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History

At the Venice Yacht Club we embrace family, friendship and community above all. Founded in 1951, VYC has long been recognized as a traditional yacht club whose member privileges include boating, social activities and events, waterfront dining, and holiday celebrations for all ages, young to the young at heart.  Our partnership with 35 fellow private clubs in the Florida Council of Yacht clubs (FCYC) insures you can sail, dine and dance in style across our beautiful state. 

The VYC is now listed in the National Sailing Hall of Fame!

Introduction

The origin and growth of the Venice Yacht Club is a remarkable legacy for its members today. It is the story of extraordinary founding members, people with desires, visions, and dreams, coupled with perseverance and commitment to establish a place in a maritime tradition for like-minded people. The story embraces people who love the sea and the waters around Venice, who love sailing and boating and water sports, and people who appreciate and value enduring friendships of common interests and having fun together.

Melding Dreams to Reality to Success

Melding the dreams into reality, with a constant focus to members’ desires coupled with astute financial management are challenges, but they are the challenges that Venice Yacht Club has managed with excellence through all its years. Today the Venice Yacht Club enjoys an outstanding reputation in the Florida sailing and boating community of private clubs.

Story of the VYC
by John Sammet

In the Beginning

Our history is closely tied to the development of Venice. Standing in Pearson’s Cove today, looking south, it is hard to envision that in 1950 all there was to see was sand and scrub pines, no intracoastal waterway existed then, and only minimal development underway. The south jetty today was then known as Casey’s Pass and was little more than an inlet to Roberts Bay. On the south side of the inlet was a Florida fishing camp, known as the Tarpon Center Resort. It was a relatively small place, with several docks in the inlet, a restaurant called “Happy Land” and a few rooms for overnight visiting fishing families. Tarpon were abundant in the waters in the Gulf, and thus people came annually to this place for tarpon fishing. And it was the local gathering place for friends and laughter after time on the water.

Land to the north of Casey’s Inlet and land to the south of what today is the Venice airport was owned by O. W. Casperson. Land in the majority of what is Venice today from Roberts Bay to the north and south to the southern boundary of today’s Venice airport, was owned by Robert Baynard, the land having been purchased from Dr. Albee’s estate in one transaction. Land along Tarpon Center Drive south to Venice Beach was primarily dunes and sand and was in large part owned by George Gibbs, Jr., the owner of the Tarpon Center Resort.

Chronological Timeline

In the series of following sections, identified by year or years, are highlights about this amazing legacy with a focus to the story of the Club’s beginning and the clubhouse and all its modifications and enhancements through the years. 

1950

Early Fall: Weary of the drive to and from Sarasota to sail, five Venice sailors and their spouses, later known as the “organizing group,” gathered at the Casey Key home of John & Mary Winslow in late summer. Conversation focused on establishing a boating club in Venice. Sept – Nov: Gathering at Happy Land Restaurant of the Tarpon Center Resort Resort, a fishing camp owned by George Gibbs, Jr. – where Jetty Villas are today:

  • Conversation continued about creating a boating club in Venice.
  • Organizing group led an informal survey of Venice residents to determine interest.
  • Discussed possibility with George Gibbs, Jr. about using the resort as headquarters. Gibbs offered space on an “if and when” basis.
  • Gibbs offered newly completed lounge of his restaurant, “Happy Land” Caveat: Dining room would continue to be open to the public.
  • Final language agreed by organizing group for charter application to State of Florida.
  • Charter application sent to Tallahassee.
 

1951

February 6, 1951 Charter was granted by Florida’s State Department with the name of Venice Yacht Club

  • Lease was signed with George Gibbs, Jr. for the lounge to be club’s headquarters.
  • 25 members including the organizing group sent membership invitations to 150 in Venice.
  • 25 initial members elect officers and set dues: $25/year + $5 tax.
  • By mid November, 118 members were on the club’s first roster.
  • Monthly business meetings occurred along with social events.
  • Local merchants solicited to fund materials for building “prams” for youth boating.
  • The Club advertised a new sailing opportunity for Venice area youth at no fee.
  • Club’s burgee was designed and registered.
  • First sailboat racing calendar is published for the members.

