THE 1950'S: BOLD BEGINNINGS

First Commodore ChristiansenThough Coral Reef Yacht Club was officially established in 1955 as Royal Palm Yacht Club, the beginnings took place in countless meetings of fifty stalwart SAILORS who had visions of a 'better South Florida Yacht Club' and not much else. They encountered many problems, not the least of which was finding the right property at the right price.  But Edward S. Christiansen (pictured to the right), a retired businessman from up north, refused to let the dream die. At a meeting at his house in the early 1950's, when many were ready to give up, he pronounced, "Gentlemen, we HAVE a yacht club, whether or not we have the property." AND THE VISION TOOK SHAPE AND BECAME A REALITY.


1955

Officers and directors for the year were elected by some fifty founder members. The search began for club sites.

August 15 -- CRYC was incorporated. The Board purchased the George Engle estate on Bayshore Drive for $125,000, a good deal for waterfront property in those days. For comparison, the Floridian Hotel downtown was going for $750,000 and the Miss Harris' School was $250,000.
 

1956

May 11 -The first housewarming and reception took place in the prestigious clubhouse that had a royal palm bordered driveway, tennis courts, swimming pool, aviary, landscaped gardens and exotic shrubbery. The remodeling produced an enlarged dining area and kitchen. The garage became the bar and lounge on the lower level; upstairs became card and committee rooms with a suite for a manager and spouse. Tennis courts and aviary became driveways and parking lots. Dredging for docks began by member Jack Price's company, WT Price. All slips were immediately spoken for with a waiting list of 20. SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE! (Long waiting list for boat slips persist.)


FIRSTS IN THE FIFTIES-1950'S

All Big Social Events took place under big Tent on the lawn, as dining room was still small. Members still enjoy 'lawn parties,' looking out over the most beautiful view in town of sparkling Biscayne Bay and the members' yachts moored at Coral Reef docks.

First Commodore's Ball established on the last Saturday in April by first Commodore Christensen. What a way to get all those salty sailors out of their shipwreck duds and into black tie. Today the Commodore's Ball is the most elegant tribute to the club leader and his flag officers. Many a toast is made to him on this night.

New Year's Eve Ball- Still the hottest celebration in town where members rush to get their reservations in before it's filled. The dancingest night of the year's end takes place in a magically transformed club.
 

1957

April 1957 First Ladies' Day Launched- 150 Women showed up to play cards and to swim in the newly renovated pool.
November 1957--Annual cruise to Ocean Reef Club, Key Largo (First one included 51 boats, four airplanes and 275 members!)
 

1958-59

Youth Activities Started (sailing classes, pram races, junior events) Many of the juniors from those years are CRYC's best adult sailors today. In some families, there are three generations of CRYC sailors. We have forgiven them their 'Pram Pranks!'

Ladies Sailing Classes, launch of Lady Sailors The most active group of women still sail at CRYC, give lessons, take lessons and enjoy camaraderie.
 

December 1958

First Open House eggnog Christmas party--300 members showed up at this enduring most popular club event. This family holiday celebration has grown so popular and so large that today it sprawls all over the lawn, the patio, and the deck where mounds of shrimp, crabmeat, rounds of beef and other delicacies are laid out. Famous eggnog flows as Merry Christmas takes center stage.
 

January 1959

Club Burgee designed by members Pat and Herb Virgin, a sketch of conventional waves in blue and orange still hangs proudly today. Sailors at the bar sometimes swear the waves are moving.

CRYC hosted Yachting Magazine's famous one-of-a-kind Regattas with participation by top-ranked sailing champions nationwide. The tradition of prestigious races and regattas continues today, making Coral Reef Yacht Club one of the most popular members of the prestigious Florida Council of Yacht Clubs. CRYC is known all over the state as one of the best and most hospitable racing clubs.

Reef Points, Club Magazine, established February 1959-expanded to eight pages under editorship of Nancy Husted who later became a well-known book reviewer who appeared at many of our Ladies Days. Today, Reef Points is the monthly chronicle of the club's yachting and social events. It also contains some pretty funny photos of members at play!

Comparative Pricing of Menu Prices: Our club became known as the 'finest dining yacht club' in Florida. The price of a prime NY sirloin steak dinner was $4.50. Today, it's on the menu for about five times that price. A lesson in inflation!
 

THE 1960'S: ANCHORING IN THE FUTURE

January 1960

Reef Points' front cover featured Architect's drawing of new club additions. Today, our members enjoy the reality of those improvements every day. For CRYC, renovation seems a journey rather than a destination. It's always growing and getting better.

