2014 Commissioning Letter

May 5, 2014:

On Commissioning for the 2014 Season - 

When I was elected by you to serve as Commodore of the Norwalk Yacht Club last fall, an honor I take very seriously, I told you that my watch would be focused on three key management pillars:  1) Complete the renovation of our Clubhouse and make our facility the best on Long Island Sound, 2) secure our long-term financial future, and 3) improve communication and transparency.

Your Clubhouse is open, and it is filled with activities.  Now, the finishing touches are being done to make it into a vital part of the value of membership to NYC, with decoration of the upstairs room in progress, the first phase of a landscaping plan kicking off this month, and the renovation of the manager's apartment set to be finished by July 1st.  Your flag officers have charged the Board and the committees they oversee to push for full usage of our facility, and they've responded in high order.  This winter saw the traditional parties, like our Superbowl, movie nights and post-frostbiting coaching and socials, as well as new celebrations like that for Mardi Gras, Bermuda Kite building, and an Easter Egg hunt.  Meanwhile member-sponsored events, like meetings of the Power Squardron, and even a yoga birthday party, helped fill the calendar when the winter winds were blowing.  And it isn't stopping there.  Now that we are fully commissioned, you can look forward to a new paddleboarding camp, yoga on the deck, a fishing tournament, and parties galore, thanks to Louisa Lima and her Entertainment committee.  She has really let us know that if it's a party at Norwalk Yacht Club, it's going to be a good time!  

We want the Club to be a positive, "Yes" place, and to that end, we have elected to describe only two seasons:  Commissioned Season, which we've now kicked off, and Non-Commissioned, which we'll wind down to after October.  And I'm happy to announce that in keeping with our goals to have you use your Club as much as possible, we have posted new hours, that keep your Club open until 2300 every single night.  

Regarding our financial stability, I'll tell you that it is challenging for us to operate the Club as you want it, in the current environment.  We have about 200 members, and new members have trailed departing ones for the last several years, as the recession has wore on.  Our other main source of revenue is moorings, and boating too has slid off a little.  And we've worked hard to keep dues, assessment and mooring fees frozen for the last several years, to make the yacht club as affordable luxury as possible.  Combine those factors, with the staffing and maintenance needs of a facility and club such as ours, and the result is a very tight budget.  We're managing our cash to safely navigate these choppy economic waters, but only barely so.  It is clear to us that we need to reexamine the Club's financial structure, and make adjustments and accommodations to meet its needs. Here is our plan going forward:  We will survey the membership mid-season this year, to understand what aspects of the Club drive the most perceived value by you.  Then, in August, I will convene a committee to construct a long-range plan, identifying where we will take the Club, and objectives to get us there.  Next, we'll realign the budget process so that next year's operating and capital expenditure budget is constructed in September, for presentation to you at the Annual Meeting in October.  

For Communication and Transparency,  I think we've improved our communication regarding the renovation, with emails as that project was coming to a close.  But you are owed a recap, from what we provided you at the Special Meeting last year, and you will have that very soon, once a few last details relating to the renovation are completed.  The Communications committee has begun a redo of the website, and has brought some new life to our Facebook page, and I hope you'll join that social media community and share your Norwalk Yacht Club experiences there often.  Club committees are using email blasts regarding events, and these seem to be favorably received.  And lastly, while a little late this year, the Membership Book is being worked on and will be published soon.  Bottom line is that we can do better, and we're working it right now.

So that's an update on MY three objectives.  Now, I've got three for you.

First, I'd like every member to commit to bring ONE family to the Club this season, and showing off what we have to offer.  It is absolutely essential that we stimulate membership growth here, and how better to attract people we'd like to be part of our family, than you bringing friends to see what's happening here.  If only 5% of those families were moved to join our club, we could turn the tide of declining net membership, and have resources to improve the Club even further, thus attracting more members.  And all the while, it'll keep dues reasonable for all of us.  Annie Walsh and our Membership Committee, right up to your Flag Officers, are standing by to help make visitors feel welcome and receive a positive impression of Norwalk Yacht Club.

Second, I need every member to commit to ONE committee, or initiative, or mission at Norwalk Yacht Club.  We have a tiny paid staff, as that is what our finances allow.  If membership here is going to be an enriching, fun experience, it's going to be because you help us make it so.  There is room for almost any contribution.  Right now, our Treasurer Rick Nietsch is seeking an Assistant Treasurer to aid in the management of the Club's banking, budgeting and other financial chores.  Bill Merten, our Secretary, is also seeking an Assistant, to aid in his maintaining our roster, and recording the doings of your Board of Directors.  And the Communications Committee is seeking help in the many outreach programs we aspire to have here, to the benefit of the entire membership.  None of these roles are time-consuming, and I think you'll find that they give you a real appreciation for the great deal of work that is contributed by members, just like you, to the overall functioning of the Club.  Again, this amazing 120 year old club can and will be only what you help us make of it.

Lastly, I'd like you to help us keep Norwalk Yacht Club a top-tier yacht club on Long Island Sound.  We have a rich history of sailing victories, great yachtsman, and notable feats.  We have a beautiful waterfront and secure mooring operation.  And we are well-known as one of the oldest clubs on the east coast.  Let's carry ourselves that way, and proudly sail beneath the burgee.  Let's continue that wonderful combination of respect of yachting tradition, and casual informality.  Let's show respect for the facility, by taking extraordinarily good care of it.  Let's show respect for our fellow members, by managing our boats, our families and friends in such a way as to not offend fellow members.  And let's respect the history of the Club, and observe nautical etiquette and tradition.  I think this will make membership to the Norwalk Yacht Club special, forever.

With that, I declare the Norwalk Yacht Club now open for its 120th season.  Please join us soon to celebrate another beautiful summer on the shores of Wilson Cove, and on the waters of Long Island Sound.