1952

  • First Commodore’s Ball held for Commodore John Winslow and his wife, Mary.
  • A formal, gala affair, it has continued annually through the years in January.
  • 40 area youngsters take swim test and practice capsizes at Venice Beach.
  • Youth sailing begins in Roberts Bay with volunteer instructors of the new club.
  • With only 8 sailboats, “prams,” youngsters take turns sailing in the bay weekly.
  • Board meetings and meetings and social events continue monthly.
  • Social events include monthly theme parties.

back to top

1953 - 1955

  • Club changes from semi private to private with a membership now of 135 and growing.
  • VYC became a member of the Florida Ocean Racing Association.
  • Monthly newsletter begins, “The Log.”
  • Board of the club to begin seeking property for its own clubhouse and docks.
  • Board establishes several committees for both boating and social activities as well as a finance and entertainment committee
  • VYC became a member of the Florida Ocean Racing Association.
  • Youth sailing is organized into the Pram Fleet of the VYC
  • Red Tide hit the Gulf coast again in 1954, and information about it was published to the membership of the club.
 

1956

  • “Prambulators,” a new ladies sailing group was begun led by Mrs. Sidney (Ginny) Schroeder
  • Monthly board meetings and social events occur monthly as the property search continues.
  • Membership continues to grow in the VYC.
 

1957

  • Club holds benefit dinner dance to raise funds to build more prams-youth sailing growing.
  • Tarpon Center Resort owner, Gibbs, tells board he needs the space occupied by the club.
  • Board and Gibbs agree on a 60-day cancellation clause in the club’s lease.
  • Expansion committee formed to seek a site for the club, accelerating the property search.
  • One site, south end of Casey Key was a good prospect, affording bay to the gulf property.
  • Negotiations failed for that parcel with disagreement about the price and terms.
 

1958

  • Board of directors realizes VYC needed incremental funds to purchase land and build.
  • VYC is under some financial stress with number of functions being supported monthly.
  • The probability of a bank loan for the club to make the purchase was unlikely.
  • The board agreed to develop a proposal for the membership regarding the funding needed.
  • Board meetings and monthly social events continued with great attendance.
  • Boating “rendezvous” to other clubs also become a monthly event.
 

1959

  • January 1959, Annual Meeting: Membership approved a $270,000 building program.
  • Also authorized forming the Venice Yacht Realty Corporation. Charter required for it.
  • The intent: a separate corporation for a property purchase and costs for the clubhouse.
  • October: Purchased the Col. Vincent Dixon property on the east side of Tarpon Center Drive, but declined to purchase the Dixon property on the west side of the road.
  • Part of the northern part of the property, owned by George Gibbs, was also purchased.
  • Later the Club would sell part of the northern segment.

1960

  • The Charter for the new Venice Yacht Club Realty Corporation was received in April from the Securities and Exchange Commission of the sate of Florida.
  • Highly unusual and a first in Florida at that time for a charter for a corporation to be funded privately, with funding predicated on the sale of debenture bonds.
  • Final drawings of the clubhouse were completed, and construction of a new clubhouse on the former Dixon-Gibbs-owned property began in August 1960 in a major ground breaking ceremony with club officers and all members present.
  • Funds for construction were raised by yacht club members’ subscriptions to Venice Yacht Club Realty Corporation debenture bonds and a bank mortgage on the land along with additional option monies provided by board members.
  • Club’s monthly publication changed from “The Log” to “Currents.”
  • VYC joined the St. Petersburg Yacht Club’s invitation to discuss forming a representative body to encourage the sport of yachting and encourage reciprocity among clubs.

1961

  • With membership at approximately 300, the new clubhouse was commissioned and opened in a major celebration of persistence with great success on March 4, 1961.
  • The celebration included local dignitaries, and the Venice High School ban.
  • The harbor filled with boats blowing whistles and sirens in celebration.
  • Young skippers of the “Pram Fleet,” with colored sails unfurled, tacked back and forth in the bay, greeting arriving, visiting watercraft.
  • The American flag was raised on the gaff of the new flagpole, a gift from the board of directors’ members, joining the club’s burgee on the masthead with signal flags flying from the halyard and club officers’ flags at the yardarm.
  • Kentucky Military Institute cadets fired gun salutes, and the club’s miniature cannon fired a shot in a grand celebration of accomplishment and commitment by all members of the club.
  • In July VYC became one of the 13 founding clubs of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs.
  • Boating “rendezvous” with other yacht clubs began under reciprocity agreement of FCYC.
  • The Fort Myers Yacht Club’s boaters were the first to “rendezvous” here in December.

