UNIVERSITY YACHT CLUB — A HISTORY

CHAPTER FIVE – 2000 - 2010


COMPILED  by GENE MYLER


Charles Dickens begins one of his great books A Tale of Two Cities with “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” The same can be said of the period from 2000 to 2010 at the University Yacht Club.

You can divide this decade in half, calling the first five years the best of times focused on planning and building. Call the last five years of the decade the worst of times because of distress from low water level and a degrading economic environment.

In the early best years, we were planning for and building docks to take care of new members coming over from Holiday Marina and the Atlanta Athletic Club Yacht Club. We reached our fiftieth year as UYC in 2001. we marked the milestone by issuing a commemorative Burgee featuring the figure fifty and trailing off in Roman numerals MCMLI-MMI. The Burgees had been ordered, made and shipped for use at our Opening Day program, fleet blessings, etc. in the spring. The burgees failed to arrive on schedule and substitute paper copies were made of our new flag for the ceremonies. 

In the worst years we faced: “Water Wars”, drought, a falling economy, high gas prices, higher boat prices, the closing of boat manufacturers and the merging of marinas. All this came in the last five years of the decade.


UYC BUILDING 2000 – 2006

In these years we were planning and building at a furious pace. We needed the added space not only for people coming in as new members but also for an increase in the size and types of boats of some members already docked.

Costs for our building program:

2002Dock E$575,000

Dock F$250,000

Dock G$200,000

2003Dock H$150,000

Total$1,175.000


We were able to secure the funds we needed because times were good, housing stable, stocks stable, banks solvent, the lake full and we had new members.

The Dock Committee, chaired for ten years by Steve Walker, accomplished planning and Corps approval. Our anchor to The US Corps of Engineers, Col. Tommy Thompson, died late 2003. Steve was left to do delicate work with unfamiliar contacts. From 2000 to beyond 2008, Steve and the Dock Committee pushed forward with the paper work and emerged with a Corps-approved Master Plan for Dockage at UYC. 

In addition to dock construction, a major clubhouse expansion and renovation took place in 2006 under Commodore Hal Henderson, Mike Foran, Erica Riden and a committee of hard working club members. Their names are featured on a plaque to the right of the clubhouse door.  The renovations included a new bar, remodeling and expansion of the dining room to include the former front porch area, upgrading of the restrooms and kitchen.  During the process the interior of the clubhouse was completely redecorated. A new covered porch was added to accommodate smoking, now prohibited in all enclosed club areas. The work was managed by club member Ed Griffith (AKA disk jockey Sweet Eddie G), a general contractor who donated his time and efforts to the task.

In October, 2007 under the direction of Mike Foran the club saw the dedication of the Patriot’s Point flag pole, visible from well out on the lake proudly flying a large American flag.


LEARNING TO MANAGE

UYC members were learning a very valuable lesson in management. Progress does not flow in a neatly defined timeline. 

The upgrades to our facilities  took years.  Officers and committee members had to complete an action plan, secure the funds, get Board and membership approval, and be ready to answer questions and solve problems that would arise during implementation.

When did the idea to do long range planning take hold?  Steve  Walker, a CPA, Dave Erickson, a scientific engineer medical guy, and Doug Eddy all saw a need for continuity in planning and problem solving.  Phil Eastman led reorganization of the By-Laws, cleaned up some Rules wording, came up with a whole new program for membership, put on a presentation at a Town Hall Meeting and proposed a way for folks to give money for lake services/improvements and save money on taxes through creation of the UYC Maritime Foundation.  Doug Eddy pushed to have a survey to find what the membership wanted in future facilities.  A professional, independent of the  membership, management or the Board, analyzed the survey.

On May 24, 2004 we had our first Town Hall Meeting.  Bobby Waldron was moderator.  The meeting began with a presentation by then VC Eastman on ideas from the Membership Committee for increasing membership. Data on the growth of Life members and decline of numbers in the Active category was presented. Considering that data, changes to the requirements for Life membership were introduced for future new members.

Following VC Eastman’s presentation there was lively discussion regarding topics such as site improvements, menu selections, dues and slip fees, etc.  In a Summary at the end of the meeting, Commodore Eddy emphasized the need for the Club to plan ahead for multiple years.  The membership also reaffirmed that UYC’s mission was as a family-oriented boating club. 


