Texas Corinthian Yacht Club

One summer evening in 1937, Carolyn & Ernie Fay, Homoiselle (Homa) & Albert (Al) Fay and Bobbie & Boy Streetman dined at Will Voss’ Café on the Seabrook Flats, where they decided that it was time to create a new sailing club on Galveston Bay. Although all were members of Houston Yacht Club, they felt it had grown too large and emphasized powerboats at the expense of sailboat racing. Therefore, the purpose of establishing our Club was clearly stated in the By-laws: “….the education of its members and their families in the art of sailing, seamanship, boat handling and related arts, and to provide and maintain a clubhouse, piers and anchorage for the recreation of its members.” Another major purpose of the proposed Club was to support and encourage participation in national and international yacht racing.

To achieve these goals, the Club was modeled after Seawanhaka Corinthian Yacht Club in Oyster Bay, New York, which had established a reputation for promoting amateur sailing. “Corinthian,” the Greek word that means “amateur sailing,” was incorporated into our name to reflect the founders’ intent, hence the decision to call the Club the Texas Corinthian Yacht Club (TCYC).

Once the Fays and Streetmans had their plans firmed up, they enlisted Bill Farish and Dudley Sharp to help recruit the charter membership, which was to be limited in number to seventy-five.

The next step was locating an acceptable location. It was decided that the property for the Club had to meet four criteria:

  1. Be fifteen feet above hurricane level.
  2. Be adjacent to an open part of the bay.
  3. Have a location for a clubhouse.
  4. Have adequate grounds for cabanas

The Fays and Streetmans discovered the site that met all these requirements. Their timing was right: the Saturday-evening sunset bathed the bay – and the land as well – in a rosy pink glow! At the time, our property was bald prairie with red clay cliffs projecting 18 feet above the water level. Mr. Kenneth Womack Sr., was developing the area, which he had named Bayview Acres. A deal was struck for the land at a cost of $10 per front foot. Our 19 acre site has 400 feet of bay frontage and is 2,055 feet deep.

After obtaining the land, the founders set about constructing the clubhouse and pier. Architect Burns Roensch was engaged to design the building. One of the young architects in his firm was S.I. Morris, who later gained local and national recognition for his designs, including such structures as Houston’s Astrodome. S.I Morris actually drew up the design for our clubhouse, and the project was completed in the late summer of 1938. The official opening was Labor Day Weekend. The original clubhouse consisted of the living room, a grill room with a horseshoe shaped bar, and a screened front porch. The bar and swimming pool were added in the 1950s. The original furnishings, down to the ashtrays, were ordered through Joseph Mullen of New York and were delivered by rail via the tracks behind the Club property.

At the same time that the clubhouse was being constructed, Chester Hill built the first pier for $600. It obviously was not as long as our present pier and did not include boat slips. It was built to accommodate boats at anchor.

Chester Hill also constructed many of the early cabanas, including the Streetman’s, which was the first cabana built on Club property. Other “pioneers” quickly followed the Streetman’s lead. Ernie Fay designed his own cabana, which is today the Pete Masterson family’s cabana. Ernie’s unique design put the guest “head” by the front door, so no one had to ask where it was! Al Fay’s cabana was located where Bob Mosbacher’s is today. Another early cabana was built by L.S. Bosworth, who had purchased property adjacent to the Club tract.

The early modest bay houses built in 1938 for the Fays and the Streetmans were quickly followed by neighboring cabanas, all designed without kitchens to encourage communal dining at the Club. Since that time over 60 families have built cabanas on the original club property and an additional 25 families have individually owned homes adjacent to the Club along Galveston Bay. Our community is one of the most unique and enduring attributes of TCYC. Affectionately known as “small town therapy”, being in residence at the Bay is a cherished time for all of our members and their families to connect and continue the traditions of TCYC.