1962 - 1965

  • VYC is re-incorporated as a private club with revised By Laws.
  • Not resting or satisfied with the VYC clubhouse, the VYC added a swimming pool and an outside veranda on the east side of the clubhouse, an outdoor snack bar, dressing rooms for visiting boaters, added storage space, and a dock master’s office was constructed.
  • The VYC also began sponsorship of “Windjammers,” a junior and senior high school student sailing group, providing its VYC members as instructors with no fee as the “Pram Fleet” continued. Both Windjammers and Pram Fleet were open to all youth in Venice.
  • Costs of sponsoring the youth sailing groups are growing.
  • Tuitions of 25 cents per sailor for the school year began in the late 1960s.
  • The original Prams had to be replaced and were with funds provided by local merchants.
  • Social activities continued with monthly theme parties.
  • Flag “etiquette” and protocols are established for the VYC for Retreat Ceremonies.

1966

  • Board of Directors agreed the VYC must adhere to new 1961 IRS guidelines for non-member functions and as well the IRS new guidelines for exemption applications and approvals.
  • VYC passes and publicizes its Resolution against Drilling for Oil in the Gulf.

1967

  • VYC member William T. Pearson provided a gift of $25,000 to build an addition to the south side of the clubhouse.
  • Later Mr. Pearson added an additional $7,000 to his original gift due to funding shortfall for the addition to the clubhouse.
  • Earlier, he had donated the funds for new carpeting in the clubhouse.
  • Accompanying his gift was a simple request: that “He has a place to enjoy his cigars and read his newspaper.”
  • Accommodating Mr. Pearson’s request: The new room was available only to men until 2 pm during weekdays, but open to all members afterward.
  • With construction completed, the room was dedicated on December 19, 1967 and simultaneously named Pearson’s Cove by the board of directors.
  • A major event occurs: VYC receives the title to the land, the building and all facilities with all financial obligations (debt) having been met in full in such a short number of years.

1968

  • Plaque authorized by the Board of Directors honoring William T. Pearson.
  • VYC continues to grow in memberships.
  • Delinquent account letters are initiated, authorized by the board of directors.
  • VYC agrees to for reciprocal agreements of the FCYC with member clubs.
  • Employee job descriptions are initiated for the first time.

1969

  • Given increasing costs, including increasing insurance requirements and costs the VYC did not think it could continue to underwrite entirely the youth sailing programs
  • The “Pram Fleet” was incorporated, separate from the VYC, as the Venice Youth Boating Assn., Inc. with a separate board of directors of 5 VYC members.
  • Articles of Incorporation were approved by the state along with ByLaws
  • VYC members continued the sailing instruction, open to all youth of greater Venice.
  • Older, experienced young sailors assisted in the sailing lessons coaches and instructors along with some high school VYBA sailors as coaches on the water.
  • New fuel tanks are installed at the dock replacing the original ones.
  • Bingo games began weekly, adding to the club’s social calendar.

1970 - 1971

  • VYC initiates advanced swimming and life saving classes with US Red Cross-certified and US Sailing Assn.-qualified VYC members as volunteers instructors.
  • Bingo on Tuesday evenings at the VYC became a social highlight of the week with women in long dresses and men, always in coats and ties.

