Yacht Club History

A Rich History in a Historic City.

The newly formed club had as its purpose, the promotion of yachting, yacht racing, and cruising.  In addition, its charter, issued by the United States War Department gave it the express responsibility of defending St. Augustine and blockading the St Augustine inlet in times of war.  The club burgee, chosen to have a white fortress on a red field, was required to be flown on the yachts of all members

Lt. R. F. Armstrong, the first commodore, was the Chief Officer of the swift and legendary confederate cruiser CSS ALABAMA.  Other notable members included Henry Morrison Flagler with his 183 ft yachtAlicia and Louis Comfort Tiffany, both very competitive yachtsmen.

Dowling Dock on Water Street was the first meeting place of the yacht club.  A few years later, the T.W. Spesseger Pharmacy was purchased, relocated and a second story added.  Located at the foot of Charlotte Street, the new clubhouse was host to many  gala occasions during the Flagler era.

By 1892, yacht racing had become a very popular sport.  The mayor of St. Augustine, W.S.N. Pinkham, owned the yacht Cheemaun which had never been beaten in a yacht race.  When challenged by the fellow yacht club member Andrew S. Carnegie in his much larger yacht Missue, clever tactics and quick thinking earned  Cheemaun the win as well as a handsome purse.  Cheemaun’s winning record continued until her retirement in 1935, then owned by George Gibbs.

Soon after the turn of the century, the sport of yacht racing was diminished by the advent of steam yachts. The boom years of the 1920’s saw a renewed interest in yachting and racing sailboats with a new club planned on Davis Shores.  The crash of the stock market in 1929, however, began a slow decline in participation and membership, ending with the club’s decommissioning in 1939.

Thirty nine years later, the building of a new marina brought St. Augustine yachtsmen together once again.  As in earlier times a club was formed.  This resulted in  interest and a successful effort to activate the old charter of the club.  In the Spring of 1978, the St. Augustine Yacht Club was recommissioned.  It began with 100 newly chartered members and held its first race, “The Race of the Century”.  The  clubhouse at Camachee Cove Yacht Basin was built in 1979 and the swimming pool added in 1982.

In 2007 our long standing as a community institution enabled us to arrange with the City of St. Augustine our new home below the Lighthouse on Anastasia Island.  This beautiful waterfront location is just a short distance from historical downtown on the shore of Salt Run.

Today the purpose of the St. Augustine Yacht Club is the same as it was in 1873, to promote boating and water related activities, cruising, sailing and racing.  As it has for over 135 years, SAYC’s Burgee, a white fortress on a red field, flies aboard all members’ yachts and high above the clubhouse of one of the oldest yacht clubs in America, the St. Augustine Yacht Club.