By Cheryl L. Serra

About 100 members of the Southport Yacht Club gathered for a night of recalling their achievements in 2018, electing new officers and choosing the annual Ship’s Bell Award winners, awarded to the SYC member who has demonstrated exemplary effort to support the Club in its promotion of getting boats off the dock and on the water as well as boating safety, attending Club functions, providing ideas and support to Club flag officers and always ready with a smile and fellowship.

Among the Club’s achievements were a wide array of social, boating and educational activities, many of which were either sponsored by or supported by local businesses.

Those gathered also took a moment to recognize the Club’s founding secretary/treasurer, Cindy Cowell, who passed away unexpectedly several months ago. An emotional Commodore Sam Johnston called Cindy a special person and a friend who worked very hard on the Club’s behalf. Johnston also noted that several Club members are currently cruising to the Bahamas and to Florida; many of them, he said, learned much about safe boating from Club members and Club educational and training events planned by member Pat Lynch, who formerly headed the safety and education committee.

A video created by outgoing communications committee chair Cheryl L. Serra was unveiled and documented the Club’s history, which officially began after founding members Eric Hoffman, Sam Johnston and Jeff Fisher sat on the dock of the Southport Marina thinking it would be great to have a club where like-minded boaters could get together to boat, learn and socialize. Their dock talk turned into reality in January, 2015, when the brand-new Southport Yacht Club held its first event, a New Year’s Day cruise and chili cookoff. In January, 2019, the fifth annual Club cruise and cookoff was held.

The Club’s flag officers, Commodore Johnston, Vice Commodore Chris Webster and Rear Commodore Sandy Gibson, reported on the areas they oversaw, calling on Club committee chairs for recaps of the year.

Susan DeLaney, treasurer, talked about the financial health of the Club, which donated more than $2,500 to organizations such as the Maritime Museum in Southport. She also unveiled the Club’s new logo.

Bob Menches, membership committee chair, noted the Club had 10 new members in 2018 and is approaching the agreed-upon maximum membership.

Gibson, who has served as social committee chair as well as a flag officer, introduced Cindy Killian as the new social committee chair. Gibson recognized members who led various successful social programs last year and outlined some of the plans for 2019. She also spoke of the importance of members volunteering, since the Club is an all-volunteer effort.

Bill Howell, chair of the safety and education committee, said two educations sessions were held in 2018 and more than 12 boats participated in the free U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary boat inspections. Four education programs are scheduled for 2019.

Fleet/Racing – Scott Kaseman, who serves as fleet captain and race committee chair, said 15 boats participated in the seven-race 2018 PHRF race series. The 2019 series will consist of eight races and will be sponsored by The Wine Rack, Curtis Stokes & Associates and Margaret Rudd & Associates, Inc., realtors. The Club also debuted the Big Dog Dinghy Dash, a fun dinghy race held in the Intracoastal Waterway, in 2018. Dick Booth, Dennis Farr, Club board member at large, and Lynch planned that event.

Dianne Salyer, in charge of regattas, noted that 17 racers participated in the Club’s signature Lone Palm Regatta while eight racers participated in the first Southport Cup race, a long distance race held for the first time in 2018 and sponsored by Loco Jo’s, which purchased the trophy for the cup.

Steve Karch, cruising committee chair, spoke about cruises that are Club-sponsored and planned for each month from May through October, 2019, as well as the impromptu get-togethers that aren’t Club sponsored but many members plan to attend.

Serra introduced Kass Fincher as the new communications chair. Fincher has been writing stories for local publications and KILO, the Club newsletter, but will now additionally oversee internal communications, advertising and social media.

Longtime husband and wife members Dick and Marilyn Booth earned the revered Ship’s Bell award. Commodore Johnston noted that Dick and Marilyn were always available to help in any way needed. In accepting the award, Dick noted that Marilyn is also beside him, whether it’s helping to chop vegetables as Dick helps with the Fourth of July barbecue with member Steve Mangum or participating in a race.

Emotions were high at several points during the evening, with many shared laughs and recollections. One of the final meeting items was swearing in the new flag officers. Johnston stepped down as Commodore, but not before incoming Commodore Chris Webster presented a surprise momento of Johnston’s service to the Club and the community. Sandy Gibson ascended to vice commodore and Steve Karch became rear commodore.

Chris noted that he’s anxious to take the Club to its next chapter.

Check out some great photos of the event here!

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