The original formation of BHYC came about when select members from the Hamilton Yacht Club, a mixture of Power and Sail, left and formed their own club – Burlington Yacht Club. The site at that time was in the area of Spencer Smith Park, as it is known today. Then, owing to a shortage of space, launching facilities etc., it was moved into an area on the south shore of Hamilton Bay, west of the canal, and a club house was built there.
When the Skyway Bridge was built, the property was expropriated and the club house was demolished. At this time, the members decided to look for another location and, as there seemed to be none available in Burlington or Hamilton, they began to look towards the Bronte area. The Bronte Creek had a few fishing boats and some dockage for pleasure boaters, and a saw mill down by the bridge. Because of the fishing fleet, the Government used to dredge the harbour, making it an ideal location. The area across the creek looked very different than it does today, made up of marshland full of bulrushes, with just a few mooring buoys. In the fall of 1960, the first meeting of interested people was held in the sail loft of Metro Marine. Twelve people attended, mostly members of BYC plus a few boaters who had Metro slips. The meeting produced enough interest to proceed.
First BHYC Events:
With funding in place, the club was formed and the first regatta was held using a marquee as a Club House. The first Sail Past consisted of approximately fifteen keel boats. The Club House as it stands today was completed in 1962. The first Commodore was Bob Crewson, Secretary-Treasurer was Harold Sellers, Rear Commodore Power was George Green and Rear Commodore Sail was Al Black. At this time, BHYC ran their own bar, with members filling in as bar tenders. There was not a committee boat, so power boaters would volunteer their own boats in this capacity for regattas, Sail Past, etc. Fred and Elsie Lowe operated the Vick Vance to start the Wednesday and Sunday races and Elsie kept times. Blue Water, a steel hull power boat, was purchased as the committee boat in the year 1967, and was refurbished several times until its sale, when the second Blue Water was bought. Everyone volunteered and pulled their weight. It was a very happy Club.
BHYC’s burgee reflects the surrounding land that is steeped in history, going back to the days of Admiral Lord Nelson. It was designed by Peter Coslett, Harold Sellers and Bill Sargant. Oakville and the surrounding area was originally settled after the Napoleonic war by Royal Navy service men and Lord Nelson’s contributions are honored throughout region. Trafalgar County, Nelson Township and Bronte were all named after the life history of Lord Nelson. With this thought in mind, the first executive designed the burgee to reflect the sagas of those years. The three white stripes commemorate the three battles of Nelson: Nile, Copenhagen, and Trafalgar. They were slanted in such a way to allow for the addition of a crown in the upper corner of the tack, if and when the Club ever became fortunate enough to be granted a Royal Charter. A commemorative burgee was created for the 25th and 50th anniversary of the club. Long standing members are able to fly them on special occasions and celebrate these two BHYC anniversaries.
BHYC was founded several by members with a rich naval background and that influence is reflected in the clubhouse today. The ship’s helm at the top of the clubhouse staircase came from the Burlington Yacht Club. It had been damaged in a fire and was taken apart, refurbished and put together again by Wally Pollard. The anchor at the front of the building was donated by Mr. Wilf Locking from the Canadian Steamship Liner “Dalhousie City”, a pleasure boat sailing from Toronto to Port Dalhousie during the twenties, thirties and early forties.
Today the throbbing of power boat engines and the wind in the stays of sailing craft have brought back the nautical atmosphere of Twelve Mile Creek and the Village of Bronte. If Nelson were to tack into Bronte Harbour today, he would feel right at home and welcome to visit BHYC where, as the club motto says, “You are a stranger but once”.