The Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club and the Annual Regatta

The Julia was one of Shoalwater Bay's beautiful early sloops.

The Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club was organized in 1871 at Oysterville. Most oystermen took part in the club events and looked forward to the club's annual regatta, which was seen as the crowning event of the summer season. The organizers and officers of the Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club included leading citizens of Oysterville and the surrounding area: Edwin G. Loomis, I. A. Clark, Thomas Crellin, John Crellin, George Johnson, H. K. Stevens, E. K. Peterson, and Issac Y. Doane. Following the races the club hosted a Regatta Ball.

The earliest regattas were competitive races dominated in number by Ed Patterson-built plungers. Among Patterson's many products were the Minerva, Indiana, Lizzie Brown, and Mary M. Soule. Although these sloops were frequent winners, there was another skillfully sailed boat that captured the most first place trophies: Edwin Loomis' Artimesia.

News of the annual regatta gained notoriety beyond Shoalwater Bay, with Astorians joining in to help celebrate the affair. In 1875, appearances by the British gunboat H. M. S. Rocket and the U. S. S. Shubrick initiated the festivities in Astoria. Portland followed suit with a "moonlight excursion" boat trip down the Columbia. Not to be outdone, Astoria's leading citizen, Captain Flavel, brought his large tug Astoria to Shoalwater Bay, filled with race fans and partygoers. Excitement mounted when the steamer Gussie Telfair joined the festivities. With some of Portland's leading citizens aboard, more than one hundred people jammed the Gussie to accompany Captain George Weidler for the trip to Shoalwater Bay.

During mid-morning of July 4, with colors flying , the Astoria steamed into Shoalwater Bay, passing the Gussie Telfair, already anchored across the bay from Oysterville. After weighing anchor, Captain Flavel, Andrew Van Dusen, pilot West Whitcomb, and other dignitaries boarded the sloop Minerva to meet Commodore John Crellin and others aboard another sloop, the Roy Roy. The two groups greeted the other entries before returning to the Gussie and Astoria to witness the race. D. C. Ireland, of the Tri-Weekly Astorian, recorded the event:

... When we reached the deck of the Astoria, the anchor was hoisted and down the bay we steamed, passing the point chosen for the last tack below the fleet to the Gussie, which was stationed as a stake boat. The yachts came up handsomely, the Artimesia making a good point over her competitors, the Minerva and Mary M. Soule, by hugging the land and otherwise coquetting about the Gussie, until she started off at a rate of speed which insured the Loomis brothers another cup for the club room.

The sailing was magnificent, and the excitement on board the Astoria and the Gussie was intense. After the fleet had passed the stake boat and were bound for home, the steamers once more turned their prows toward Oysterville, and the smaller Astoria outdistanced her proud rival in the bay to the anchorage grounds, where we cast anchor and set out for land...from the Astoria it was sloop to scow, scow to wagon, and finally, wagon to hotel. In spite of the obstacles, all landed safely.

The Artimesia won the race in a time of two hours, 52 minutes, and 16 seconds, beating out the Minerva and the Mary M. Soule by four to five minutes. The other finishers were the Lib Smith, Humming Bird, Serena, and Mary V. The distance of the race was estimated at between 26 and 27 miles. The plungers were all sloop-rigged and the course and rules of yacht racing were carefully mapped out and adhered to.

Later that evening the Regatta Ball was held at the Pacific House, where the yacht club hosted a party that went on until the wee hours. At three o'clock in the morning the Astoria group boarded their steamer and by six o'clock were finally bound for home. It was not the smooth trip they had enjoyed 24 hours earlier. The vessel went against a strong head wind and many of the travelers retched and moaned their way to Astoria. The weary party, hungover and seasick, finally reached Astoria at noon on July 5th. The Gussie, allowing its passengers to sleep, had stayed at Oysterville longer and arrived in Astoria some eight hours later.

For the Astoria and Portland travelers the partying and festivities were not over. A second regatta ball was held in Astoria, at Spirtual Hall, where the Astoria Brass Band and another musical group provided entertainment. The next day the group (300 men, women, and children) were taken across the Columbia River to Cape Disappointment and Ilwaco (called Unity at the time).

After five days the exhausted celebrants finally started for home. There had been a trip to Shoalwater Bay, a yacht race, two regatta balls, baseball games, a trip to Cape Disappointment, and other activities. The annual regatta, with active participation from Astoria and Portland visitors, continued for several years.

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