A Brief History of the
Herrington Harbour Sailing Association
From 1948 through 1978 Joe Rose built and operated a private yacht club at the south end of Herring Bay with about 200 slips. By the late 1970s the marina had silted in and the facilities fallen into disrepair. In 1978 E. Steuart Chaney, with partners he would eventually buy out, bought the Rose Haven Yacht Club and began to resurrect it into a modern marina. A few years later he bought several marinas at the north end of Herring Bay with a similar objective. One was a new 200 slip marina called Forces of Nature. The other was the old Tracy’s Creek Marina with rather small shallow slips. Thus began a continuous program over the next 35 years to make the Herrington Harbour Marinas (North and South) into one of the largest, most modern, and environmentally friendly marina and yard complexes on the Chesapeake Bay.
In the Spring of 1981 Steuart Chaney and several sail boat owners at his new Herrington Harbour Marina decided to create an organization to promote sailing in Herring Bay through organized cruising, racing, training, and social programs. The first meeting of the Herrington Harbour Sailing Association (HHSA) was held on April 12, 1981 and established a one-month period for “charter” memberships, a $10 initiation fee, and $20 annual dues. Thirty eight charter members would join in the first month and membership would total 117 by year’s end. Four of those who joined in 1981 have remained continuous members through 2013. HHSA is not just focused on Herrington Harbour, but includes sailors from many other marinas in the region.
HHSA got off to a quick start. HHSA held it’s first race on May 13, 1981 which was won by Bob Parrish in his Sabre 28 Christa II. Fifteen boats attended the first cruise through Knapps Narrows to Dunn Cove on May 16-17. In July “The Harbour Light” was adopted as the club’s newsletter name; the winning suggestion by Charles Wehland in a contest. In 1995 it would be shortened to “Harbour Light”.
The early racing was rather informal and often included interesting, unusual formats, such as the September 1981 race around Poplar Island (which was an island at that time, before erosion took its toll, and is now being resurrected using Baltimore harbor dredge spoils). It was the skipper’s choice to round Poplar Island clockwise or counter-clockwise with a 8 hour time limit. Twenty three boats participated!
The first annual awards and social banquet was held in December 1981 in the Herrington Harbour Restaurant. The awards banquet would remain there through 1987. For the next twenty two years the banquet would roam among various Officer Clubs and hotels throughout the Washington metropolitan area, before settling back at Herrington on the Bay Catering in 2010 for 8 years. However the rising costs and demand there drove a search for a new location, and 2018 and 2019 Galas (in 2019 and 2020 respectively) were held at Mount Vernon Inn (on the property of George Washington's Mount Vernon) in VA.
Most boats in HHSA in the 1980s were less than 30 feet in length. Try to find such boats in recent boat shows! Yet the size of their boats never daunted HHSA cruising adventures. A few examples; 14 boats went on a two-week Southern Bay cruise led by Bob Enstam and Joe Sarnoski in 1982, followed by 20 boats in a Northern Bay cruise in 1983. In 1985 Joe Batts would lead four HHSA boats on a cruise to Atlantic City.
Bob Enstam was an prolific cruiser and maintained notes of all the places on the Bay he had voyaged to, which was invaluable to HHSA cruisers both old and new for decades.
Even more venturesome cruises would be undertaken; with 12 boats cruising to Block Island in 1991, and in 1992 10 boats would do a DelMarVa circumnavigation with an additional 5 going up the Hudson River.
HHSA members have periodically organized charters to exotic sailing venues such as the Caribbean Sea, Puget Sound’s San Juan Islands, the Adriatic and Aegean Seas, and various South Pacific Islands.
HHSA membership would exceed 200 for the first time in 1987 and peak at 226 in 1992. Like many other sailing associations the increased complexity and commitments of daily life, and the gradual aging of the sailing community began to erode total membership which has stabilized in the 120s for the past decade. We are currently seeing a slow increase again as people return to boating, likely following the recovery from the "housing crisis" in 2008. As of August of 2020, there are 134 member accounts (including 41 racers) and 242 members.
HHSA racing began to formally recognize a seasonal High Point champion with a perpetual trophy wheel at the end of the 1990 season. A single season champion would be recognized through 2005, after which distinctions would be made for spinnaker and non-spinnaker, and eventually multiple spinnaker champions. HHSA racing would continue to improve in quality of courses, race management, and competitiveness, yet retain a friendliness often missing in racing associations.
Our increasingly litigious society made the potential liability risk to volunteer officers unacceptable and thus HHSA was incorporated as a 501(c)7 non-profit community/recreational organization in 1995.
Herrington Harbor South marina offered a site for a permanent HHSA clubhouse in 1995 as part of the expansion of the marina west-side docks. It resulted in a very divisive debate which nearly destroyed HHSA before finally being rejected. Thus HHSA remains to this day an organization that does not own any facilities, however we have relatively easy access to the facilities at both Herrington Harbour North and South for minimal costs, which enables us to keep our membership dues extremely low relative to many similar organizations.
HHSA jumped on the internet bandwagon in 1997 when our website HHSA.org was registered. Thanks to good stewardship by numerous volunteers it has evolved into the primary communications tool and history repository, including thousands of photos, for our membership.
HHSA in conjunction with Integrity Yacht Sales sponsored a CBYRA sanctioned regatta for five seasons from 2006 through 2010. Although well managed with excellent courses in the open Bay, attendance never built to a sustainable level. The decline in sanctioned race participation all over the Bay had already begun and continues today. However, HHSA club racing has thrived. Over twenty five boats are present on any Wednesday evening racing in three competitive, friendly fleets.
Additionally, HHSA racers regularly participate in buoy races in Annapolis and Solomon’s; in Bay distance races such as Annapolis to St. Michael’s or Oxford or Solomon’s or Saint Mary’s City; and in offshore races such as Annapolis to Bermuda and Annapolis to Newport.
HHSA embraces a tradition of supporting women's sailing. This includes a "women's underway" group that meets regularly throughout the whole year. Starting in 2013, HHSA started a women's-only regatta primarily for members that has been gaining significant attention throughout the Bay. 2019 marked the first year crews came from outside the club to participate. HHSA currently provides this regatta at no additional cost to members and guess.
In the Fall of 2019, the members voted to approve the most extensive change to the by-laws in many years that aimed to simplify the document, reduce the board size, and enable the board to operate more efficiently.
True to the original aspirations, but now in our 40th season HHSA continues to promote sailing to young and old, novice and veteran through robust cruising, racing, training, and social programs. This goal faced an enormous challenge in the "Summer of COVID," when recreational boating would be suspended in all of Maryland for the first part of the year. Undaunted, HHSA organized numerous online/virtual sessions and meetings, adopted the Spring Meeting to occur virtually, and established the "COVID Series" for the Wednesday night races, adopting 3 new racing classes meant to minimize crew size: 2 non-spin classes and and for the first time in anyone's recollection a short-handed class, modifying HHSA's long-term restriction against single-handed sailing.
by Ted Slotwinski, Zalek - July 2013
Update by Jason Fox, Fine Tuned - August 2020