THE LEADERSHIP

During this ten-year period our Commodores were experienced primarily in the banking, airline, and medical fields. We also had a contractor who was a blessing when the lake went down. He loaned us equipment to wrestle with the docks and the low water. 

All these leaders came to the job of Commodore seasoned by service on the Board, as committee chairmen, secretary, treasurer and lower commodore ranks until they sat in “the chair”.  Some also had been Power or Sail Fleet captains.  After serving as Commodore we chained them to a duty mast as Past Commodores, and ex-officio members of the board .

This is a long tour of service and commitment for anyone. Sacrifices are made by members rising to the rank of Commodore, taking six or more years along the route. This parade to leadership has seen interruptions as when Bill Saunders felt a medical problem would hinder his efforts.  His mellow Virginia voice and smooth story telling would have made a classic Southern leader for UYC.  His presence has been missed. 

There will always be people who for business or personal reasons don’t want to be on the Bridge.  Here we can find contributions of great value but sometimes little note or reward.  Paul Ebbs may be a good example.  I do not know if he was asked for Bridge duty but he was an excellent Social Chairman and ran the Chapel as well as Pope Paul might have. Before the Chapel was built we called his group the “Tables and Chairs Committee” for they always seemed to be moving the dining room about between a party and Sunday Service on the screened porch, now enclosed and running the width of the back side of the club.

Jim Hale’s stock reply to the Board of “no report” at meetings indicated we had a member on the computer side of our operation that knew how this stuff should work. He worked for one of the biggest companies and kept the fizz in Coke.  

Dr. Letton wrote a letter to the club during the reign of Doug Eddy saying how he liked the place and was most generous in his comments.  I’m not sure of his intent but it was written at a time when Lett produced two books about his life.  Maybe this was his composing period.  Lett mentioned in this note that he had been asked four times to be Commodore but felt he had to turn the job down as he had a large surgical practice and needed to be at the hospital for emergencies thus could not be readily available to the Club.  Some of you may know he also turned down President Nixon’s offer to be Surgeon General.  UYC was in good company.

We must mention the contribution of Eddie Griffith, AKA “Sweet Eddie G” who was our in-house DJ, providing music for numerous parties and events.  He also was a builder who donated his services to the club as general contractor for the clubhouse renovation.  He built homes for some UYC members, including the Shortells, the Von Hovens, the Hales, The Martinez, and the Dukes.

We also have some creative members who are the “RELIABLES”. They do the decorating for party after party. At Christmas and New Years Eve, they are true “reliables”. One year they went wild with a James Bond theme party. The Commodores’ Ball is an elegant affair. Halloween is also a major event with innovative costumes.  These “reliables” were and are clever, creative and consistent in their contributions toward enjoyment of our activities.   To mention some names would be unfair because I don’t know all and the mix changes over time.  The “reliable” are ladies for the most part. They go about the dinning room to change it into something new and magical every time.  Visit these working sessions and see the bees at work.  

An Elf decorates the gate party to party.  Who put the tassel on the mortarboard on the old wrought iron gate? Who removed it? Who brings the flowers to chapel? Who hides the Easter Eggs?  Who are the smiling, friendly bartenders at our parties?

John Hopkins, often caught in the act of trash pick-up, will be in the Commodore’s seat for 2012-13.  He jogs the club road at a relentless pace and picks up trash as he goes.

Dick Tucker came to party after party and took pictures, which resulted in professional quality photos. Then he printed them and gave them away. Some were as large as 8 x 10 if he liked the shot. Most often he was feeling poorly and went home before the party started but he was looking at the people. Dick never charged for these photography gifts. I know he bought paper by the case and ink in large quantity for his very fine printing equipment.  Since his passing this task has fallen to other members.

On weekend nights at the club we had a “Town Crier” who kept us up to date on what was new and important among staff and members alike.  This fellow took the time to know which of the waiters had just passed chemistry and who had done well in their finals.  With a tap to a water glass, Mr. Furman Ferguson would call attention to the news and praise the good deeds as he saw them.  Furman was genuinely interested in people and he did us all a service by these dinner announcements. He proclaimed many a birthday and then led the diners in a chorus of Happy Birthday.  There was not one before him and none has followed.  Our vocal newspaper has gone out of business. 

