2013 was a challenging year for the Board of Directors. There are things I would try and do differently but many accusations leveled at the BOD such as secret meetings, private agendas, aspirations to become a yacht club and social cleansing will ring in my ears for some time as rather inane.
We were doing the best we could in a noisy environment where the monthly meeting process is almost entirely broken as a tool to conduct business. It will be the next Commodore’s challenge to try and establish a Board meeting venue that is more dialogue and sharing between elected representatives and less a rowdy fireside chat.
I am writing this “post annual meeting” and am thankful all the “smoke” this year generated our largest voter turnout in Club history thus dispelling the myth of “the silent majority”. A lot of people are paying attention and a lot of people love the Club and will work hard to see it maintained and thriving.
In loose chronological order some of the developments we saw this year include:
- We began the year defending our continued right to 38 moorings at the State level. David Levin wrote a strong and detailed presentation on February 5th which the State of Florida has not responded to yet. This document is surely a platform for any group wishing to maintain dialogue with the FDEP and the State. One of my large regrets is not seeing the definition of our original 38 moorings brought to a concrete resolution. Hopefully a future Board can accomplish this formidable task.
- Having been denied a larger fee waived Sovereign Submerged Lands Lease led to the creation of FOAM fees for moored boats. A hard pill to swallow for some who saw significant rate increases but a barrier we needed to cross. In a larger scope, this led to a careful analysis of how the Club generates revenue and a discussion about whether any changes are in order going forward.
- Another related accomplishment, albeit an unpleasant one was complying with the 2010 State Issued Consent Order pushing the camel’s nose somewhat out from under our tent. We all know this led to the exodus of a number of moored boats as the field was pared back to something closer to the “allowable” 38. Some of these people chose to remain members. Hopefully, those who did not will see a reason to return some day.
- A Dock Committee was formed to finalize plans for 3 of our docks but an equally large challenge was creating a fair and neutral bidding process making sure every interested vendor in 3 counties had a shot at the business. Duncan Dock and Seawall won the bid and work is underway. At approximately $250,000 this represents the single largest capital investment in Club history and required State approval and permits, City Commission approval, an amendment to our 3 year old Lease with the City of Sarasota and finally City Permits. This represents months of concentrated work by a diligent team of volunteers.
- The dock project also required us to enter in to a Temporary Use Agreement with the State of Florida since two of the docks being rebuilt project out in to State waters. This led to Lease terms established recently and will once and for all clearly define our occupancy status of these waters.
- We purchased a new gantry in the work area replacing one we had used as long and hard as possible (a Squadron tradition).
- A copy of Board meeting minutes are now posted on the Web in draft form accessible to all members prior to approval the following month. This tool can be used with the previously created search option “motions” to see what decisions the BOD is making.
- The Board approved a Student Rate program to encourage youths ages 26 and under to join and/or remain members after “aging out” of a family membership.
- A 501c3 committee was formed to investigate the pros and cons of creating a foundation for more significant fundraising. Something like the “Sarasota Sailing Squadron Foundation” would give the community an opportunity to reap the tax benefits of donating to a non profit which we cannot offer as a 501c7 (fraternal order).
- While this project is taking some time it led to a small group of members led by John Huber to “wake up” the sleeping Corinthian Fund housed at the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. This is not the same as a 501c3 but it does provide much needed scholarship money to our youth sailors needing assistance travelling to national and international competitions.
- We played host to our 2nd Classic Craft Festival made significantly larger by inviting the Florida Gulf Coast Traditional Craft Association to have their 8th annual event on Squadron grounds. This brought out some of our own old-timers including original and founding members George Luzier and Tim Seibert. Alliances were also created with Historic Spanish Point and members of the Florida Institute for Saltwater Heritage.
- We said goodbye to Constance Virostek who moved to Utah but were fortunate to hire Lorri Kaighin as her replacement. Lorrie is a second generation member, has a Masters Degree in Accounting and an undergraduate degree in Business Administration. She is also a sailing champion and a strong addition to our team. Welcome Lorri!
- Craig Bridges continued to grow and refine our rental fleet. It came as a bit of a surprise early in the year to realize over 50% of our members do not own boats making this a great member service and a reasonable income opportunity.
- The Sarasota Youth Sailing program had another safe and successful summer camp getting close to 200 kids on the water in two week intervals. I stress the word safe since it is indirectly the Club’s responsibility to make sure these kids get on and off the property safely while enjoying time on the water learning basic sailing skills. Keeping up with deferred maintenance is a big part of our responsibility.
- Insurance policies for our staff were tightened up adding a Longshoreman’s provision for some which had long been lacking.
- We created a fee based “in and out” program for our members who launch boats from trailers to help pay ourselves back for a recent tractor purchase facilitated in part by a large member donation.
- A new golf cart was purchased including a features package more conducive to the work we do on property.
- We completed our first full year of generating solar power with our photovoltaic installations. Production has met our expectations and we have reduced our reliance on the FPL grid by about 50%.
- We joined the St. Armands Circle Association to strengthen relationships with our neighbors on the key. This encouraged a number of them to become sponsors of our Labor Day Regatta.
- Donna Hillmyer directed our 67th Labor Day Regatta and established a relationship with All Faith’s Food Bank creating a charitable aspect to our longest running event and increasing public exposure. She and her team were also responsible for maintaining existing sponsors and enticing new “angels” led by Intercoastal Medical Group, Gulf Coast Auto Clinic and Southern Cross Contracting, to name a few.
- The Club was host to the 3rd in series Stand Up Paddle board competition and built racks for our growing population of kayaks and stand up paddle boards.
- Manager Craig Bridges and Deb St. James began meeting regularly with the Sarasota Sports Commission to insure we remain on the County’s radar screen as a significant sports tourism draw for our community.
- Deb St. James brought the F18 Americas Championship Regatta to the Squadron. Easily our most international event in Club history, it drew participants from 9 countries on 3 continents. The weeklong event garnered international sponsors like Zhik and put our Club on a global stage. Additional international classes are already inquiring about opportunities in 2015 and beyond.
…all this amidst our traditional racing, regatta and social calendar which offers sailing options every single week of the year.
In conclusion, I would like to sincerely thank the 2013 Board of Directors for the effort and commitment shown throughout the year on behalf of the Sarasota Sailing Squadron.
David Jennings, Immediate Past Commodore
Sarasota Sailing Squadron