History of the CLYC

"In 1873 an ambitious but ill-advised project was put through in an effort to connect Crystal Lake and Lake Michigan with a navigable channel.  The original level of Crystal Lake was, at that time, much higher than its present level.  The project was a complete failure in respect to its accomplishing its proposed purpose.  The result was the lowering of the lake and exposing a wide stretch of beach around the entire lake and making possible the development of Crystal Lake as a resort and residential area, as well as the site of the village of Beulah."  (Source: a monument which stands at the original level of Crystal Lake.)

The fascinating story of this lowering is told in The Tragedy of Crystal Lake, a copyrighted booklet available from the Benzie Area Historical Society at 6941 Traverse Ave, PO Box 185, Benzonia MI 49616, (231)882-5539.  Members of the Crystal Lake Yacht Club should be very, very grateful to those misguided entrepreneurs in the 19th century:  our club is built on land that prior to 1873 was deep under water!

The CLYC was founded in 1931 by a group of Chicago businessmen, who formed a yacht club "for the purpose of fostering and promoting sailing, power boating, boat racing, and water sports of all kinds upon and about the vicinity of Crystal Lake, Benzie County Michigan."

At its founding in 1931, the CLYC initiation fee was set at $150 and annual dues at $25, for the purpose of buying and maintaining three to five sailboats.  Initial membership was about 15 families, and a Sailing Master was hired at $25 per week from June 25 to August 25 to take care of the boats.  Sailing lessons were offered at a cost of $1 for two hours of instruction.  On Sundays, sailing was not permitted until after 1pm .

In 1941 land was leased from the Crystal Downs Country Club, and a clubhouse was designed by Alexander McColl and built through the generosity of C.W. Seabury and R.C. Borwell.  The CLYC now became a center of Crystal Lake social activities, although alcoholic beverages were not permitted on the CLYC grounds.  The following Christmas card was sent to members in 1941:

A detailed history of the land and clubhouse development can be read at Land History of the CLYC.

For 62 years, from 1931 through 1992, C-Scows were the mainstay of sailing and racing at the CLYC.  In 1947 Wood-Pussies were introduced for the Junior Fleet, and Wood-Pussies were sailed until 1969, when they were replaced by Butterflies.  In 1966 E-Scows arrived at Crystal Lake, and by the early 1990s the Es had become the "senior" fleet of the CLYC.  In 1991 MC-Scows were introduced at Crystal to replace the cat-rigged C-Scows.

By the 1950s our clubhouse had a wonderful porch along the east and north sides.  It was a great place to sit on hot, sunny days, or for the Junior Fleet to gather on those inevitable cold, rainy days (picture above).  By the late 1960s the supports had rotted out, so it was torn down, leaving an open cement patio.  At the top of this page and following are pictures of the clubhouse, circa 1960, with C-Scows and Wood-Pussies at the dock:

In 2001, after an extended and sometimes heated debate, the club decided to restore the original porch, albeit without the screen and glass sidings.  As a result, we now once again enjoy shade from the midsummer sun, and protection from our frequent rain storms.  As you can see below, the charming look of our original J Alexander McColl design has been restored.

Have you ever wondered about all of the large cement anchors that lie in about 10 feet of water, for probably 500 yards to either side of the club?  These were constructed especially for the 1954 WMYA Regatta held at Crystal Lake, a massive undertaking as indicated in the pictures below.  We'd like to thank those ambitious sailors of the 1950s, because we still use those terrific anchors whenever the WMYA comes around.

Older members who grew up at the club remember fondly a time when kids could really have fun -- before the days of seatbelts and lawsuits.  Behold in the picture below an early generation dive platform at the edge of the CLYC swimming hole:  it combined low and high diving boards with a fabulous rope swing.  We used to play rag-tag off this magnificent structure for hours on end.....

Over the years, things have changed at the CLYC.  Racing now begins at 10am on Sundays, and discrete consumption of adult beverages is permitted at club sponsored events.  The clubhouse has been expanded, and Sailing Masters now earn more than $25 per week.  Nevertheless, the CLYC remains a family operated yacht club dedicated to imparting a vigorous love of sailing to our children.  Our aim is to extend and enhance our fond memories of summers at Crystal Lake.

Additional Reading:

CLYC History Booklet

Land History of the CLYC

Occie Gunkler's Memoirs

“The Ridge” a description of summering at Crystal Lake from 1907 to 1979