Richard Hoffman runs the popular Golf Program. It has grown to a stature that includes a Men’s Night Out the evening before the slicers get their hits.  He’s upgraded the digs in course selection.  Ladies are invited in for the tournaments but the night out before on the porch takes on an aroma of Cuban or Puerto Rican cigars.  When Robin Terrell was Commodore, Richard even ran a party for a group including non-duffers and called it “The Golf Ball”. The tables were green on 4/18/09 for all to tee-it-up for a night of dinner and dancing. 


THE MANAGER

A change in the manager position occurred at the confluence of best and worst times.

Howard Giddens had been manager at UYC since 1980. He came to us in part because PC Col. Tommy Thompson felt we could find our manager from those who ran some of the many military clubs etc., at the Army bases about the country. No doubt Howard knew food service, repair, up-keep and the run-of-the-mill activities of making a club work. However the question that he asked Col. Thompson during a tour of the club, about what the floating sheds along the shore were, lived on after his tenure. Some fifteen years later at Buford First United Methodist Church he was laid out in front of a packed house of members, and those who knew him as boss, customer, and friend.  Our longest serving manager was gone. 

Howard and his wife Eleanor had groomed their son, Jeff Giddens, as a successor. His term as Manager began in 1995 and ended in 2003. Jeff had considerable back trouble; his wife Bonnie a serious and later fatal illness.  He left the Club for other opportunities around the lake. In all, the Giddens clan managed UYC for about 23 years.  

Next came Mark Mountain as club manager. He had experience with a marina company as part of a real-estate development program in South Carolina.  Mr. Mountain went back North in 2005. 

Next the bridge advertised for a manager in a journal run by an association of club managers.  Along came Ted Koerner, with a background in club management and food service experience. He was born to the job. His grandfather ran a large lake resort in Wisconsin. Years back Ted’s dad was involved in this lodge resort. He then went off to the food service business.  Ted grew up in this field and later took a BS degree at the University of Wisconsin in Food Management at Stevens Point, just north of Madison.

Ted and Cathy settled in the manager’s house about mid-October of 2005. Once again we had a team at our helm.  While Eleanor had run the club office for Howard, Ted’s Cathy has her Saturday noon Chicks.  Cathy seems to be in lots of places at most Club activities.  She gives Ted the temperature of the membership. 

 

WATER WARS and DROUGHT

On a larger scale and beyond our control were the “Water Wars” between Georgia, Alabama and Florida over the use of the water in Lake Lanier.  The legal rights to this water have been argued for almost the age of the Lake.  However a Federal Judge pulled the plug on Atlanta, ruling the original mission for water usage did not cover the growth of Atlanta and its needs. Basically Atlanta was not entitled to Lanier water. At stake are many issues: an Alabama need for cooling an electrical generation facility, Georgia towns with need for lakes and drinking water along the way, fresh water to nurture some fish and shellfish in Florida’s Apalachicola Bay and southern Georgia’s need of water for crops. There was a lot of demand, no rain and lawyers galore. 

All this got very serious with a long drought in the South, with little or no rain into Lanier’s watershed, the smallest for any lake of its size in the US. In November of 2007 during Mike Foran’s term as commodore, the lake reached its lowest level since it was filled at about 20 feet below full summer pool and continued to be low and dangerous for most boaters through 2008 and into the Fall of 2009. If you wanted to go for a cruise on the lake -- better not.  Islands began to grow in places never seen before. When the lake was built it flooded to about 1040 feet above sea level and the Corps of Engineers cut all the tops off trees leaving 20 to 30 feet of water to full pool.  Bare treetops and limbs began to show up as levels approached 1050 feet. The advice was to stay clear.  Lakefront property owners needed to mow their coves. 

The state, our area and much of the south were in a severe drought. With heavy demands for Lanier water, our lake began to disappear.  The three states had argued for years about the usage and amount of water they needed.  But when the supply got short the talks got hot and everyone developed a legal plan for protection of their needs - rather than working on any way to bring in water from some other watershed. 

Perhaps most telling was a cartoon by Mike Luckovich in the AJC showing a fella in waders standing in Lake Lanier with a ruler announcing that there were about three more flushes left in the Lake.

