Half a century ago, Joe Schachter bought a boat. He, his wife Irma and their young kids loved leaving their slip at Longshore, and heading out on the Sound.
Except when they couldn’t get out, because the basin was silted over. In fact, the only time that worked was half tide or more.
A few similarly disgruntled boat owners started talking. They realized their individual complaints to town officials went nowhere.
Meanwhile, over at Compo, there wasn’t even a real “marina” at all. Boats were tied to buoys. After a day on the water, boaters blew air horns, then waited for a tender to fetch them from the gas dock. On busy days, it took an hour.
They formed a group, to advocate for all Westport boaters. They named themselves the Minuteman Yacht Club.
It took 30 years, but they finally got action. Twenty years after that, Schachter — now 94 years old — is still involved.
And, in a measure of how far the Minuteman Yacht Club has come, one very important town official — 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — attends many of the group’s events.
The organization’s efforts paid off in the renovation of Ned Dimes Marina at Compo Beach. A gangway — to walk to boats — replaced the old blow-your-horn-and-wait-for-a-lift system. Both it and Longshore were dredged, dramatically increasing their capacities.
Compo now has “one of the best marina set-ups of any town on Long Island Sound,” Schachter says proudly.
He should know. After a career change from advertising, he developed a concrete flotation system that completed 400 projects around the East Coast. Compo was his last major one.
But — like so much else in Westport life — boating has changed in the 50 years Schachter has been involved.
Whether its clubs Minuteman or Kiwanis, “it’s hard today to keep them going,” says Barbara Gross.
She should know. A Westonite who does not own a boat — she’s a kayaker who loves the Sound, Cockenoe and nearby islands — she enjoys Minuteman Yacht Club for its social events.
The calendar is filled: Commissioning Day party, post-race parties, clambake, reggae party, commodore’s reception, change-of-watch dinner, even a winter holiday party.
“There’s a real camaraderie, a fun spirit,” Gross says.
She hopes families with young children will consider joining Minuteman Yacht Club. “It’s important to give kids a taste of boating,” she says. “And this is a great way for parents to have fun with them. You don’t even need to own a boat.”
It’s a good way too, she says, to introduce youngsters to the wonders of Long Island Sound.
And maybe they will grow up to be — like herself, Schachter and many others — the voice of sailboat and powerboat owners, all over town.
(For more information on Minuteman Yacht Club, click here.)