Sodus Bay Junior Sailing Association

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Photos from the Sodus Bay Junior Sailing Association Facebook page


Click this link  to watch a 4 minute slideshow of the Sodus Bay Junior Sailing Association:


A special thanks to Ed St. George for documenting the history of this wonderful organization!

A Brief History of Sodus Bay Junior Sailing Association

In 1956, several visionary members of the Sodus Bay Yacht Club (SBYC) joined together in a “Junior Sailing Committee” to explore the possibility for creating a youth sailing instructional program. Commodore Garrett Smith, Charles K. Bloomer, Richard Chittenden, Edward Sohmer, C. William Stuart and Lyman Stuart incorporated the Sodus Bay Junior Sailing Association in March of that year and in 1959, it officially became a 501c(3) educational organization, completely separate from SBYC. This was a first-of-its-kind organization for youth sailing in the upstate NY area, as most all other similar programs across the United States were part of a Yacht Club’s organization, without the benefit of 501c(3) charitable status. Rhodes Bantams were chosen as the small boat for sail training. They could accommodate up to 4 students and provide experience with jib, main and spinnaker sails.


In the mid-60s, a small cottage on the east side of SBYC was rented annually from the Yacht Club for $200. Annual summer camp participation grew during the 1960s and 70s to almost 100 children, ages 8-18. In 1975, a small red cottage was purchased from Jerry Harris, owner of the neighboring marina to the east of SBYC, and a right-of-way was established with SBYC for access to the waterfront, as the property had no waterfront boundary. By the late 1970s, with support from donors and a regional foundation grant, SBJSA’s fleet of small sailboats grew to include (9) Rhodes Bantams, (5) Flippers, and (3) 420s, plus a used 22 ft. Aquasport center console powerboat for coaching and safety purposes.


In the 1980s, the camp operation was split into two daily half-days of sessions (A&B) and a new 2-hour daily bus run was established to help transport kids from neighboring towns in Penfield at 8 a.m., Pittsford, Perinton, Macedon, Palmyra, Newark and Lyons, arriving at SBJSA at 10 a.m. A racing program was established and camp instructors became certified under a new set of U.S. Sailing guidelines. Late in this decade, the daily A/B split schedule across 6 weeks was replaced by an all-day schedule that ran for two 3-week sessions. Early in this decade, all of SBJSA’s wooden sailboats were replaced by fiberglass models and by the late 1980s, the camp was utilizing a few Lasers and Optimist dinghies for instruction, in addition to 420s.


Thanks to funds raised during special events and generous individual and organization donations, including the Sodus Bay Yacht Club, the Sodus Bay Historical Society and the C.H. Stuart Foundation, SBJSA began a scholarship program in the 1990s that enabled less-fortunate children from nearby towns to attend summer sailing camp, an annual tradition that continues today. The Stuart Foundation also continued to support SBJSA and enabled a fleet expansion that included some JY-15s and additional Lasers and Optimists. Annual camp attendance of about 110 kids successfully continued. The racing program also launched a new “Travel Race Team” for Optimists that enabled some of SBJSA’s more competitive students to race against kids from youth programs at Yacht Clubs in our region.


With SBJSA’s 50th Anniversary approaching, a new Legacy Committee, chaired by Nancy Ghertner and Margaret Tiedemann, began planning in 2004 and soon established a goal of building a new Sailing Center facility in time for the celebration, along with some additional new boats for the fleet and a scholarship endowment fund. A large fundraising campaign began in 2005 and with generous donations of cash, materials and labor received from many individuals, families and local businesses, along with a $30,000 grant secured by NYS Senator Mike Nozzolio,, administered through the Town of Sodus, SBJSA demolished its old red cottage in 2006. A new facility, designed by local architect and supporter Mark Vande, began construction in 2007. John Hayslip and Dr. Lory Ghertner served as volunteer construction managers and coordinated a number of contractors and other volunteers to successfully complete the building in 2008. The new facility was officially dedicated as the “C.H. Stuart Foundation Sailing Center” in August during our Annual Family BBQ event. Designated funds from the capital campaign were also used to purchase (3) new 420s and (3) new Optimist sailboats, along with the establishment of a scholarship endowment fund at the Rochester Area Community Foundation. The beautiful new building provided much needed space for equipment storage, a small workshop area and kitchenette, larger restrooms with showers and a large multi-purpose space for instruction, meetings and events.


By the end of the 2000s, SBJSA’s fleet had grown to include almost 50 boats, including (2) Boston Whaler center-console powerboats, and average annual camp attendance had also grown to about 135 students, along with a seasonal instructional staff of 12 high school and college students, plus approx. (3) CITs, or ”Counselors in Training”. For insurance and other cost reasons, the daily bus service had been discontinued, but kids from all over the United States were attending, usually as a result of family vacations and cottage ownership connections on Sodus Bay.


