By PEDER S. SCHAEFER On March 12 last year, Ken Gilbert, the newly elected commodore of the Edgewood Yacht Club, drew a big X through the club's remaining events for the spring and summer, after Rhode Island went into full COVID-19 lockdown. The social
On March 12 last year, Ken Gilbert, the newly elected commodore of the Edgewood Yacht Club, drew a big X through the club’s remaining events for the spring and summer, after Rhode Island went into full COVID-19 lockdown. The social hours, dinners and prize nights at the club’s location on Shaw Avenue in Cranston came to a complete stop.
But even through the pandemic, the club has sailed on, and the three newly flag officers, Gilbert, Chris Lee, and Vin DelloIacono – all from Cranston – hope to guide the Edgewood Yacht Club past the stormy COVID-19 seas towards a smoother, and safer, summer of 2021.
“We’re hopeful to be able to do social things again this summer,” said Chris Lee, the newly elected rear commodore who hails from the Edgewood neighborhood and lives within walking distance of the clubhouse. Lee first got involved with the yacht club through the affiliated Edgewood Sailing School, when his children were young. Over time he became more and more involved with the club, and he stepped up into the rear commodore role this year to be a larger “part of the community.”
The new vice commodore is DelloIacono, who has been involved with the Edgewood Yacht Club for over 20 years. “Getting involved with the administration, it’s rewarding in it’s own way, even if it is a lot of work,” he said.
“I dipped in my pinky toe, and now I’m trapped,” DelloIacono added. The others, including Gilbert, laughed.
Gilbert joined the club more recently, pitching in to help assist with the rebuilding process after the club burned down in a mid-January fire in 2011. Like the others, giving back to the membership is important to him.
Even as COVID-19 has prevented the club from hosting many social events, membership is rising as locals flock to the water as an escape in the midst of lockdowns and travel restrictions.
“COVID kept a lot of people near their home and looking for something to do, and boating in Narragansett Bay was a beneficiary of that,” Lee said.
According to Gilbert, the club’s membership has grown 10 to 15 percent during the pandemic, and there are now close to 200 paying members. Most members are concentrated in the Edgewood area of Cranston, with a large proportion living within walking distance of the club.
But even with the increased membership, the pandemic has been a mixed bag financially for the club. While baseline income from membership fees is up, the inability to open the bar and clubhouse for events, hall rentals and parties has dented revenues.
Still, there are hopes that with sinking case numbers and vaccinations on the horizon, this summer at the Edgewood Yacht Club will be different from the last.
“We tend not to look at this as a marina, it’s a club, and we tend to look at it as a club first,” Gilbert said. During normal years the club has an opening day ceremony, a meet the neighbors party for non-members, prize nights, and a whole array of winter events in the clubhouse. Members are encouraged to engage with the social aspect of the club, making it more than just a place to keep a boat.
One club tradition that’s stayed consistent throughout the pandemic has been racing out on the waters of Narragansett Bay. The club has had strong attendance for small boat racing, especially the Rhodes 19, Beetle Cat, and Sunfish classes. There’s also a group of frostbiters, around a dozen strong, who race on the bay even in the cold winter months.
The winter has also seen a number of improvement projects. The docks have been rebuilt and the launch Jubilee and work skiff Lucky have gotten a complete makeover. There have even been improvements to the mooring field.
Registration for the sailing school that takes place at the club is still open for next June, July and August. For around $300 per week, folks young and old can get instruction on the water, ushering in the next generation of bay sailors. Financial aid is available for those in need.
The new flag officers all miss sailing and the social functions of the club. DelloIacono explained best the frustrations of the COVID era: “You enjoy sailing with your family, and everything is pretty much normal until you come back to the club, and then you’ve got to put your mask on, and you say, OK, I’m going home now.”
The other new flag officers laughed. Maybe in a few months there won’t be the need to go home early any longer.