One year ago Thursday, the iconic Edgewood Yacht Club burned down in an early morning blaze, as snow blanketed the docks.
But as yacht club members reflect on the disaster and the outpouring of community support that followed, they are confident that 2012 will be a big year for the EYC, and potentially a year that sees the construction of a new home for local sailors.
"We hope to finalize on some design and get approval sometime in the spring," said Bill Plumb, a member and past commodore. "We want it to be like it was before, a showplace for Edgewood; a place where families come down, kids can learn to sail, parents can race, and a place to meet and greet people."
On the morning of Jan. 12, 2011, a major electrical incident occurred, triggering the fire at the yacht club. The coastal landmark was built in 1908, after a fire destroyed the original clubhouse building, which was incorporated in 1902. In the months that followed, though, the yacht club membership rallied, determined to be ready for sailors when spring broke. They erected a tent pavilion for events and constructed bathrooms with showers on site, which allowed the Edgewood Sailing School and Brown University to continue to call Edgewood home.
Bringing back competitive sailors was a crucial turning point for the group.
“We've always worked with Brown; they had some major regattas at the yacht club,” Plumb said. “We had a very successful year, for all the problems we had.”
Plumb, whose family has a longstanding history with EYC, can’t say he is surprised that the Edgewood community came back stronger than ever, with an estimated 35 percent increase in club membership. In fact, Plumb has seen Edgewood rise to the occasion before, when a fire threatened to leave Trinity Church, which is just down the road from the yacht club, out of commission. Then, and now, Edgewood residents and their neighbors in surrounding communities answered the call for help.
“I knew we had a problem and I knew we could work through it and move forward. A lot of places I go, restaurants or anywhere, I'm always asked the question, 'what's the status of the yacht club?' Everyone is concerned,” Plumb said.
Many of the new members, he added, had a previous connection to the clubhouse, either as former members or as Rhode Islanders who attended weddings, dances and other events at the facility.
“A lot of them were past members who joined as social members. Everyone so far has been extremely helpful and supportive,” he said.
Commodore Jeff Lanphear says that community support is what makes Edgewood Yacht Club what it is.
“The neighborhood is very important to us and our presence is the neighborhood is something we'd like to be valued,” he said. “We’re a strong family club. We hope to have a facility that once again will support family members and family participation.”
While EYC leaders are currently working with a design firm on a possible rebuild, they are tight-lipped about the progress. During the year, a pre-planning committee was formed to begin the process of rebuilding. A needs assessment survey was sent to all members and those results were factored into the design phase. An architect used that data to create three potential designs, which will be soon put before the members.
Before blueprints can be approved, the design must be signed off on by the flag officers, the board of directors and the membership, and then will be available for the public to see. A rough rendering of the future clubhouse will be on display this weekend at the Providence Boat Show, but that does not mean the final layout will be the same.
“I'd like the process to be a little bit faster but I understand it takes a while to make decisions as important as this. My desire to go fast is really just because I want us to move on from this,” Lanphear said, adding that his priority is continuing, “our century of sailing on the upper Narragansett Bay.”
An initial insurance payout has been handed down, but without a final number in hand EYC board members are not disclosing how much they need to fundraise to get the clubhouse back on the bay.
Still, they are being proactive about fundraising. The club held several events over the summer, and a yard sale fundraiser in the fall. They are currently interviewing for a professional fundraising assistant, and their next scheduled event is on Saturday, Jan. 21. The Edgewood Yacht Club Wine and Beer Tasting will be held that night from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Shriner’s Imperial Room at One Rhodes Place in Cranston. Tickets are $25 each, and there will be a raffle and a silent and live auction.
Already, Plumb and his wife Nancy, as well as other event organizers, have collected more than $6,000 worth of auction items, including slips, moorings, boating trips, a flight to Block Island and a week in rental homes in both New Hampshire and Florida.
“We have some very good items,” Plumb said. “I've been banging on doors all over the place.”
To purchase a ticket to the Wine and Beer Tasting, contact Nancy Plumb at 785-2188 or Bill Plumb at Billplumb@hotmail.com. Visit the Edgewood Yacht Club this weekend at the Providence Boar Show (www.providenceboatshow.com) at the Rhode Island Convention Center from Jan. 12 to 15. Memberships will be available at the EYC booth.
“New members are always welcome,” Lanphear said.