Sundowners started as 'Hospitality Nights' in the new bar ---discounted drinks and hot and cold canap├ęs drew early crowds. Still one of most popular monthly club events, members pack the bar to circulate and socialize and then get together to have dinner. It's known as the "Best Monthly Party" in town. New members also come to see and be seen by our membership committee.

Big Spring Event--Club Rendezvous to Coral Key home of first Commodore, Ed Christiansen. Hundreds of members and guests attended. The entire kitchen staff of Club was transported to the island to prepare steak dinners. With our new professional kitchen facilities today, we'd be hard-pressed to move the staff anywhere. But we have all our festivities in the most beautiful spot right here, except for excursions elsewhere.

Columbus Day Regatta--a living descendent of Christopher Columbus flew in to present the trophies at this prestigious event. Cristobol Colon, the 17th Duke of Veragua & his Duchess presided. The Columbus Day Regatta continues as one of our most popular races.
 

October 1960

Hurricane Donna swept in but not one boat at CRYC got damaged. In contrast, some 30 years later, Hurricane Andrew destroyed a great part of our clubhouse and docks that had to be renovated. South Bayshore Drive and our dining room were under five feet of water.
 

1962

Club renovation under Commodore Herb Virgin completed new air-conditioned dining rooms and professionally equipped kitchen and new bar and lounge overlooking Biscayne Bay, members' favorite room to this day. The panoramic view of Biscayne Bay from the bar and the friendly bar staff make it a popular meeting place for drinks and special dinners such as Thursday "Rib Night" featuring two for one drinks and big TV screen sporting events. Popcorn, pretzels and nightly cocktail hour snacks add to the ambience.

Fourth of July Barbecue and Fireworks Event was established and drew 500 people. Every year since, hundreds of members come and enjoy this rowdy family event. The outdoor ice-cream bar with mounds of many flavors piled into mountains is a big attraction for the children. (AND most adults!) Who among us hasn't seen members slipping behind the boathouse to indulge in the kiddies' treat?

Cat Cay Race-Memorable Event--member and future Commodore, Dick Vogt's Mischief hit the rocks and submerged. He and crew were later rescued by the coast guard but the stories and the teasing persisted for years. (Some memorable Coast Guard rescues did too. We have plenty of those stories today!)

Ladies Day Activities Stepped Up under Peg (Mrs. Wilton Adams) with fashion shows, book reviews, card parties and illustrated talks. Today, the beat goes on! Ladies Day has become a chic educational-fun day with emphasis on the fun. Superb food and outstanding programs from astrology to cosmetic surgery, from five-star chefs to best-selling authors, from feng shui to pantomime have highlighted the CRYC's ladies days.

Second Annual Open Regatta with 250 boats participating helped to establish Coral Reef as one of the, if not THE Premiere racing club in South Florida. CRYC took lion's share of honors with winners Ralph Ryder, Read Ruggles, John Chesney, James Schoonmaker and Jack Price. We're still Captains and first mates in the racing world.


1964-65

Commodore Matt Larkin (having earned the name, 'Shipwreck Larkin' in 1957 when his boat had a slight confrontation with the ocean floor.) inaugurated a year of serious ocean racing and established the "Hard Aground Trophy." Many have qualified for this trophy today but none have claimed it.

Pram Sailors established their own international standing with the Optimist Pram Regatta in Denmark where thirty-seven CRYC juniors competed. On the home front, CRYC pram skippers took top six places in Coconut Grove Sailing Club's summer race. Prams are a big part of CRYC youth activities today continuing the tradition of getting tomorrow's sailors started early.

Olympics Fame came to CRYC in the name of Ding Schoonmaker who went to Chicago to try out for the Olympic Team.

Frank Zagarino competed in Boston for the Star Fleet World Title.

Columbus Day Race---CRYC boats took 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in the biggest local yachting event of the year.

Hurricane Betsy Blew into Town and clobbered the clubhouse. The dining room was under water and damage to the club exceeded $30,000. Our clubhouse survived yet another hurricane and was restored better than ever.
 

The 1970's

Racing toward the Future
 

1972

The Canon's Roar was accompanied by a ceremony at popular Sundowners every first Wednesday of the month. Flag lowering with all Flag officers participating in full uniform stood at attention and saluted the flag as members looked on and cheered. This impresses new members and old alike, and still does today. The blast of the Canon's Roar signals good times and traditional tributes to sailors, sea and country.
 

