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Stonington yacht club finds a home

A year after a fire destroyed an abandoned factory in Stonington, Conn., the Stonington Harbor Yacht Club is moving forward with plans to use a portion of the building as its clubhouse.

“I’m really pleased that things have come together,” says Commodore Spike Lobdell. “We’ve been working on getting a clubhouse since we first formed the club.”

The yacht club, with 240 members, began as an informal club nearly three years ago by a group of Stonington-area sailors, and has quickly evolved into a full-service club.

Without a clubhouse, the club hosts most of its social functions at the community center and its sailing events at nearby Dodson’s Boatyard.

The club will use 6,600 square feet of the building to be built by Clearview Investment Management from Greenwich, Conn. Clearview was in the process of renovating the former Monsanto factory when it was ravaged by a July 3, 2003 fire. Clearview decided to continue with its plans to develop the property. In addition to the clubhouse, the property, known as Stonington Commons, will feature condos and waterfront homes.

The new clubhouse design includes a dining area, kitchen, bar, meeting room, library, shower/laundry area and a 1,400-square-foot outdoor terrace with water views. Members and guests will also have access to transient dock space and slips.

The facility is expected to be ready in time for the 2005 boating season beginning in May.

The clubhouse will also be used for community education seminars, public sailing programs and other events. The space may be rented for special events like weddings.

“The clubhouse will really bring us together,” says Lobdell. “It will serve as a hub for our wide-ranging activities, from cruising and frostbiting to community education programs and social events.”

The club’s mission is to foster excellence in boating activities within the membership and surrounding communities. Club officers say they hope to increase participation in sailing, at least locally, through education and community programs.

The club’s youth and adult sailing programs have become very popular, says Lobdell.

“There are three objectives: have fun, have fun and have fun.

“If we get people having fun on the water, the learning comes later,” he adds.

The sailing programs are open to area residents, not just limited to club members. Some 30 adults and 80 youngsters signed up for the programs. The youths learn how to sail in Optimist prams. The club also has four J/24s for the adult sailing program.

“We’d love to expand it,” says Lobdell.

The club also plans to offer more educational programs, such as the daylong Suddenly Alone seminar held last year, and more cruises in company.