DISC-DICF History

Reflections of Marcia Green

Yankee Dolphin 24/Timesweep

On March 22, 1973 55 people gathered for the organizational meeting for Daingerfield Island Cruising Fleet (DICF). Most were members of National Yacht Club (NYC)—a club that still exists today—who wanted to do more than just race. The year before, an informal group rafted up in Smoot Cove several times and came to be known as the “Cruisin’, Boozn’, and Snoozn’ Society” and it was from this nucleus that the Daingerfield Island Cruising Fleet (DICF) , a fleet of NYC, was formed. To quote from the letter of invitation:

“We will race with NYC, but we hope to do much more. We are planning cruises and raft-ups. We hope to exchange plans, tips and ideas for cruising safely and successfully, river lore, and, of course, sea stories. Through a newsletter, we may keep track of members who take interesting sailing voyages.”

The letter was signed by Julie Coyle (the first Fleet Captain and still very much around) and the late Charlie Lavers. The name DICF was used for many years until it was changed to DISC (Daingerfield Island Sailing Club) and a new set of bylaws with emphasis on racing was drawn up. Dues originally started at $3.

In 1973, the first big event was the “Thrash”—a sail to Sweden Point on Mattawoman Creek. This remained a Memorial Day Weekend cruising and/or racing destination (depending on the year) for many years. Invariably it stormed and the raft-up, occasionally dragging the fleet a significant distance. To avoid this problem, in 1983 a permanent mooring was sunk. But when the Sweden Pt. Marina was built, the mooring ball disappeared.

As cruising boats with accommodations for more than just over-nighting were added to DICF, the number of scheduled cruises on the river and into Chesapeake Bay increased. Paul Eubank’s place at St. Inigoes, off the St. Mary’s River, often became a staging area for DICF cruises. Two major “long distance” cruises occurred in 1982 and 1984. In 1982, 12 boats sailed to Philadelphia for the Tall Ships Festival. It took those of us with boats at Washington Sailing Marina approximately three weeks for the cruise, compared to a four-hour roundtrip drive to Philly. We left Philly rather abruptly. We were rafted together in a large ship berth with a six foot tidal range, which made getting on and off the boats a major athletic feat. Additionally we were being badly battered by the wake of passing ships. Despite the problems, the trip was worth it!

In 1984, six DICF boats joined the Chesapeake Bay Alberg Fleet to sail to Roanoke Island, NC in celebration of its 400th Anniversary. I will never forget Mim Sihvonen standing on the dock in Norfolk, one of our stops en route, welcoming an arriving sailboat from Finland in its native language. We rendezvoused with the Alberg fleet at the entrance to Dismal Swamp. The 26 sailboats and two powerboats being locked through were such an impressive sight that those driving the road which parallels the canal stopped to take photos. We set a record that day! After leaving Elizabeth City, NC we became a part of the 90 boat single-file flotilla heading toward Roanoke Island.

Several of our members embarked on even more ambitious cruising programs with sails to Florida, Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Virgin Islands, and even one circumnavigation. I crewed for approximately half of Bob Rowland’s circumnavigation. Using the skills learned, several of our members have earned Coast Guard Licenses including: Dick Walker, Bob Rowland, Hugh Logsdon, Steve Deathrage, Ellie Abramson(d), Marcia Green, Gil Silverman, Russ Frum, Bill Wright, Larry Kaltman(d), Ernst DeGroot, and Scott Berg. I’m sure I’ve forgotten someone. Some later used their licenses to operate charters or tour boats.

Although individuals occasionally cruise, there hasn’t been a DICF-sponsored cruise since the Memorial Day Weekend “Thrash” and Raft-up to Sweden point in 2000. Many members who participate in down-river races informally cruise the River in order to reach their final destinations, although the effort involved in getting there rapidly doesn’t always translate into a nice leisurely experience. Little time for Cruisn’, Snoozn’ and Boozn’. Fortunately, Pat Williams has volunteered to head a Cruising Committee so maybe this aspect of the club will be resurrected.

Through the publication of a newsletter, our members knew who was doing what. Some maintained their membership even after moving, in order to keep track of friends. Cruising members would often share their adventures with the club via the newsletter.

The original purpose of the Cruising Award now given by DISC was to recognize one member each year that shared sailing experiences with others. This was most often done through the newsletter or through a programmed presentation. The first recipient of the award was the late Barnacle Bill McMenamin for his publication of several articles about our club cruises in “The Chesapeake Bay Magazine.” Later this award was expanded so that it could be given to an individual who had made a major contribution to the club.

Yearly, one meeting was devoted to a “Show and Tell” of sailing adventures. More recently, members have placed articles or informational blurbs in “Spinsheet”. The DISC website continues this tradition, as do individual members who share the photos taken during the races.

Initially DICF held a number of Spring and Fall race series, under the auspices of National Yacht Club. In 1978, PRSA, SCOW, NYC and DICF established the “Heart Fund Regatta” as a fund-raising effort for the Heart Association which was discontinued in 1982. In 1984, under the leadership of Michelle Daniels, John Evans and Tim Kenney, DICF established its own racing program known as KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). Some of the first races were rather creative, including the beer can race.