Then we watched the economy follow the lake down the drain. Some of our out-of-town members dropped their memberships because they were conserving funds.  A poor economy affected the Club and its members well past 2010.

On November 22,2007, the water level set a new low reading at 1,052.34 feet, almost 20 feet below full pool. The lake eventually filled, but as of this writing (late-2012) it is headed back down and sits at 1056 and change.   The economy appears to be on the mend, and the Water Wars go on, although the Federal court did rule in Georgia’s favor on a key issue.  Atlanta was granted access to the water.


UYC FACILITY UPGRADES and MEMBERSHIP

Though the water level and the economy were not cooperating, Club leaders correctly assumed that investing in facility upgrades were necessary to maintain and attract members.  In the latter part of the decade this included a number of dock upgrades, additional slips on A and B docks and a major remodeling of the Club House.

Kudos to those who guided us during this time of trouble and change.  Remember that earlier we had arranged a loan for $700,000 to cover some early dock programs.  Use of this loan, and more funds, care in budgets, other planning, and expense control made for success.

There were two extremely important “membership” events that helped the club weather the financial troubles that arose during this ten-year period. With lake levels some twenty feet down the inflow of new members would be much reduced. Why join a Yacht Club on a lake with no water? Wait until, and if, the lake rises? 

The second blow following the lack of water was the economy.  We saw a drop in the non-resident membership but most of the slip renters stayed, for dock space was scarce on the lake. Boat sales and some boat sellers disappeared.  

We thank two commodores for their efforts in bringing in new members before all the water went down river and the economy was flushed as well.  In 2003, Wiley Stanford brought in 20 to 22 new members largely due to the closing of the Atlanta Athletic Club Yacht Club.  This was during Commodore Sam Barazzone’s term. Our fortune was that Wiley had sold houseboats to many of AACYC members and knew who might be interested in coming to UYC. Paul Ebbs and Ron Harding had moved from AACYC to UYC and could attest the food was good and people even better.  

The prize for most members brought to must go to PC Rich Mason.  He and his committee proposed changes in the system we had used for years, including proposals that initiation fees could be paid in four installments. Also added were provisions for some rebate of initiation fees for new members who were transferred out of the area soon after joining.  Open houses were conducted to show prospective members the facilities and let them meet some of the membership. In April of 2006 we had three first readings. VC Mason had 19 first readings at the May Board Meeting. Four more firsts occurred in June. In all, Rich and his committee brought in 32 New Members.  

The monthly minutes of this period show a steady transition of Active to Life membership as members reached the age and length of membership requirements.  

In writing about this period of growth there were many people other than Rich and Wiley that deserve mention – committee members conducted studies to age the membership pool and estimate the number to join, die, move, etc.  When Don Fairchild headed a Committee to examine the “Life Membership” situation years ago, the committee determined that we had an obligation and contract when the member joined.  Some very smart person said, “That was then, this is now.”  The eligibility requirements were changed based on the date the member joined, and are detailed in Article VIII, Section 6 of our BYLAWS. 


THE BOATS

Over time we have seen an evolution of the boats and boating on Lake Lanier. Houseboating started in the early 1950’s when the Army Corps of Engineers started building Lake Cumberland near Somerset, Kentucky along with other TVA lakes. After WWII there was an urge to increase hydro-electric generation with man-made lakes and inland reservoirs of fresh water, which would help control drought problems and occasional flooding seen in earlier years. 

Houseboating continued to grow in popularity, and that trend affected the Club in many ways, from the size and types of docks needed to accommodate members’ boats, to activities on the water.  Raft-ups gradually changed from being mostly cruisers to mostly houseboats, for example.  UYC is now home to many 80’ to 95’ houseboats, and even a couple that are 100’ or more.  

Sailboats continue to have an important presence at the club with an active sailing program and a junior sailing program introduced in 2011.


THE MARINAS

Over the past ten years we have seen more changes in the Marina make-up of Lake Lanier than in the first forty since the lake started.  The control of Marinas rests with the Corps of Engineers who set limits on how many, where and what the configuration of boating facilities will be on the lake.  The locations on or near deeper channels are rather precious. The Corps controls boat ramps. County road people repair the ramps. 

