Brian MacDonald (left) and Dick Wedge are two of the members of the Summerside Yacht Club, Wedge being a founding member. The yacht club is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
©Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
SUMMERSIDE — Dick Wedge loves the feeling he gets on the open seas, wind in his sails, the smell of salt water filling his lungs.
It’s one of the reasons why, decades ago, he and a handful of local sailors decided it was time Summerside had its own yacht club.
Now, at age 80, Wedge, is helping the club he helped found celebrate its golden anniversary.
“We didn’t think of an anniversary when we got started,” he added. “We were just young fellas full of piss and vinegar who decided that they needed a yacht club and we did it. And we’re still here.”
In 1964, the first Summerside Yacht Club officially opened its doors, with less than 20 members, all of whom shared one thing — a love of sailing.
Wedge and pal Elmer Newson started a sailing program in 1963, using 14 small prams to teach youngsters how to sail. It quickly caught on.
“The parents of the kids that were taking the sailing program got interested,” said Wedge, adding others, such as Fred Hyndman and Peter Mellish, came on board. “That’s when we decided it was time that Summerside have a yacht club.”
The first step was to find a home.
Negotiations to purchase a building located between the railway wharf and Holman’s Wharf went up in smoke, literally, when the building burned down.
The group then approached the federal government to lease the property where Spinnakers’ Landing now sits.
Next, the sailors lobbied to have a breakwater built, the first for a yacht club in the region, one that still exists today, under Spinnakers’ Landing.
The Summerside Yacht Club, somewhat humble in its beginnings, was born.
“After that we just kept growing,” said Wedge.
In 1972, the provincial government decided to build Harbour Drive, leaving the club to relocate to its current location, complete with a new marina.
It was a busy spot, booming with activity.
“One Sunday was set aside for the Parade of Sail. We had the Shediac-Summerside Race and a Summerside to Shediac Race,” said Wedge. “We had a Charlottetown-Summerside race and there were always the Northumberland Strait races.”
In 1982, the club would grow once again, welcoming the curling club, becoming the Silver Fox Curling and Yacht Club.
There were expansions since, the number of berths doubled to 120 in 1993, and money via the Canada Games in 2009, for new docks.
Now, 120 sailors are members of the club.
“We have almost 90 boats.”
The club has been the site of national regattas, sailing for the 2009 Canada Games and, three times over the past decade, Sail East.
“It’s the camaraderie,” said Wedge. “We do have a lot of social functions. We have dock parties. Two years ago we had a competition between ‘A’ dock and ‘B’ dock to see who could have the biggest party. ‘A’ dock won.”
Wedge is the frequent winner of the not-so-prestigious Sandbar Trophy.
“It goes to someone who goes aground in the most spectacular fashion,” he said with a laugh. “I like to take shortcuts.”
The club and its marina have also provided safe haven to many sailors over the years, most recently during tropical storm Arthur.
And it’s hosted stars, such as hockey legend, Guy Lafleur, and even Paul McCartney.
“We think it was him,” said Wedge. “They come incognito. When you see a guard at the gate you know there is someone important.”
“Everyone gathers here,” said Brian MacDonald, a member of the 50th anniversary committee.
Once a lover of the roar of the engine of a powerboat, he traded in horsepower for sails more than two decades ago.
“I was always watching the gauge. There were days I would sit here that I couldn’t go out because of financial reasons. With the sailboat, I spend $10, $15 worth of gas a year,” he added. “It’s peaceful, a stress reliever. I’ve gone out there with an auto helm, a self-steering mechanism, and slept for hours.
“It’s like a cottage on the water for us.”
Wedge, who has sailed around the world, agreed.
“All you need is wind.”
For more about the yacht club, visit its website — silverfox-pei.com.