Nova Scotia

Sea change ahead for Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club

A small group of members is trying to revive the Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club on Sydney's downtown waterfront. They don't have clubhouse, but they have use of the marina and a room at the nearby cruise ship terminal.

Club has room named for it at nearby cruise pavilion

Reg Bonner and a small group of members are trying to revive the Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club on Sydney's downtown waterfront. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club is starting to make a comeback on Sydney's downtown waterfront.

The club's building burned in 2013 under suspicious circumstances. The club had just sold the building to the federal government a few months earlier, after running into financial trouble.

The land was eventually given to Cape Breton Regional Municipality, and the marina has since been run by the Port of Sydney Development Corporation.

Reg Bonner, a member of the Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club, is working with a small group of members who are trying to revive the club, which now has a room named after it in the nearby Joan Harriss Cruise Pavilion.

"That's going to be sufficient space for the time being," said Bonner. "We don't know what will happen down the road, but we hope we can have another [building of our own] someday."

Bonner said the club is planning to launch a membership drive soon.

"The Royal has been around for a long time," he said. "It's over 100 years old, and I think it's very important to downtown Sydney to keep the Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club in downtown Sydney."

Bonner is hoping to bring the club back to its heyday, when the members ran and participated in regattas, races and other events on the water.

The Port of Sydney recently renovated a room upstairs in the cruise ship terminal and named it after the club.

The Royal Cape Breton Room has a bar, a large metal yacht club logo on the wall, and display cases waiting to hold the club's memorabilia. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

It has a bar, an open area available for rentals, a large metal yacht club logo on the wall, and display cases waiting to hold the club's memorabilia, such as flags, trophies and photographs.

A small retail building at the marina is open on cruise ship days, selling yacht club merchandise.

Full membership costs $1,000 and includes a reserved berth at the marina and use of shower facilities and other amenities at the cruise ship building.

Christina Lamey, manager of marketing and business development with the Port of Sydney, said work is just about finished in the Royal Cape Breton Room and a grand opening will likely be held later this fall.

Christina Lamey, manager of marketing and business development for Port of Sydney, says the port will manage the marina and the club's finances, leaving the members to focus on programming and social events. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

The room is available to the yacht club, but it is also open for rentals by anyone wishing to put on an event.

Lamey said the port will manage the marina and the club's finances, leaving the members to focus on programming and social events.

The club is open to anyone. Social memberships cost $100, and Lamey said owning a boat or other watercraft is not required.

"We're hoping very much the yacht club will be not your granddad's yacht club, but a new generation of people who live in our region who want to see activity on our harbour and that activity can take any shape and form," she said.

"It is not by any means only for the rich, or only for certain people. We would love to see everybody enjoying our harbour in some way."

The Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club marina welcomes boaters at its historical location, not far from the cruise ship terminal. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Lamey said the port's mandate is to make the best use of Sydney Harbour, and that means attracting all kinds of people down to the waterfront.

The Royal Cape Breton Yacht Club "has a long history, but I think we have a great opportunity to rewrite that history and build new chapters," she said.

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About the Author

Tom Ayers

Reporter/Editor

Tom Ayers has been a reporter and editor for 33 years. He has spent the last 15 years covering Cape Breton and Nova Scotia stories. You can reach him at tom.ayers@cbc.ca.

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