In 1970, when Bob and Coral Clark, Seattle builders of San Juan sailboats, arrived in New Bern, North Carolina they were amazed at the beautiful sailing waters of the Neuse River. But they found that while, if you desire, you can sail eastern Carolina almost 365 days a year, very few sailboats were seen enjoying what mother nature had given the area. By the early spring of 1972, Bob and Coral had established Clark Boats – East. They’d sold a handful of San Juan 21’s in town but felt there was a lack of – and need for – an organization to promote the sport locally. A meeting of all known sailboat owners was called at Craven Community College and, as a result of the ensuing enthusiasm, it was decided to form a club. Blackbeard Sailing Club, Ltd was founded by a group of 32 North Carolina families as a “do it yourself” and “pay as you go” organization.
In 1973 BSC sponsored the first in the water boat show in this area, Also, during these years Bob and Coral Clark taught us all about racing – and there is nothing like one design racing! When you cross the finish line you know just where you stand. The San Juan 21 was the boat of the day. A few had bigger boats, but not many, Many good times were had both racing and cruising. A really big cruise was to Oriental!
The time has rushed by as we developed from a sailing confederacy without any property to call home port, to a full fledged facility. By 1974 our own land became more than a dream, it became a real possibility. We became incorporated as Blackbeard Sailing Club, Limited. The constitution and by-laws were legally documented and BSC became a recognized non-profit organization. In 1975, the club purchased its first tract of property. Clearing, draining, filling, leveling of tract one was a monumental undertaking. The underground wiring, water piping, septic tank systems including drain fields required much detailed planning and hard work by members of the club. But their efforts were rewarded with the completion of a 14 slip pier in 1976.
We operated on a shoe string, so each family was given a specific weekend to be responsible for cleaning the bathhouse. Mowing the grass and taking the garbage to the dump was done on a volunteer basis. It was ALWAYS taken care of! What years these were! Watching members children grow up and enjoy sailing and the outdoors, watching the club grow and yet still have what we had to start with, the basis for this club where “do it yourself” prevailed and kept BSC within the reach of all those young people with families who loved racing and cruising.
The membership turned out in 1977 for a vote to extend the original pier to 25 slips. The actual decking was completed late Saturday afternoon 59 days after the vote to start construction. Even the kids got into the act, gathering and stacking the wood scraps on the beach. When the last nail was driven all crowded out to the end of the pier; and following an ancient custom tossed coins into the creek.
In 1981, planning began for a clubhouse with a possible target date of 1985. “Walt Wood has agreed to chair a committee to press forward the project to build a clubhouse We all realize that this is a long-term project and Walt will head this committee until it is accomplished. Walt has a dream – and his track record in Blackbeard proves that he has a way of making his dreams for the club come true”. By April of 1984, the clubhouse was making rapid progress and ready to be roofed. By August the clubhouse was done. There were ten signatures on our new first mortgage: Jerry Williams, Dale Mullins, Fill Jefferay, Robert Clark, Walt Erwin, Mel Harrison, Charles Marr, Walt Wood and Paul LoCicero. These members and used-to-be members are to be commended on believing in the club so thoroughly.
In 1985, Blackbeard’s Junior Program was inaugurated for 9 year-olds and up with Dave Novak in charge. We also added a new regatta “The Clark Cup” to honor Bob & Coral Clark. The Coast Guard Auxiliary Radio Station was built under the club office and a VHF antenna mounted on the light pole next to the back steps. Thanks to a new breakwater and dock extension for “B” Dock begun in 1985, we started 1986 with another 22 dock spaces. By 1989 our new bathhouse was finished we didn’t have to shower with the tree frogs anymore! The club also purchased our third piece of property, looking to a future “C” dock. By 1992 “C” Dock was complete and the club had grown to 200 families with a long waiting list of prospective members.
The last ten years have been period of consolidation, bringing for example, a new steel breakwater capable of protecting member property from any condition less severe than a hurricane, a new roof for the clubhouse, additional parking and storage space for trailer boats and an expansion of club cruises, racing and youth programs.
Now in 2009, we find the club prospering, and that same spirit of togetherness and cooperation abounds. Yes, some might say “It’s not small and intimate like it used to be – there are more people and we don’t know everyone the way we would like”, but those who have been involved from the beginning reply “It’s just like it has always been – the spirit of the club remains the same”.
Need a reminder? In the fall and early spring, try cooking breakfast in the kitchen. Everyone just puts something in the pot and we laugh and tell tales on each other. During football and basketball season, we have some “rip snorting” excitement in front of the television. The many weekend cruises sometimes end up with fifteen boats rafted.
This year, Blackbeard Sailing Club Ltd’s membership is celebrating its 35th anniversary of activity on Upper Broad Creek, the Neuse River and around the world. Has success spoiled Blackbeard Sailing Club? Not on your life! BSC is just the same as it always was – just more friends.
Thanks to Fred Latham and Judy Barfield for contributing to this page.