Above photo: SBYC serves as a gateway to the Shediac area thanks to their proximity to the downtown core and amenities useful to travellers of all stripes. Photos supplied by Gerry O’Brien, SBYC Manager
Two hurricanes and a global pandemic may have set the Shediac Bay Yacht Club (SBYC) back a few times, but each time they’ve come back stronger.
The SBYC was first incorporated in 1933, which existed as a mooring field until the early 1980s when the marina was built. The club continued on as it was until 2010, when a storm surge destroyed a large amount of the club’s infrastructure. By the spring of 2011, work began to replace or upgrade the club’s docks, gangways, electrical systems, pedestals, boat slips and pumping station.
All was well in Shediac until 2019 when Hurricane Dorian tore through the area and devastated the marina at the SBYC.
“We had 72 boats that were in the water at the time it went by, and basically it just wiped out our whole anchoring system and docks and everything. We had 72 boats piled into a corner by where our pump out is,” said SBYC manager Gerry O’Brien. “It was really devastating. The marina was completely destroyed.”
In the wake of Dorian, the club members gathered to determine their best course of action. Not to be deterred by a bad stroke of luck, the club decided to build the SBYC marina back to what it was and reinforce it to weather future storms.
“The membership was on board with that,” said O’Brien. “We had all the engineering done, we put our financing together, we put all kinds of applications to different government agencies from the province and the federal government to try to help us; we’re a non-profit organization, so funds are not unlimited.”
Funds being as tight as they were, the yacht club was under a time crunch to have their marina back in order by the next season to begin generating revenue. Winter, however, presented challenges to repairing a marina that needed to be surmounted, only for a much larger problem to rear its head.
“The challenge was to build an anchoring system during the winter months on the ice, which had never been seen, so we found a contractor who was able to do it and they did a super job,” said O’Brien. “So that was done over the winter, and we head into March, then COVID hits.”
As the regular day-to-day of the world came to a halt, the SBYC suffered further delays in their rebuilding journey. The club was able to finally reopen its doors about a month behind schedule on June 26, 2020.
“We’d come quite a long way, and it’s been quite dramatic for everybody. A few people lost their boats totally plus having all of the water infrastructure totally destroyed — it’s not a pleasant experience,” said O’Brien.
As the old adage goes, bad luck comes in threes. This would hold true for the SBYC, who fell victim to Mother Nature once again when Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Atlantic Canada in 2022.
“It was mostly the flooding that hurt us. Our water infrastructure that we had rebuilt after Dorian; that was left intact. We didn’t have any damage whatsoever,” said O’Brien. “But the water came right up. In my office, I probably had about a foot and a half of water.”
As of 2023, the SBYC and their 150-person membership are back in service with what O’Brien described as a “top-notch facility.” Their new marina is one of two Blue Flag certified marinas in Atlantic Canada by the Foundation for Environmental Education, which highlights its dedication to environmental protection and education. The marina features services from 8:00 a.m. to midnight, in which members and transient boaters can take advantage of the club’s laundromat facility, showers, black water pumping station and seven-and-a-half-tonne stationary crane.
The SBYC provides berthage for over 200 vessels of up to 60 feet, with 15, 20 and 30-amp power available. The club also serves as the marine gateway to the region, thanks to its close proximity to Shediac’s restaurants, hotels and other tourist attractions. Many travellers doing the Great Loop, which takes boaters up the Eastern Seaboard, into the Great Lakes and down the rivers and canals of America’s heartland.
“We do get quite a few boats that do the Great Loop. This year, we’ve had about four or five boats from Florida that were on their way back,” said O’Brien. “We also have people that are going down to the Caribbean from Québec or Ontario. The advantage we have here at the yacht club is we’re close by downtown. We’re about half a kilometre to downtown, where you have restaurants, hotels, pharmacies, grocery stores, hardware stores and everything.”
Despite all the setbacks the SBYC has experienced since 2019, O’Brien and the club’s membership are looking toward the future instead of dwelling on the past.
“We’re just continuing to improve things as we move,” said O’Brien.