The land and waterfront that is now the Orr’s Bailey Yacht Club was used for many years as a children’s camp.
It was known as Balsam Knoll Kamp for Girls in the 1930s. Then it became Camp Rutledge for boys.
In 1953, Malcolm Dodge, Edward Hacker, and Avery Fides each advanced Orr’s and Bailey Island Sportsmen’s Club $100 to rent the wharf and float just north of the property for two years.
In 1954 the Sportsmen’s Club decided to buy the land the current OBYC now owns for $10,000. Thirty two members pledged to cover the cost. OBISC offered its members a place to park a car, access to Casco Bay, and a place to moor a boat. A gas pump and tank were installed in August 1954. Membership was 165.
Around that time OBISC changed its letterhead from a flying bird to a power yacht. The graphic change signified the shift from “Sportsmen’s” hunting and fishing emphasis to the boating focus that the club has maintained ever since. The change appears to have occurred around a year after buying the property.
In July 1955 members built the first float on the small beach to the north of us. This event was recorded by the Portland Press Herald because the “raft” was believed to be one of the largest in the state of Maine at 40 X 50 feet.
Some members enjoyed water skiing off the floats. Skill of the young water skiers improved as the summer progressed; some eventually used one ski while others mastered a unique take off without getting wet. Skiers would stand on the float in their homemade water skis. The boat would take off and pull the skier off the float and then around the anchorage, avoiding the few boats that moored there in those days. To return, the skier would let go of the tow rope as the boat roared past the club, glide toward the float, and sit down on the float without getting wet.
By Barbara McGowen
During the late 1950s and early 1960s four families at OBYC acquired tiny sailboats, called Turnabouts, and their young teens raced them each weekend against sailors from T-Ledge Camp, just north of OBYC, and Merriconeag Yacht Association, across the bay.
Ric Haskell (Commodore 2003-04) raced the “Too Late”, Sue (Tweddell) Baker (Commodore 2005-2008) sailed the “Me Too”, Sam Hartman (Director until 2016) had the “My Dear”, and Jonathan Bond, owner of the Orr’s Island Campground skippered the “Don’t Panic”. The letters of Bond’s boat were applied upside down so when the boat capsized, the message could be read clearly!
To make sailing races more interesting, the teens at the club challenged parents to use the new Turnabouts in a “Gunnel-Bangers” Race. The kids looked forward to this day because the parents dressed in costumes and then raced against each other in the tiny sailboats. Prizes were creatively made from paper plates and paper cups, and were awarded by either “placing” in the races or in the “best costume” category.
The Gunnel-Bangers Race was held annually for three or four summers.