In June of 2016, the BIC Board of Governors accepted a proposal from a group of Island sailing program supporters to create a committee and raise funds to buy two keelboats and to create an adult sailing program. The committee, known as the “Keelboat Committee,” was comprised of the following dedicated volunteers: Henry DuPont, Ted Merritt, Bob Greenlee and Kim Granbery. The Committee believed the BIC was ideally suited to provide the essential ingredients for such a program because it has:
excellent facilities on one of the best bodies of water for recreational sailing in New England
open membership to everyone, for as short as one week
a well-established junior sailing program with a robust fleet of dinghies
and a large market of local resident and visitor prospective sailors, who would take advantage of such a program
Henry notified everyone in his sail training organization network that the Block Island Club was looking for donated boats and learned that the US Coast Guard Academy, which has 16 Colgate 26 sail training keelboats, was going to release a number of them through the Government Services Administration who disposes of all surplus property to qualified donees according to a tiered system. Henry’s contacts at the USCG Academy told him that they would first be offered to a Federal Government organization like the Navy or another Coast Guard facility for sail training or recreational use, and if there were no takers, next to a State organization like Mass Maritime or a State College sailing program or even a State Park with sailing facilities. And after that to a qualified municipal sailing program including any town with a high school sailing team. The lowest tier is nonprofit sailing programs like Sail Newport or the Block Island Club. They gave us a very low probability of receiving the boats through the GSA federal surplus property disposal system. In other words, the odds of the Block Island Club, to acquire these boats, under the Federal Surplus Property disposal system, was a "million to one".
With the advice of Nancy Dodge, the Town Manager, Henry contacted the State of Rhode Island Federal Surplus Property Manager, and asked him if the State of RI would apply for them on behalf of the Block Island Club, once they became available in the GSA surplus property system. The State Federal Property Manager agreed and two days later Henry got a call that they were in the GSA system and that RI was the first state to file a reservation for them. We then had to wait approximately 3 weeks for the Federal Agency screening window to close which would then make the boats available to the State Agency tier. During this period, Henry worked with former Club President Kelley Walter to get the Block Island Club deemed eligible to receive surplus federal property by filling out the necessary application forms which described the Club’s facilities, programs, services, our need for the boats, and the community benefit which would result. In August 2016 the RI State Property Manager notified us that the boats, worth a total of $179,340 were now the property of the Block Island Club! The USCG Academy also played a part because they get to veto any proposed grant of their property and when they heard that it was the Block Island Club who was requesting the boats, for our adult sailing program, the request was approved promptly. We even got a call from the USCGA sailing program coach congratulating us for getting the boats.
Henry next organized work parties which traveled to the Coast Guard Academy six times over the next four weeks to outfit and commission our new boats, prepare them for launching, step the masts, and rig them for their historic sail out to Block Island. On September 13th six skippers, their crews, and three tow boats descended on the US Coast Guard Academy to take possession of the Club’s new six pristine Colgate 26 sail boats and cast off to be towed down the Thames River and across Fishers Island Sound where they raised sail, cast off their tow lines, and sailed across Block Island Sound for a triumphant entrance into the Great Salt Pond.
The Block Island Club is fortunate to get a fleet of Colgate 26 keelboats which are considered the premiere sail training keelboat, specifically designed for the renowned Steve Colgate Offshore Sailing School, and used by our Maritime Service Academies such as the US Naval Academy and the US Coast Guard Academy, for their inter collegiate sailing programs. The Colgate 26 is perfect for sailing instruction. It has an enormous self-bailing cockpit, comfortable seating up to 6 people, self-tailing winches, and with all sheets and halyards within easy reach by the crew. They are fast, stable and fun to sail! Join the BIC and learn how to sail these beautiful boats.