UYC competes in many ways with the other marinas on the Lake and we do make periodic comparisons with others to insure that our rates for dockage are competitive. We price gas a bit below others and while we do not offer boat repair or a large hardware and sundry store, we try to offer savings and thus return the membership fee over time in those savings.  Our Ships Store stocks some frequently needed supplies along with a variety of clothing carrying the Club’s logo.


THE LOW WATER

You can pick your personal “low” for the worst of times. It will probably be between mid 2007 and late 2008, unless your house or lake retreat went “under water” from the economy.  Photographs show the lake about gone in late 2007. Rich Mason was Commodore of a Yacht Club with a fleet of small boats lining the roads of the property. The bigger boats were handled and moved as space allowed to maintain safe dockage. 

We have a very long launch ramp which allowed the staff to bring out these smaller boats, set them up on large Styrofoam blocks and then concentrate on what docks required moving.  Our ramp was built before the lake was originally filled, and is longer and deeper than other ramps on the lake.

Each dock seemed to have a unique problem as the lake level receded.  Starting at I-Dock down the ramp from the office we had a go no-go situation.  The opposite shore was closing in on the outside of the dock, closing the passage of large boats from the east side of the dock out to the lake.  There is a dip in the lake bottom about three boats away from shore and the water depth is adequate for most all the dockage here. Folks stayed in their slips on the east side of the dock using small boats to go out to the lake a few times. 

J-Dock took a beating on its shore side slips.  It was pulled, lifted, bent, twisted and finally let go of the bottom and was finally floated in two pieces up to F-Dock where it was attached safe and floating. The flotation came out from under J-Dock. As an added chore the flotation on a few slips had to be replaced.  Staff even had to dig out a bobcat that dug itself into the soft shore area.  

H-Dock was moved from between the Gas Dock and G-Dock to a spot on the front of F-Dock.  Power and water were soon available to these relocated boaters hooked in front of and onto F-Dock.  

Leon Jones, Harbor Master & Maintenance Supervisor, and his crew handled all the dock shuffling and boat moving with dispatch and without damage to the boats.  Much of this was very hard labor. Our thanks go to all of them. 

 

UYC MARITIME FOUNDATION

The UYC Maritime Foundation promotes boating on the Lake. PC Phil Eastman had the idea that things we were doing or could do might be expanded for the benefit of the total lake and surrounding community. This would not be a business venture but a pooling of tax-free operations giving those who wanted races, sailing and safety programs and other events a larger pool of participants.  

Early on, Dave Erickson planned annual activities with the Atlanta Alliance on Developmental Disabilities, held at UYC, using member boats, and giving participants a flavor of the Lake for a day. This program has been going for over ten years and is a great success.

The Foundation took over operation of the Lanier Cup Regatta and UYC’s long held “Hot Ruddered Bum” Regatta.  For several years at Christmas time (lake levels permitting) UYC had held a parade of lights of decorated boats in our lake area.  For the last few years this has gone lake-wide with Foundation sponsorship.  The Maritime Foundation has also given annual scholarships to deserving graduates from Flowery Branch High School.  

Rick Smith, when Fleet Captain Sail, along with John Hopkins and 30 UYC volunteers financed and built a fleet of 10 Optimist Prams and developed a Foundation sponsored sailing program for junior sailors.  The aim was to get them into a boat and on the water, under supervision from coaches in boats nearby, and provide classwork in water basics.  It was a fantastic success and in its second year was expanded into two sessions to accommodate demand.


THE CHAPEL

Rev. Frank bulloch was Fleet Chaplain and the Bulloch Chapel was named for him.  He passed away in 2007.  The Rev. Bruce Shortell who had been the Associate Fleet Chaplain since 1994  then became Fleet Chaplain and still serves in that capacity in 2013.  He has been joined by Rev.  Caleb Clark III as Associate Fleet Chaplain, having attended seminary after serving as a commodore of UYC.  These men are our friends and minister to all.  We are proud to have these men at UYC.


ENTERING THE NEXT FIFTY YEARS

As you look back over our first sixty years, though we have had challenges, we have done well in the planning, financing, and operation of a family boating club.  Our future may bring further challenges but our seasoned members navigate ahead with confidence.