1972 - 1976

  • A change in Florida law required private clubs hosting Bingo games, viewed as gambling in private clubs, to donate 10% of the proceeds to a charitable organizatio
  • The VYC immediately directed 10% of Bingo proceeds to help support the VYBA.
  • Annual minimum charge for dining began.
  • Tables at varying heights were corrected to improve appearance in the main dining room.
  • Chairs with casters were deemed appropriate for its members’ convenience.
  • “Chargers” or service plates were designed by a VYC board member:
         o The gold rimmed, blue border plates, with a white center and burgee in the middle.
  • Simultaneously, the Venice Youth Boating Association, Inc. was designated by the IRS in March, as a 501(c)(3) organization, now legally able to receive donations.
  • 10% of weekly Bingo proceeds were directed to the VYBA
  • Kitchen revamping plan was presented and executed by VYC House Committee members.
  • Reincorporation again was required because between 1962 and 1971, both charter and by laws revisions had been made without notifying the state of Florida
  • In 1976 the outside veranda was enclosed with jalousie windows and air conditioned, creating more needed dining space and was named the Veranda Room.

1977 – 1981

  • Five VYC members organized the Venice Women’s Sailing Squadron that was to be open to non club members and would be informally called the “Bitter Ends,” sailing in VYBA prams.
  • Swimming pool is rebuilt and enlarged, and deck on the south side of the pool is enlarged.
  • Dock rental agreements for slips are revised and strengthened.
  • VYC’s insurance was upgraded and expanded significantly.
  • The board of directors authorized a new employee orientation manual.

1982

  • The former, enclosed veranda was enlarged, floor to ceiling solar windows were added, and formerly the Veranda Room, it was re-named the “Bay Room.”
  • John and Pearl Conard provided a $25,000 check directly to the VYBA for it to construct a building on the south side of the VYC property to house the “Pram Fleet.”
  • A sailboat was donated to VYBA and sold to add to the building fund. The Conards added some additional funding shortly thereafter, based on final cost estimates for the building.
  • The building, designed by member, Mort Levine. It was completed entirely by funds from VYBA with concurrence and support from the VYC board of directors and dedicated in November 1982. A plaque commemorating the Conards was placed at the southeast corner.
  • Originally planned for the sole use of VYBA, the VYC needed storage and office space and VYC and VYBA agreed that VYC would occupy the second floor and VYBA the first floor.
  • Non-resident membership rules are implemented.

1983 - 1984

  • An addition called the “Ward Room” and adjoining small out door deck were added east of Pearson’s Cove.
  • The dining room was enlarged at the north end, and the skipper’s “Ready Room” was created on the north-east side of the dining room.
  • Membership rules for widows are implemented enabling widows to remain members as single members at a single member monthly dues rate.
  • Survey of membership was initiated for long range planning to address future needs.
  • A major dock expansion proposal was approved by the membership.
  • Dock expansion proposal was presented to the Venice Board of Zoning Appeals by year-end and circulated to various other agencies and the county government.

1985

  • VYC begins its own chapter of the International Order of the Blue Gavel, a worldwide organization of past commodores of yacht clubs.
  • Hurricane preparedness plan is initiated for the first time.
  • VYC began “sundowner cruises” to benefit the South County’s American Cancer Society.
  • A wooden deck and outside a small Tiki Bar was constructed outside by the pool.
  • A new, larger dock master’s building was constructed.
  • Parking lot was resurfaced with new parking lanes, expanding capacity of the parking lot.
  • Increased docking is proposed and reviewed with various agencies, as required.
  • Dock expansion denied by City of Venice. There were submerged land lease questions and issues from other involved agencies. So the VYC was forced back to the drawing board.

1986 - 1990

  • VYC purchased 11 boat slips plus the rental apartment building from Kermit Paxton, on the south side of Higel Park.
  • VYC names the apartment building, Fleets Inn, with members having priority in renting apartments for visiting families or friends.
  • VYC celebrates its 35th anniversary of its founding.
  • Monthly board meetings continue, as did monthly social events in high gear.
  • Continuing to grow, the membership in the club has grown to almost 800.
  • Summer memberships initiated.
  • Annual fishing tournament begins.
  • First Venice Christmas Boat parade begins with VYC boaters as the major initiators and participants, 1989.
  • Mortgage burning celebration occurs. (Mortgage on original clubhouse construction.)
  • $900 annual minimum for food and beverage charges instituted.

