By Bruce Claflin, Scuttlebutt Magazine
The St. Paul Yacht Club was founded in 1912 by a group of prominent St. Paul citizens to explore the then new pastime of power boating. The Club’s home on Harriet Island was made possible by a covenant in the will of St. Paul’s own Dr. Justice O Hage, who deeded the area now known as Harriet Island Park to the City of St. Paul as a gift in 1900, with the understanding that public access and recreation would always be the primary purpose of the 40 acre island parcel. The club was created as a nonprofit co-op structure with the mission statement “dedicated to safe and affordable boating through cooperative efforts.” The club and marina have been in continuous operation since that time (106 years) and have a long-term lease with the City of St. Paul as per the stipulations of the O’ Hage will. The club has successfully and continually operated through World War I, the great depression of the 1930s, World War II, the record setting 1965 flood, and countless other smaller scale calamities. They are a 501 (C) 7 non profit corporation under Minnesota and Federal law and are owned and governed by the members.
Being a co-op, much of the work of building and operation of the marina over the years has been done by the members themselves. Much volunteer effort has gone into the creation and maintenance of the facility in its history, but by the late 1980s factors were moving the club to implement a more professional and robust operational structure. The marina had grown over the years to 150 slips contained in two separate harbor areas, and the City of St. Paul had begun to refocus on the value of the riverfront areas it owned and administered and announced plans for a major rebuilding and development of parkland. This would require much from the SPYC as well if it was to remain in operation on Harriet Island. This was more than a primarily volunteer staff could handle, and the club has evolved to its present compliment of a full-time manager, dockmaster, and yard staff.
The club is still a nonprofit, and is still owned and governed by the members, however the professional full time staff has allowed the marina to grow and keep pace in an increasingly complex world.
As required by the Harriet Island Park project, the SPYC embarked on the largest and most costly upgrade in its long history, investing over $2,000,000 since 1994 in new state of the art docks, travel lift and yard equipment, public gas dock, clubhouse, and related infrastructure. The result is a premier marina in a vibrant and fascinating urban environment.
The SPYC is comprised of two harbors containing a total of 180 Boat slips ranging in size from 25’ to 60’ in length. All slips are TRUE slips with a finger on each side. Docks are 4’ walkways with 3’ fingers and meet applicable ADA requirements. Each slip is equipped with twin (2) 30 amp electrical service with 50 amp optional, potable water, cable/internet hard wire and wifi. All docks are security lighted and gated with electronic passcodes.
The marina also features a public gas dock with a credit card operated pump that is available for use 24 hours a day from May through October each season – the only one in the area. The gas dock also features a state of the art marine pump out system, potable water, and public bathroom. All are 24 hour operation and self service.
The SPYC is headquartered at the boatyard located at 375 West Water St. and features a security gated and fenced outdoor storage area for 130+ boats, 30 ton Travel Lift marine hoist, and a 30 ton Con O Lift transport trailer. Members are free to access and service boats year around in the yard.
One of the unique features of the St. Paul Yacht club is the 25 member liveaboard community in the lower harbor. The club has had year around live aboard boaters since its founding and over the years a very well thought out system has evolved to make things as comfortable as possible in a harsh winter environment. The liveaboard docks have metered natural gas installed and a winterized water and pump out system.
An addition in the last 4 years is the state of the art floating member clubhouse in the upper harbor, used for marina and member events, parties, receptions, etc. The clubhouse contains full shower and bathroom facilities as well as a catering kitchen and huge deck. All free for member use.
To this day, the club and marina are operated in accordance with the original mission statement “dedicated to safe and affordable boating through cooperative efforts.” As a non-profit they strive to give back the maximum value to their owners – the members. Boating in Minnesota means a short season and they try to give all their boaters the chance to maximize every minute on the water that they can.