Brooklyn Boro

THIS SUNDAY: More than 100 boats from Brooklyn’s historic yacht clubs celebrate Blessing of the Fleet

June 23, 2017 By Paul Frangipane Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Sailboat tames the winds and sails under Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Photos courtesy of George Farkas Sr.
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Symbolic of a healthy and bountiful season of sailing, leaders of various faiths will bless more than 100 boats this Sunday, marking the annual Blessing of the Fleet, hosted this year by the historic Miramar Yacht Club on Emmons Avenue in Sheepshead Bay.

Brooklyn’s connection to the water is ancient and pivotal to its development history. Heightened awareness is brought to new developments like Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Domino development in Williamsburg, which draw more and more people to the waterfront.

But Brooklyn has a distinguished and almost hidden history of active yacht clubs that since the 19th Century, have provided serious sailors with access and social connections based on love of the water. The nearly eight active yacht clubs in Brooklyn today have a combined age of around 460 years.

“Sailing is a timeless mix of aesthetics and purposeful skills, dependence on wind and tides and the beauty of a sailboat’s motion when she is trimmed just right,” Wendy Shomer, one of Miramar’s longest standing members said in a statement.

Miramar’s neighbor on Emmons, Varuna Boat Club, is one of Brooklyn’s oldest yacht clubs, dating back to 1875.

Varuna leans towards motorboats and in order to become a member, you need to know someone already involved.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the North Brooklyn Boat Club is open to all members of the public and is in its infancy stages in comparison to most of the borough’s other clubs.

North Brooklyn Boat Club was founded in June 2010 through a grassroots proposal as a community benefit project from a State environmental fund. The community voted to have a public boat house and so the process began.

“It’s all about community access to the water,” Founding Member Jens Rasmussen said. “Our idea is to provide more access for the community to take advantage of the biggest open space resource that the community and indeed the entire city has, which is our blue space.”

The club operates its canoes and kayaks out of 51 Ash St. near the Newtown Creek and has kept a steady membership rate of about 350 members per season since it opened.

Boat clubs cover Brooklyn, from the north to the south and way out on the outskirts in Canarsie, with clubs like the Midget Squadron Yacht Club of 1900 at the Foot of Seaview Avenue or the Paerdegat Yacht Club next door on Paerdegat Avenue North, on the northeast bank of the Paerdegat Basin between 11th Street and Seaview Avenue.

The Blessing of the Fleet just happens to be in an area where the most Brooklyn yacht clubs are concentrated, but the waterfront has been a place of solitude, comradery or nostalgia for boat lovers old and young across Brooklyn’s waterfront.

“Our refuge from tumult and stress is Miramar and our boats,” the commodore of the Blessing of the Fleet host this year, Michael Friedman, said in a statement. “We all enjoy the beauty and serenity of being out on the water and a majestic sunset from our grounds.”

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