1973

Fleet Review--Our 19th year saw the inauguration of a parade of member's boats, both sail and power, going from the club docks out to the Commodore's boat in the bay back to the Club. All the boats dressed in flags and banners saluted the Commodore. The colorful ceremony signals a salute to the Chief, today, as always.
 

1973-74

The Trophy Room got filled during one of the busiest race years in club history. It continues to grow and be a matter of pride today.

Renovation and redecoration also took place this year. Installation of the 1800-pound bronze bell in the circle of the club's entrance remains a lasting tribute. The bell sits proudly by our entrance, harking to all sailors who have gone before us and will come after us.

Big party time with the Shipwreck party, October Fest, Calypso Party, Dixieland Night, lawn cookouts and Dockwalloper Ball (Highest honor bestowed on a member was given to Commodore Joseph T. Gardner who helped develop the South Florida Ocean Racing Association. Party! Party! Party! Continues to sound the spirit of CRYC.

Olympic Trials in San Francisco -- Members Frank Zagarino, Ding Schoonmaker and Read Ruggles competed. Short order cook Mamie Black's son Larry won the gold medal in the 200-meter track race.


1975

Ladies Day Highlight was first Belly Dancing Program! A standout from the rest of the bridge, backgammon, and fashion shows. A preview of coming attractions?

Inauguration of the annual Orange Bowl Regatta and the Ocean Triangle, the prestigious Southern Ocean Racing Conference Racing Circuit ----Under Commodore Fred Davant, known as 'the cruising sailor,' the club stepped up interest in cruising events such as weekends at Elliott Key, Ocean Reef Club, Cat Cay and Thanksgiving Day Cruise to Plantation Key. Thanks to our innovative pioneers, these events continue to bolster our sailing spirit.

Royal Palms planted in a row along bay front lawn. These noble trees enhance the view from the patio, dining room and bar.

Establishment of Club Library and Chart Room
 

1976-1977

The Club burgee was fired in ceramic, framed in teak and hung by entrance door. All who walk through these portals carry the spirit of the burgee.

Ladies Day Programs accelerated--as new ideas flowed like champagne: "Winnie the Pooh" fashion show, hair-stylist and make up, interior designs and champagne loungewear show. CRYC Ladies never run out of innovative programs for Ladies Days.

New Committees Formed: Angling Committee, Marine Facilities and Junior Activities Committee.

Ticonderoga Trophy Returns to CRYC: The prestigious trophy awarded to the club whose boats total the highest point score during Southern Ocean Racing Conference was once again awarded to us. CRYC won it from 1968-1975 and then bowed to other clubs. But this year CRYC won it again!
 

1978

The Bacardi Cup Regatta, the largest Star Regatta ever held in North America was hosted by CRYC. The year 2001 saw the presentation of a magnificent sculptor from Bacardi to CRYC which stands near the entrance between the patio and the clubhouse.
 

The 1980's and 1990's: Modern Times

The early years established CRYC's place in the boating world. It is said to be one of the most revered yacht club in all of South Florida as well as one of the most prestigious. It is as it is today because of all those who steered its course and for all those who continue to stay the course. Most of CRYC's success comes from evolvement over the years of all the committees:  Race, Entertainment, Annual Regattas, Junior Sailing, Ladies' Sailing, Sukndowners, Dockwalloper's Ball and Commodore's Ball, annual Christmas eggnog party, New Year's Eve Gala, Ladies Day and all the events in between.
 

2000 and beyond

Champagne Years-Time to Celebrate and take Stock

True to the spirit of Coral Reef Yacht Club, the New Millennium was a triumphant year as CRYC member, Magnus Liljedahl brought home the 2000 Olympic Gold Medal.

The sailing and motor-boating events that take place at CRYC all year include:

Columbus Day Regatta-one of the world's largest sailboat races (about 500 entries)
Bacardi Cup-Star Class annual, 30 difference countries, 100 boats
The Orange Bowl Regatta-juniors race during Christmas vacation (500+ boats)
World Cup Series USA Miami - Ten classes of Olympic boats, 50 nations, 800 boats
The Lightning Midwinter Championships- Spring sail

In 2008 and 2015 Coral Reef Yacht Club hosted the Star World Championship.

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Now you can read Judith Welsh's complete history of Coral Reef Yacht Club in the edition filled with beautiful photographs and wonderful stories celebrating our Club's 50th Anniversary.  The book was compiled in part from the Archive records of CRYC and was released in March 2005. Please contact the club at info@coralreefyachtclub.org to obtain a copy of this historic volume.