have had the pleasure of convening seven Commodore's Balls over the years and feel we set a standard that has been a challenge to live up to. While on the subject of Verna, she worked very hard in those early years with "pot luck" dinners, fashion shows, helping the many women who did everything to make the club go! Without her understanding and patience, allowing me to carry out our many obligations, I could not have spent the many hours it took to put it all together.

I ran for the Board in 1962 becoming Commodore in 1966. Since then, I have remained active with my greatest love being the Dixieland Sunday Brunch. Of all the many theme parties held over the years, this one has become a ritual now in its eleventh year.

As your Commodore I inherited the debt of the new building, having been very active during its construction, working with a young architectural firm by the name of Johnson & McWhinnie, both of whom are members today. Building it, complete with equipment and furnishing, was a gigantic step forward, and the Boards and Commodores of those years deserve full credit for their foresight. Holding the line on spending and costs is nothing new. I don't know how many times I had to say "no" during my Commodore year.

The Past Commodore's Club came into being and successfully launched the Award of Merit, the plaque which we designed and had built.

The Crippled Children's Day also was established during my Commodore year, working with the Windsor Rotary, and has carried on with great success!

Verna and I are very proud of what our club represents today and if we were asked what message we could give to our new members, it would be to "Get Involved."

Past Commodore 1966
Bob Troup


Begin Project in 1968New Executive in 1968
My year started with a near tragedy! On Resurrection Day the wooden floor of the bar area next to the old fireplace gave way and several members got wet feet!

In 1965 the dining room addition was built and provided an up-to-date eating facility. The biggest drawback was that it was isolated from the rest of the club, and, the only traffic was by way of the foyer. We, in effect, had two clubs. The west wall of the bar area with the original cobblestone fireplace separated the old club from the dining room with an open area in between.

The Officers of the club decided on a major renovation to join the two areas. A meeting was held. Members who were involved in the building trades were invited to attend. The plan to proceed was outlined and included a theme. "We don't want anything for nothing, but we want it at cost." The response was overwhelming and construction was started.

The east wall of the dinning room as well as the west wall of the bar room were demolished and the open area roofed in. It took six weeks to complete. The floor of the bar room was removed; piles were placed to support the new concrete floor which extended from the dining room to the Lookout Room.

The beautiful fireplace, the picture window, the glass south wall and many accessories added an elegance to the club which it never had before. A number of members came forward with gifts to further add to the comfort and appearance of the addition. The cost was $60,000.00.

While forty or fifty members were active in this project, I cannot conclude this report without mentioning on outstanding contribution. The late Bill Carter attended the club every morning for six weeks to supervise the renovations. He never rendered a bill!

From a personal point of view, the opportunity to attend 21 Commodore's Balls throughout the area was most enjoyable. The WYC Ball was outstanding and most appreciated. My flag officers and directors were supportive at all times and I wish to thank them on more time!

Past Commodore 1968
Alphonse Gignac



Windsor yacht club building process

In 1995 the Capital Projects Fund was established to fund capital for large future Club projects. Along with the Harbour Fund already in place reserve funding was now assured. The next few years were occupied with the raising of capital and serious thoughts were given to replacing the oldest part of the Club House. Committees were formed and decision were made to tear down the existing structure, and to design and build a new Club House.

The new Club House was not without start-up problems. The next few years were costly. With adverse changes to Ontario's Liquor Laws, higher mortgage payments, higher heating and cooling bills, government mandated staff increases and replacement of equipment salvaged from the old club, operating finances became difficult. By 2003 some members were eager to finish the Club House with newer furniture and a different decor. This issue along with other serious harbour expenses, a deficit operating account and a major downturn in the economy caused the Club to financially restructure. The Club has continued to make improvements in its facilities and through the constant hard work of many volunteers. This work continues to this day to make the Windsor Yacht Club the great place that it is.

Tear down and rebuild of WYC 1999-2000

Celebrating 75 Years

Starting the week off with celebrations for our 75th Anniversary, was an open house held on Saturday May 6th. The open house included many dignitaries, city officials and partners within the boating community. This celebration was a wonderful event that helped to show case the history of this long established boating club.

On Saturday May 13th, the membership was treated to a Gala that was second to none. The membership had a chance to revel in great food, great fun, great camaraderie and finished it off to an evening of dancing.