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Not for Profit: St. John Yacht Club

Feb. 18, 2007 — While the St. John Yacht Club members like to swap sea stories and hoist a few with their fellow sailors when they get together for regattas or their regular monthly meetings, they also are bent on doing good works.
"We provide support for KATS," Commodore Gerry Hills says. The money raised through dues and from entry fees at regattas goes to help the St. John Kids and the Sea program with expenses.
The club joins forces with the island's two other yacht clubs, the Coral Bay Yacht Club and the Nauti Yacht Club, to put on the annual Commodore Cup, "a big fund raiser for youth programs," he says.
The club also holds two other major events: the Duke's Trophy race in Pillsbury Sound and the Island Hopper Race that heads around St. John.
The Yacht Club also raises between $8,000 and $10,000 a year by auctioning off an inflatable dinghy with an outboard motor to help fund youth programs, Hills says.
Three years ago the Yacht Club bought four International 420 Class boats for KATS. These are the small boats used by college teams, so the KATS kids were able to practice with them before heading off to school.
"That cost $29,000," Hills says.
During the past couple of years, the Yacht Club gave a college scholarship to a St. John student and provided support for the island's Optimist team, he says. Optimists are small boats sailed by youths.
The club got its start back in 1972, organized by a group of St. John sailors. Founding members included Bob Eaton and Cees deGraaff, who are now deceased, Hills says. They aimed to encourage the sport of yachting, provide a social outlet and give a collective voice to the support of programs to protect the marine environment.
"It's a social and boating organization," says member Jan Trainor. The yacht club has grown to 75 members, as well as eight honorary members.
This is a yacht club without a club house. Even so, the group meets the first Tuesday of every month. The locations vary, with some meetings held at members' homes and others at restaurants.
In addition to Hills as commodore, Jim Swan serves as vice commodore and Bill Morris as rear commodore.
Membership in the club provides entry into any yacht club in the country, thanks to its membership in the U.S. Sailing Association, Hills says, noting that it's pretty easy to become a member. While prospective members have to face a vote, just about everybody passes muster.
"Most have boats, but not all," Trainor says. "Some have boats that are not down here."
To join the St. John Yacht Club or for more information, call membership chairman Tom Walters at 776-6364.
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