The next logical chore was to develop a one-design sailboat suitable for racing on Galveston Bay. Olin Stephens of Sparkman & Stephens in New York was commissioned to design a boat suitable for the shallow depths, short waves and strong breezes of Galveston Bay. The final product was a Corinthian, a 21 foot-sloop keelboat, which resembled a Lightning with a 500-pound keel. Platzer Shipyard, located on the south side of Clear Lake, built the first boats until Ernie and Al Fay established their Seabrook Shipyard. Prior to the development of the Corinthian, W.S. Farish, Jr., Dudley Sharp, Ernie Fay and Al Fay raced 30-square-meter, one-design-yachts on Galveston Bay.

In the early days, the Corinthians and other boats were moored in the Bay close to the pier. The Club owned a launch, which was appropriately named Hurry Up, because the wet and cold yachtsmen grew tired of waiting to be ferried to the pier. The boat pen was not constructed until after World War II. In those early days, sailors constantly had to clean boat bottoms before each race, take great care of the cotton sails and keep wooden hulls painted and trim varnished. The racing was competitive for all, including the ladies, who sailed regularly scheduled races in the Corinthians. Corinthians were not used solely for competitive racing. They were frequently used for day sailing, picnics and moonlight sailing- in other words, for fun!

The bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 changed the Club activities for the next four years. No races were scheduled, but the Club was open for the use of the members. Ernie Fay was the first member called to duty, and Commodore Jacques Pryor presented him with an official U.S Naval Officer’s sword at a farewell party when it was assumed Ernie was destined for sea duty in China. His orders arrived the next day, assigning him to a patrol yacht in Galveston. All sailors on the Bay were required to wear identification badges with thumb prints, because it was rumored that a German “U” Boat had been detected in the Houston Ship Channel, moving in from the Gulf of Mexico. Henry Safford, who later became a Club member, spent the war sailing on Galveston Bay searching for the dreaded “U” Boats. Air Corps personnel stationed at Ellington Field occupied several of the cabanas.

Since World War II, TCYC has thrived and grown, providing many fond memories of wonderful summers. Over the decades, the Club spirit has never changed. We still carry on like one big happy family with each child having to account to numerous sets of parents. Each summer brings new babies, dogs and members. Our Club family includes managers, sailing instructors, lifeguards and staff, who work together to make each year unique.

The original purpose of promoting amateur sailing has been carried out with local, national and international racing victories for our skippers and crews. Our members have won world championships, national championships, the Americas Cup, an Olympic Silver Medal, the Mallory Cup, the 5.5 Meter Scandinavian Gold Cup and many local competitions. Our junior members have competed both nationally and internationally in the Optimist, Laser and Club 420 Fleets. In particular, our juniors have won the U.S. Junior Women’s Singlehanded Championship (The Leiter Trophy), Sportsmanship trophies in the U.S. Junior Doublehanded Championship (the Bemis Cup), the U.S. Junior Triplehanded Championship (the Sears Cup), and USODA National Championship, and have sent representatives to compete in the finals of all U.S. Sailing junior championship events as well as all USODA and selected ISAF international championships and competitions.

The year 2013 marked the 75th anniversary of the Texas Corinthian Yacht Club, and in every estimation, the original vision of our founding members is as vibrant and relative today as they intended in 1938. When Ernie Fay was asked what he considered his proudest achievement, he said it was the founding and flourishing of TCYC. Each subsequent generation of members and flag officers have maintained the commitment to continue one of the finest sailing and family club traditions in the country.

At no time was this more evident than in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008, which devastated the original clubhouse and cabanas, and led to the historical decision by the membership to completely rebuild. Our membership came together in support of a collective vision to build a better TCYC and funded a new clubhouse, new cabana structure, a new and expanded pool area, and a completely rebuilt pier. So many different individuals and families stepped up to the challenge with gifts, their time, and commitment to see the project through, it was, as Winston Churchill once said, “their finest hour”. Planned and designed by members and architects, Scott Ziegler and John Kirksey, the new facility fully captures the spirit and image of our heritage while fully supporting the present needs of our families and the future.