During the early years we held a number of workshops on racing rules and tactics. From a slow start, racing has grown into a major activity. We became affiliated with Potomac Yacht Racing Club, and helped with the planning of the 52 Regattas and then the Leukemia Cup Regattas starting in 1994. In the last several years, in addition to our four KISS series, a number of weekend races have been added, including the Alexandria Mayor’s Cup. More and more of our racers participate in regattas on the lower Potomac and Chesapeake Bay with increasing success. Although as a club we haven’t sponsored any long-distance cruises for some time, a few of our members have participated in major long distance races such as Newport to Bermuda.

Until recent years the club has been involved with issues that effect sailors. Early on, the City of Alexandria tried to levy personal property tax on wet slip holders at the Marina, but DICF successfully fought this. Various members were involved in workshops sponsored by the National Park Service concerning the future development of Daingerfield Island, which then led to the destruction of the building that served essentially as a club house for the recreational users of the island, most of whom were sailors.

To understand the reaction to the restaurant that was built as a “replacement,” one needs to understand the role the original structure played for many of us. That building was important to a lot of us. There we could always fin someone to talk with. Some of the members of DICF were musicians who at times offered impromptu concerts and song-fests. It was there that DICF’s anthem, “Little Bird,” was created. One PRSA member was a hostage during the Carter administration. When she was finally freed, her boat was carried into the shack and we threw a party for her that was open to anyone who walked in. We often congregated there for football games. During hurricane warnings some of us worked with the staff and helped clean up afterwards. Many felt that the replacement facility would be just that. When it evolved into a fancy restaurant, in violation of the National Park Service Guidelines, we felt betrayed. This eventually led to a lawsuit supported by the four sailing clubs headquartered on the island. We lost.

It was at this time, January 20, 1984, that I was elected Fleet Captain, and Michelle Daniels was named Fleet Treasurer and later Fleet Lieutenant, positions we held for 14 years. In 1998 we “retired,” leaving the club in the capable hands of Bob Fleck, Liz Beckman and Larry Aitcheson.

This interest in issues that concern sailors was also reflected in our participation in a number of meetings and public hearings on such matters as the development of Ft. Washington Marina, Smoot’s Cove, Potomac Greens Development and dredging at WSM. This aspect of club activity has declined in recent years, although meetings that include representatives of GSI and NPS and the individual clubs occur periodically. And individual members continue to question certain aspects of GSI’s management of the island.

Parties have been important to DICF. In 1974, there was a major “Sail In to Alexandria” to help celebrate the Bicentennial. In 1976, the fleet played a large part in welcoming the Tall Ships that visited Washington as part of the Bicentennial Celebration’s OpSail ’76. When Tall Ships “Christian Radich” and “Danmark” visited Washington in 1980, DICF entertained the officers and crew. Also that year, the fleet was invited to sail to the Torpedo Factory Dock and was treated to a wine and cheese party at Carlisle House. We co-hosted a reception for the Estonian Racing Team, then the official team of the Soviet Union, and we also hosted a picnic for DC-bound SMSA cruisers. In addition, wel held our own annual parties: St. Paddy’s Day; Hooray.. Hooray..the First of May; Crab Feast; the Christmas Party, our only dress-up function; and a number of more informal events. We also dealt often with visiting ships during our six-year involvement with the Alexandria Waterfront Festival Planning Committee and with Tall Ships when, we helped out at ASTA rallies.

This love for parties has continued into the present with our annual Awards Presentation that includes the much-fabled “The Person who Most Deserves to Get a Head,” which in 2007 was presented to Veri Crain. This award, a teak toilet seat, has been presented almost since the inception of DICF, but thanks to Phil Akers it was updated.

Occasionally parties are organized after a regatta. Currently, at least one“We Were Magnificent” hot dog parties are held during each series, either on the dock or at a raft-up in the lagoon following a race. The Tuesday night racing series concludes with Phil Aker’s annual chili party, which started in 1988.

I have a plethora of wonderful memories associated with the Club and its members during my stewardship: John Evans winning design, which was silk-screened onto shirts by Ron Pugh; Monty and Marlena Murty, who wrote us periodically from Egypt and who created the original Cruising Award; Joe Roca, the 100-miler, the first to windsurf from WSM to Pt. Lookout (it took three days) and Pat Fenton, who did the publicity for his fundraiser; Bruce Baker’s letters from New Zealand; the fundraising auction organized by Marilynn Wilson, B.J.Thomas and many others to raise money for our legal fees, with Rick Wardlow serving as auctioneer; Bob Murphy skydiving off Angel Falls, Venezuela and living to present a program for us; John Roberts, one of the original members, who organized a meeting for us on the “Alexandria,” and his alter-ego, Seamus O’Roberts, magician; the beautiful underwater photography of Wayne Merrill; the people who were always there to help out in a number of capacities, such as: Judy Munday, Jane Barrett, John Evans, the Felshers, Karl Hobart; Bill Lauler’s hospitality; Don Deese, who was always supportive; Dave Leising and his three misadventures on Dave Leising’s cradle; Billy Wallace’s elaborate DJ setup for our parties; Jack Weaver and his bagpipes; Jerry Green(d) providing land support and a shower in his motel room; the list could go on and on…

The above tells only a small part of the story. Affiliation with DICF and DISC is memorable. It’s history will continue, hopefully, for a very long time.