Winter Harbor Yacht Club

The Early Years

Recollections by Chris Christensen

Established in 1940, our Club history is reflected in our burgee and name. Harold Ulrich, Herbert Anderson, and Don Possun were three yachtsmen who anchored frequently in the area of Winter Harbor. They are represented by the three stars on our burgee.

During the war years, club activities were at a minimum, but rapidly resumed after the wartime fuel restrictions were lifted. The islands were largely unpopulated and members had moorings around the Lake that were all shared. Public docks were uncrowded and easily available for overnight stays. Nonetheless, in 1949, the members formed a corporation, Endicott Estates, and chipped in $500 each to fund the purchase of a permanent home port for the Club.

In 1950, Endicott Estates bought the center section of Welch Island (44 acres) with about 600 feet of frontage in the cove, and 1,000 feet on the south side facing the Broads. Operations started in the cove since there was a cottage and a dock there, although they had not been used by the former owner for nearly 20 years.

The outhouse and the hand pump in the kitchen still functioned perfectly, but it was a long run to each, and the pump required a lot of priming. Still casting an envious eye at the mainland clubhouse of the Winnipesaukee Yacht Club, members found a Victorian house on Spindle Point and started to consider its purchase. Only a few days before agreement was reached, the house caught fire, burned to the ground, and the deal was off.

Development plans for the Welch Island site were reconsidered. With over 50 members, the Club needed a larger building and more docks. Land was sold on the south side of Welch Island, first to members and then to the general market at a price of $15 per front foot. Thus a new clubhouse, much as it stands today, became a reality. There still was no electricity on the Island, but the Club had running water and flush toilets via a gasoline-fueled pump and a 275-gallon tank erected on stilts for gravity feed. Usually the water supply got used up on Saturday, and an early riser often woke everybody up when he started the noisy pump to refill the tank on Sunday morning.

The kids took demolition materials and built tree houses in the woods, and learned to water ski by towing an outhouse door as a hydroplane behind a small outboard. It worked okay, except for the stream of water that shot up through the crescent moon cutout in the door.

Because the Lake was less crowded, there were more boating activities. One was an annual predicted log race against the Winnipesaukee Yacht Club. This often included a joint social function after the race. Wolfeboro had one dock for cruisers only and there was good open docking in Meredith and the Weirs (before they dredged the channel, built the beach, and renamed it Weirs Beach), so these were frequent destinations for dinner and an overnight stay. Other activities included an annual picnic cruise to Green’s Basin and a picnic atop Rattlesnake Island. Labor Day weekend was always a children’s party, prompted by the September 3rd and 4th birthdays of Chris Christensen and Gail Tompkins respectively.

When the wind came directly into the cove, boats headed out to moorings in protected locations, so a plan was devised and docks were built in approximately the same configuration we have now. Some blasting was done to get rid of ledge in the cove, and the residue was used to build the breakwater.

In the early sixties, through the efforts of island residents (Harold Christensen and Lester Shapiro), electricity was brought to Welch Island with an underwater cable.

Not enough people wanted telephone service, so this was not part of the first cable, but it was added a few years later. Early telephone protocol at the Club was that no member was ever present, but that a message would be left for him. After electricity was available, the kitchen was upgraded, and more people used the Club for cooking and other functions previously performed on their boats.

The lighthouse was built and installed through the efforts of Nate Stiles, Ron Largey, and Ralph Cafarelli around 1988.

In 1980, an agreement was reached to buy the Club from Endicott Estates, but more members were needed to keep the individual costs down. The actual closing finally occurred in December, 1982, with financing provided by a group of independent investors and Club members.

Since the rejuvenation and purchase of the Club, many physical plant improvements have taken place. These include clubhouse expansion and a kitchen upgrade, new docks, new decks, including a raised deck overlooking the docks, a covered outdoor cooking area, showers, beach and woods cleanup and many small projects that all contribute to a well-kept secret: Winter Harbor Yacht Club on Welch Island.