PYC: The Beginning

Recipe for starting a sailing club: Add water. Lots of it.

history1Before the docks, before the clubhouse or access roads or courtesy docks or ramps— before folks could even begin to dream about starting Perry Yacht Club — there had to be a lake. For that, credit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

After the disastrous Kansas River flood of 1951, which inundated land all along the river from Junction City to the West Bottoms of Kansas City, Missouri, the Corps turned up the volume on its campaign to build dams on the tributaries of the Kansas River. Once Congress gave the go-ahead, the Corps set to building its Big Three projects to protect the river’s drainage: Tuttle Creek, completed in 1962, Milford, finished in 1968, and Perry, where work began in 1964.

Although the dam was unfinished, in 1967 the Corps had to close the gates when spring rains turned the Delaware River into a torrent and threatened to flood the Kansas River, known also as the Kaw. The result, by the Corps’ estimate, was prevention of more than $10 million in damage downstream. Temporarily, the move created an 11,000-acre lake, which was drained when the danger passed.

On January 15, 1969, with the project about 80 percent complete, the dam gates were closed to begin permanent filling of the reservoir. Dedication of Perry Lake came on a hot, sunny August 16, 1970, with scores of boaters, picknickers and politicians looking on.

As February turned into March 1971, PYC’s charter members labored to get the club up and running. If sailing was to be done that spring, money had to be collected and infrastructure built. The club’s newsletter of Feb. 22 called for construction of an access road, parking lot, launching ramp and stairway to start in 30 days and be completed by May 1. To generate funds, slips were sold. The cost to purchase one 11 feet wide by 24 feet long was set at $751.64, including insurance and contingency fund contribution, which was for emergencies and miscellaneous expenses.

The cost to buy the most expensive slip: $982.76. A cash deposit of $109 was required. Boat owners paid an active membership fee of $40. The state of Kansas, as of New Year’s Day 1971, required all boats -- sailboats included -- to be registered with the Forestry, Fish and Game Commission. That cost $3.

Every weekend, longtime member Mary Gall recalls, a small tent city came to life on the grounds of Perry Yacht Club. By April 1971 construction was under way, and first-year members spent weekends supervising and pitching in. One company excavated the launching ramp, stairs and paths. Another graded and poured the stairway, sidewalk and original launching ramp. Yet another graded the road and parking lot.

Everything was being done in anticipation of a Memorial Day opening.

“With no running water or electricity,” Mary recalls, “we hauled the tents, kids, diapers, rubber boots, water and food, grills and camp stoves back and forth each weekend.”

Docks with 54 slips were on order along with a courtesy dock. All were scheduled to arrive before the end of April.

The racing committee delivered a schedule to the Corps of Engineers and the Kansas Forestry, Fish and Game Commission for approval. The Lightning fleet numbered 25, Thistles and Windmills 11 each, Flying Junior 10 and Demons nine. Also on the club roster were Flying Dutchmen, Flying Scots, Sweet 16s and assorted keel boats.

By Memorial Day weekend, 1971, the club was opened and has stayed that way ever since.

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