1991

  • VYBA changed, as a requirement of U S Sailing, from volunteer to paid instructors who were US Sailing-certified and also holding Red Cross Life Saving certificates.
  • VYC celebrates its 40th anniversary.
  • Space constraints were beginning to create challenges for the VYC, and the board had begun considering how to accommodate the larger membership for meals and monthly events.
  • Docking committee continues to work on dock expansion applications and appeals.
  • P/C George Goodwin funds front wall along Tarpon Center Drive and port cochere at the clubhouse entrance, and board of directors authorizes a plaque in memory of Goodwin’s wife, Ellan Goodwin, at to the right of the exit from the club parking lot where it is today.

1992 - 1995

  • New awning was placed over the pool deck walkway between the clubhouse and the Tiki that also was enlarged again.
  • Challenges regarding constrained space heightened, and the board of directors began considering in earnest an expansion of the clubhouse to meet members’ expectations.
  • A member survey was initiated by the board of directors for feedback on clubhouse expansion under consideration to gain a deeper understanding of members’ desires.
  • By year-end 1995, with the feedback from the membership, and suggestions from architects, coupled with visits to other yacht clubs, the board had agreed to a plan for expansion that would require a vote of the membership.
  • VYC had a potential opportunity to acquire Higel Park and had general support of the membership. The final decision to sell the park was rejected by the city of Venice.
  • Friday nights became “the night” to be at the VYC, and “Steak Nights” were begun that later would become “Galley Night.”

1996

  • Burgeoning at its seams, the VYC membership approved the plan for a complete renovation of the entire clubhouse, to cost $1.2 million, knowing it would take about a year.
  • From the closing date in September through the completion of the new clubhouse, the VYC continued food and beverage service by a tent erected on the VYC property. Fuel dock also remained open. This was an amazing accomplishment designed to keep the club’s employees working and to retain members during the major construction project.
  • Women’s Sailing Squadron “Bitter Ends,” celebrates its 20th anniversary.

1997 - 2000

  • On November 1, 1997 the significantly expanded clubhouse opened with the new 2nd floor addition, the Sunset Room, an adjacent conference room, two restrooms upstairs, two elevators, one in the front entrance hall, and one in the kitchen to provide food service to the new Sunset Room overlooking Roberts Bay and the docks.
  • An expanded burgee store opened.
  • With a new bar upstairs in the Sunset dining room and the newly expanded main bar downstairs, adjacent to Pearson’s Cove, food and beverage services at the VYC were increased significantly. More space was available for multiple, simultaneous events at the VYC.
  • Proposal was presented by the board of directors to make VYC a non-smoking club.
  • Approved by the membership, smoking was limited to the outside of the clubhouse.

2001

  • VYC establishes a website, accessible by the public, and a members only section.
  • Celebration of the VYC’s 50th anniversary occurred.

2002 - 2006

 
  • VYC board of directors holds a fund raising and social event including raffles for a new sound system, a new dance floor in the main dining room, and another Tiki Bar expansion.

2007

  • First woman in VYC’s history is elected Commodore who later became Commodore of the Florida Council of Yacht Clubs.
  • Plans for expanding the VYC docks fails to receive approval again. Undaunted, the VYC used the wisdom of mariners, and VYC changed courses in pursuit of expanded docks in the future for members and visiting guests.

2008

  • Effects of the beginning of an economic downturn in Florida were starting to be experienced at the VYC in reduced number of meals service and some members resigned due to economic circumstances.

2009

  • VYC was flourishing though finances were being impacted by the downturn.
  • Simultaneously the docks adjacent to the immediate south of Fleets Inn went on the market, and VYC seriously considered acquiring them, giving VYC the docks all along Tarpon Center Drive. However, borrowing the funds for the purchase had become a consideration, but bank appraisals of the property were lower than the asking price. The seller would not amend the asking price.
  • VYC declined to proceed further with that purchase.

2010

  • VYC’s marine is designated a “Florida Clean Marina” by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, being only the 5th marina in Sarasota County to be so designated. The year=long effort had been undertaken by the Dockmaster and the VYC’s general manager.
  • A major dock expansion was approved in a standing room only crowd at a meeting of the Sarasota County Commission, following a massive engineering and design effort involving numerous VYC marina committee members and the board of directors. Construction of the new C Dock, ending in a major T at the east terminus began shortly there after and was completed in 2011.
  • Venice Yacht Club Charitable Foundation is established, now only the second club member of the FCYC to have a charitable foundation.

