“We are a social club with a boating problem,” laughs Tom Maguire, the current Commodore of the Amelia Island Sailing Club. For Tom, as with many members of the club, the lure of open water is strong.
The Amelia Island Sailing Club currently has about 100 members, which includes sailors, power boaters, and even non-boat owners who are interested in sailing or boating. Many of the members are transplants to the Amelia Island area, who are drawn to the club by their love of sailing and the camaraderie among the members.
Commodore Maguire and his wife, Jan, moved to Fernandina Beach in 2015 and joined the club the same year. They brought their sailboat down from Virginia and now regularly compete in local regattas. Graeme and Nicola Nichol —originally from South Africa, but who came to Amelia Island with their sail boat by way of New Jersey—credit the club for introducing them to a number of good friends on Amelia Island. The couple, long-time sailboat racers and cruisers, joined the club as soon as they moved to the area in 2004.
“We love being involved in the sailing community here,” says Nicola. “It was really a great way to meet new folks.” A past Commodore, John Lohr, retired to Fernandina Beach from Denver. John and his wife, Joan, joined AISC right away, even though they didn’t own a sailboat. The Lohrs do, however, own a powerboat and they have long loved all things to do with water. They are active members. “We loved the fact that you could get involved in such a great local activity so easily,” says John.
One of the goals of the club is to encourage an interest in sailing. The club has held “learn how to sail” mini-courses, and they have sponsored “A Day on A Sailboat” to encourage community members to get involved in the sailing world. The club also sponsors several races, or “regattas,” each year and generally promotes the interest in boating in the area. Currently, the club is involved in “river sampling,” working with the St. Marys River riverkeeper to determine the health of the river and the sound. Boat owners and members sign up to participate in “sampling” days on the first Wednesday of each month.
The club was founded in the late 1970s, and it is run by an elected leadership, which includes a Commodore or club President, a Vice Commodore, a Secretary, and a Treasurer in its slate of officers. Various committee chairs do the “landside” work of hosting the monthly potluck dinner, setting up the cruises and regattas, publishing the newsletter, managing the membership, and planning the yearly parties.
Members of the club try to remain abreast of conditions affecting boaters in the Amelia Island area. For example, several years ago, when the city decided to lay out a “mooring field” at the downtown marina where sailboats could anchor, the club was invited to review the proposals and to have input on the layout of the field and the type of mooring balls used.
If you would like to learn more about sailing and boating in our area, stop by a meeting or contact Russ Ridley, the current membership chair. The monthly newsletter, “The Scuttlebutt,” is available on their website. Amelia Island Sailing Club meetings are open to anyone. For more information and membership applications, visit www.ameliaislandsailingclub.com.