Dolphin Yacht Club keeps sailing on

The saying, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going,” is one with which many readers will be familiar. I believe that this saying is exemplary of the building about which I am writing this week.

The Dolphin Yacht Club was formed out of shared experiences: a love of the ocean, a passion for boating, and discrimination. The 14 men who came together to found the Club had been denied fuel, mooring, and other necessary services by other yacht clubs– all because they were Jewish.

Rather than let bigotry get the best of them, these men came together in January of 1950 to start their own club. Having been subject to discrimination themselves, they sought to create a space where anyone could take part. 

On the original Articles of Organization dated December 1950, the purpose of the club is “To foster, encourage and promote yachting and related water sports; to develop thereby good fellowship and fair sportsmanship; and to furnish in connection therewith the opportunity for social intercourse without regard to race, creed, color or national origins.” 

The signatories on the Articles of Organization were Phenny Smidt, Arthur D. Rubino, and Harry A. Simon of Marblehead, David Kunian, abd Norris Jaynes of Swampscott, Leo Sonnabend of Salem, Harry Weinstein of Lynn, B. Frederick Yoffa of Beverly, and Theodore Shoolman of Brookline.

On March 30, 1951, the Dolphin Yacht Club was officially incorporated but was without its own clubhouse. Instead, they operated out of the Rockmere Hotel. In April of 1955, the next-door property went up for sale. 

This property was originally built in 1881 for Samuel T. Tucker,  a successful dry goods merchant with the Boston firm of Tucker, Hammond & Bartlett. The building was his and his family’s private residence, which stayed in the family for two generations.

Just before the Dolphin Yacht Club purchased the property, it was owned from 1946-1955 by Robert H. Miller and Philip Miller of Winchester.

Even as the Club expanded, it still faced roadblocks. At the time, Jews were discouraged and even prevented from purchasing property in Marblehead and on the Neck. As such, the property had to be acquired via a straw purchase. A man named Lewis Athanas purchased the property and within a week turned it over to the club members. 

The Dolphin Yacht Club remains on this property, though some things have changed. Beyond cosmetic improvements and additions, such as the construction of a commercial kitchen and a dock house and the rebuilding of the outdoor decks, the Club has also made some logistical changes. 

In the Club’s early days, there was no paid staff. Instead, members volunteered their own time and skills to maintain and improve the property. Furthermore, the Club was launched into the spotlight in 1964, when Marvin Frank and John Smidt raced the boat, Bat Yom in a 70-hour Marblehead to Halifax race. The Bat Yom was the first boat from the Dolphin Yacht Club to race, thus introducing the world to the Club. 

Some things stay the same, though. The Dolphin Yacht Club maintains their commitment to being an inclusive and welcoming yacht club to this day, so that all those who want to be members can enjoy the beauty of Marblehead, and more importantly, the camaraderie of the nautical community.