2011

  • Logo is established for the new charitable foundation along with a foundation committee inviting VYC members to contribute to insure success of the goal of giving back to our community with grant priorities: youth boating, health and education, veterans and active military, the environment, and civic improvement.
  • C dock is completed and officially opened.
  • Initial grants are provided of $50,248.

2012

  • The outside Tiki bar’s food and beverage business was the highest growth area in food and beverage sales at the VYC. That called for expansion of the Tiki and resulted in a major reconstruction and expansion to accommodate the ever-growing desire of the VYC’s membership for outdoor ambience and food and beverage service at the Tiki and all along the pool deck. New tables, chairs, and bar chairs were purchased.
  • Grants provided from the VYCCF were $29,915.

2013

  • Equipment was purchased to replace old kitchen equipment to enhance the food service capability of the Club’s kitchen, especially needed due to the increase in the number of meals being served outside at the Tiki.
  • Dining menus were expanded.
  • Redecorating both the downstairs and upstairs of the clubhouse was completed.
  • Pavers were installed for the entire pool deck and dining area outside.
  • New outdoor chairs and tables were purchased increasing the seating capacity outside all around the pool.
  • The swimming pool’s interior surface was renewed.
  • Grants provided from the VYCCF grew to $76,808

2014

  • On New Year’s Day, the VYC’s general manager was killed in a tragic motorcycle accident. A large crowd attended a Celebration of Life for him in the clubhouse that included many of his motorcycle friends.
  • By April the search committee, led by the Commodore, had selected a new general manager.

2015

  • Wi-Fi extended throughout the clubhouse and docks.
  • Security cameras installed around the clubhouse with plans to include dock coverage.
  • Major construction required for A Dock: seawall rebuilding

2016

  • New, portable dance floor purchased for main dining room.
  • New sound system with separate capabilities for various areas in the Club.
  • Wi-Fi capability enhanced again.
  • Major project for A Dock: Widened slips and installed lifts resulting in all slips rented

2017

  • Significant repair required to seawall adjacent to fuel dock to rebuild the seawall and insure fuel tank security and safety to prevent possibility of forward fuel leakage
  • Major construction occurred once again in the VYC’s clubhouse.
  • Pearson’s Cove was expanded to enable more casual dining inside the clubhouse.
  • New chairs and tables were purchased for “the Cove.”
  • Main dining room carpeting, window treatments, and chandeliers were replaced.
  • Movable glass wall of doors separates “the Cove” from reception desk new sitting area.
  • Burgees from many visiting yacht clubs and VYC’s members’ former clubs re-installed in the main bar.
  • Commodore’s Room, with a glass wall of doors was created at north end in dining room to enable small dinner parties and meetings.
  • When the doors are opened for major clubhouse events, the Commodore’s Room becomes an expanded part of the main dining room.
  • Incremental storage was made available in the expansion of Pearson’s Cove along with a complete renovation of the reception desk and a separate storage closet.
  • Entrance hall floor completely replaced with attractive tile.
  • Plantation shutters installed, enhance the up to date, tropical appearance.
  • The VYBA completely revamped the boatyard by installing new boat racks all at its own expense to increase the boat storage capability and added an attractive wall at the south end of VYC property, all funded entirely by the VYBA.
  • VYBA completely renovated the interior of the first floor of the Pram Shed, all at its own expense.
  • The “Commodore’s Wall” of portraits was moved from the first floor to the second floor, complete with a new tradition of a portrait of the board members to be continued annually.
  • VYCCF grants total $111,60.

2018

  • The Sunset Room is refurbished with new carpeting, matching the carpeting on the first floor and up the stairway. Sunset Room’s window treatments were enhanced.
  • New trophy case at the north end of the Sunset Room was installed.
  • Downstairs mens’ and ladies’ restrooms were completely renovated.
  • New artwork was installed all around the first floor.
  • Driveway completely resurfaced with new parking space lines.