The Bay Waveland Yacht Club (BWYC) celebrated it’s Annual Review of the Fleet last Sunday, April 22, 2018. This event designates the opening of the sailing season at BWYC for the year. Although inclement weather curtailed the club’s annual boat review, club members participated in special ceremonies and celebrated with a jazz brunch afterwards.
This gala event was reminiscent of a similar party held back in 1897 in the grand ballroom of the first BWYC clubhouse. During the “gay nineties” the annual regatta in Bay St. Louis was an event eagerly looked forward to from year to year during which our village was crowded with able and enthusiastic yachtsmen. The Mobile Yacht Club and the celebrated Southern Yacht Club of New Orleans would send entries to this grand event. The flower of Southern womanhood was always well represented. For a few days before the regatta, ladies of the Coast were adorned with the flying colors of their favorite sailor. The day of the race was a gala one at the Bay, after which followed champagne suppers aboard yachts, followed by a grand ball or party at the Yacht Club.
It is enjoyable to read in the “Gossip of the Bay” column of the Sea Coast Echo the flowery language characteristic of that era in the description of that abovementioned party in 1897 that our great grandparents attended. “An audience taxing the utmost capacity of the upper floor of the clubhouse assembled on a Saturday night. A finer gathering would be hard to find. Professor Grisal’s Orchestra successfully provided music that was exceedingly well rendered evidenced by frequent applause. The refreshment booths were attractively decorated in a most tasteful manner, but nothing was more enhancing than the presence of that feminine loveliness that presided enchanting the thirsty and lover of good things. Dancing was kept up until a late hour.”
The BWYC was founded in 1896. The clubhouse was built in 1897 and was located near what was considered the center of town at that time at the foot of Washington Street. The clubhouse extended out over the water of the Mississippi Sound and was connected to the shore by a 1,100 foot pier. The building was a “grandstand” two-story wood frame structure surrounded by a railed porch constructed at a cost of $2,500. The clubhouse was considered handsome, well-equipped, and the prettiest yacht club in the South.
The BWYC continued to grow and was expected to be an agency to bring many people to Bay St. Louis and Waveland which would certainly increase the prosperity of our summer resort.
The population of the Bay was approximately 2,500 souls in that time frame. The club continued to grow until 1915. At that time a “West Indies Hurricane” destroyed the building. In 1916 the BWYC lapsed into inactivity until 1921. There have been four buildings that have served as the clubhouse of the BWYC over the last 122 years. The first two clubhouses were located at the end of Washington Street. The third and fourth, or present day clubhouse, were located in Cedar Point at the site of the Old Peerless Cannery facing the Bay of St. Louis.
Sailing has been an integral feature of the character/culture of Bay St. Louis and Waveland for over 300 years. Our local mariners have plied the seas to fish for shrimp, finfish, crabs, and oysters for profit.
There are no better seamen than American sailors. There are no better yachtsmen/yachtswomen than the mariners who race for the BWYC. May our sailors young and old on the Gulf Coast enjoy fair winds and following seas.