Up until the fall of 2011, SBJSA’s property was always “landlocked” and water access was limited to the small beach area that Sodus Bay Yacht Club had generously provided on its property for many decades. In 2011, after previous owners of the former Anchor Marine property (located directly between SBJSA’s existing property and the water) had been unsuccessful in selling it for several years, including a failed joint purchase by SBJSA, SBYC and the Village of Sodus Point, SBJSA was ultimately able to buy it directly from the private mortgage holder at a greatly reduced price. A generous bequest from the estate of a longtime supporter of SBJSA, Mr. Richard Brown, provided about 50% of the purchase cost early in 2012, and together with a bridge loan and some cash reserves, the purchase was completed in the spring of 2012, an historical moment for the organization to be sure!


In the fall of 2012, another major capital fundraising campaign began, led by Hank Stuart, to fund improvements and development of the property and also advance SBJSA’s overall programs. In 2013, a large project was completed to install a new sheetpiled seawall around more than 200 ft of the waterfront perimeter, now known as the “Richard Brown Waterfront”. Generous contributions from private donors, the C.H. Stuart Foundation and others over the next 3 years also enabled the purchase of new outboard engines for the fleet of 10 powerboats, (12) identical 420 sailboats in excellent condition from Hobart-William Smith College, growing the fleet to 70 boats, (2) new large storage sheds for Optimist and Laser equipment, a new transport trailer for 420s, and a few kayaks and stand-up paddleboards as part of a new summer camp “adventure” program that widened SBJSA’s curriculum.


In 2014 and 2017, memorial donations also funded a new, raised hardscaped area with flagpoles (the “Max Buzzell Awards Court”), a beautiful timberframe structure (the “Marcus X. Costich Racing Pavillion”) and a large custom concrete pad for playing a popular game (the “Heidi VanVoorhis 4-Square Court”). In the fall of 2014, an agreement was formalized with Rochester Institute of Technology’s Sailing Club for their use of SBJSA boats & facilities for 8 weeks in both the spring and fall, with over 40 collegiate sailors participating. As its “home base”, RIT continues to sail and practice on Sodus Bay to this day. In the summer of 2015, SBJSA & SBYC partnered to become the permanent hosts of the annual “Centrals on Sodus Regatta”, primarily a youth-centered event, keeping alive the Centrals One-Design Regatta that had been held annually in central NY for decades. US Sailing regional qualifiers for the Bemis and Smythe Youth National Championships were held as part of the regatta that year, chaired by Mike Foley. A record 88 boats and 160+ young sailors participated!


With the formation of a new “Liaison Committee”, led by Ed St. George and made up a few members from SBYC & SBJSA, in March 2017 a new agreement was unanimously approved by both Boards, establishing the framework and specifics for a long future of continued cooperation between both organizations.   Following the complete flooding of SBJSA property in 2017, a major project was completed to raise the nominal level of the overall property and re-contour it with many tons of stone, plus a concrete retaining wall and perimeter sidewalk work. In addition, after a comprehensive application and evaluation process in 2017, U.S. Sailing certified SBJSA as an officially accredited Community Sailing Center, a special distinction enjoyed by only about 45 of the over 600 existing sailing schools and community boating organizations across the United States! We are most pleased with this accomplishment, which says a lot about the quality of our programs and instructional staff, our attention to water safety, the condition of our facilities and fleet and the excellence of our curriculum.


In 2018, a significant new initiative was begun to widen SBJSA’s outreach and new overall purpose of providing “water access and education for all”. A Community Boating Program enables people of all ages, including individuals and families, to join SBJSA for a very nominal fee and utilize our fleet of boats for watersport recreation during specific summer hours of operation. The number of scholarships awarded to underserved youth in our area is significantly increased in 2019, and for the first time, Adult Learn-to-Sail instructional courses are available.


With all the investments in our facilities, boats and equipment and the work of many volunteers over the last 6 decades, we are well positioned to not only continue our longstanding core youth programs that have served thousands of children over that time, but also a new and enlarged audience of families and adult individuals in nearby communities. As the organization moves ahead into the next decade, continuous improvements will no doubt be regularly made towards the fulfillment of our Mission:


“SBJSA is committed to making the joys of sailing & other watersports available to everyone, building lifelong boaters and fostering responsible eco-awareness and stewardship of our natural resource, Great Sodus Bay on Lake Ontario. Fun activities on the water are at the core of our educational/recreational programs and our community partnerships. Reaching out to both locals and visitors, including the underserved, we promote teamwork, leadership, community spirit and healthy lives.”Bay on Lake Ontario.

ctivities on the water are at the core of our educational/recreational programs & our community partnerships. Reaching out to both locals & visitors, including the underserved, we promote teamwork, leadership, community spirit, & healthy lives.



April 2019   EStG