Above photo: Rothesay Yacht Club Facebook Photo
Just north of Saint John, New Brunswick tucked away on the Kennebecasis River is the small community of Rothesay, home to the Rothesay Yacht Club (RYC).
The club, according to its most senior member Bruce Tennant, was founded in 1907 by several families that lived in what was then the village of Rothesay. The clubhouse, which is still in use today, was built around 1910–1920. While the original building remains, the site of the building has changed a few times in the years since its initial construction due to the risk of flooding.
“I don’t know when it was built, but I know it was there in the mid-30s, and I think it was built 10 or 20 years before that,” said Tennant. “Somewhere around 1940, they picked up the whole building and moved it back. That second position was where it was when I first went there. Then around about 1980, they picked it up and moved it back even further again.”
The RYC, as it stands today, boasts 120 slips, a mooring field with a capacity of around 30 boats, a launch ramp, fuel services, a pump-out station and a spar shed for the club’s learn-to-sail program and off-season storage. The club lies off the main road on the tucked away, private Wharf Road with only a public park space as their neighbour.
“I would call it very cozy,” said RYC General Manager, Megan Moir. “It’s a very historic little building. The capacity is only about 100 people. It honestly has the best views of anywhere in the city. I call it my office, so I get the best views of anywhere in the city.”
This small, cozy club plays host to 156 members and around 30 associate members. On a weekly or bi-weekly basis, RYC members are invited to gather for club socials, whether that be a party, a meal or a round of drinks. In the past, the club was known for their luncheons and lobster dinners, which Moir said she is hoping to bring back in the future.
“We just have a little Maritime kitchen party. Sometimes we’ll do an open mic night, or we’ll have some of our members play banjo or guitar to have a little entertainment,” said Moir. “We have a large patio on the front of the clubhouse, so we open up all the doors in the clubhouse and folks just wander in. We do a lot of potlucks and a lot of little events like that. In the coming season, I plan to host a couple of wine tastings and whiskey tastings by popular demand. We’re hopefully going to partner with a local business in Saint John that offers those kinds of things.”
The club is also known for the Commodore’s Corn Boil. Every year near the end of the season, club members gather to enjoy food, pass out awards and socialize as another year of sailing comes to a close.
As far as sailing goes, the RYC frequently hosts Thursday night keelboat races, learn-to-sail summer camps and an annual dinghy regatta every August called the New Brunswick Sailing Circuit Regatta.
“We bring in sailors from all over the Maritimes and we have a couple of people come up from the U.S. We’ve got a full fleet of dinghies, so it’s usually kids and a couple of adults who think they can still hop in a laser and go for a sail,” said Moir. “That’s a huge hit. We’ve had 40 boats that come in every year for the past couple of years, and it’s the largest dinghy regatta in the province.”
The RYC’s learn-to-sail program plays host to a large number of Rothesay youth, with 2023 seeing 74 students in attendance. The program is split into four two-week summer camps where students learn to sail on 420 sailboats, lasers and optimist sailboats.
“We offer BBQ and pizza days for the kids, and then we have adventure days, and we do racing where we give out some trophies and awards at the end of the year for the students,” said Moir.
A staple of the club’s culture is its yearly river cruise. Many of the club members will cruise down the Kennebecasis from Rothesay and up the Saint John River to Gagetown. From there, the group will go to Douglas Harbour on the shores of Grand Lake. The trip, in total, lasts around a week.
“We spend about seven or eight days. There’s activities and an auction that we run. People will donate items to the auction,” said Moir. “We do kayak and paddleboard races with the kids and adults. It’s just a really, really fun activity that we participate in every year and something that the members really look forward to.”
According to 91-year-old Tennant, who has been around the RYC since 1947, the land and the location of the building have changed from his youth but the spirit has stayed alive and well all these years later.
“In my view, there’s a lot of people who see it as a place to keep a boat. But, for at least half or maybe two-thirds, it’s more than that,” said Tennant. “It’s a place for comradery and helping each other.”