Corsica River Yacht Club
589 Conquest Rd., PO Box 24  Centreville, Maryland 21617

039 04.9470 N  076 06.9353 W

Terry Blackwood on how the Corsica River Yacht Club came to be.

"My parents, my brother Tim, and I moved to Fairview Farm on the Corsica River in August 1932. This was a very low period in the American economy, and there were lines around the block in New York to get to the soup kitchens and get fed. While my Father and Mother were not in that much need, my Father was very concerned about being able to feed his family. His Father, my Grandfather, had always been interested in helping farmers, and my Dad figured that a sure way to feed his family would be to grow the food and be a farmer. So, he resigned his job as a linen sales representative for North America of Ross Brothers, Belfast, N. Ireland, and invested everything in the farm. While living in New York, my parents summered in Fenwick, Connecticut, living for part of the summer in a house belonging to my mother's family. A big sport in Fenwick was sailing in a one-design fleet weekly, or more often, races. The purpose of the foregoing detail is to point out that my family had a sailboat, and that they loved to sail and race, and my brother and I inherited this from them.

Across the Corsica River from our farm lived the Middleton family on Gunston Farm. Mrs. Middleton had educated her two sons at Gunston, and had acquired a number of other students, children of their friends and acquaintances, many of whom where in the US military services and other government services, which required them to move around and live in foreign lands where they couldn't easily handle their young children's education. As I was eight years old and had attended first grade for a little while in New York, my Mother thought this was a great place to put me for school. Mrs. Middleton, whom all soon learned to call "Aunt Mary" initially refused to accept me for two reasons: first, all her students lived in her home on campus, i.e. they "boarded" and second, she already had a "Terry", Terry Bayliss, and she didn't know how she could distinguish between two children with the same name. Mother handled the matter of my not boarding somehow, and squared the matter of two Terry's by pointing out that my name was really Terence, and when necessary, Aunt Mary could call me Terence - which she always did!

There were two Middleton boys, Rob and Atherton ("Appy"). They were grown and gone into their own careers by 1932; however, "Appy" was a school teacher at a boarding school, and he had started a boys' camp which operated from some tents, but otherwise using the facilities of Gunston, which included a tennis court, stables, horses, and a pier on the river. This had grown to the point that Appy had a head counselor [Mr. Radcliff] and several other counselors. The camp had also accumulated several canoes and sailboats, including a Barnegat "Sneakbox", an overgrown 22' gaff-rigged Catboat called the "Gooey Duck", and a power boat called the "Park Bench". One of the counselors was Johnny Nichols who was the operator of the "Park Bench". This was a wooden scow, flat bottomed, with the one-lung engine amidships, and the rudder IN THE BOW!!! Seats were in the center facing outward, back to back, both forward and aft of the engine, I think, and the steering operated by pulling tiller ropes. The camp also had two very nice "Wee Scots," they were about 16' loa, clinker-built sloops with a fixed keel drawing about 3.5 ft. - one was painted white and the other was red at some point. Camp Gunston taught boys to swim, canoe, and to sail, and obviously they had little races among themselves, starting and finishing at the pier, with the "Park Bench" acting as patrol boat, and some instruction, etc.

My parents' sailboat was a 21' Swamscot Dory, a centerboard sloop purchased and built as a part of the Fenwick fleet, clinker- built, and built for the Long Island Sound waters. That construction was very difficult to maintain in the heat of the river in Maryland, and in 1937 her hull was given to some Camp Gunston boys who proposed, and did, sail her back north, while my dad designed a new, hard-chine 20' hull to take the old rig. This was built by a Hubbard in Chestertown and the builder's cousin, Wilber Hubbard, asked permission to copy it and did so. Our new boat was named "Pooka".

Also on the Corsica River was a Fox family who had an 18' Cape Cod Dory which Bill and Nancy Fox sailed.

Right across the Corsica from our pier was a retired merchant vessel captain and his wife, Philip and Edith Reeves. They retired here and built a lovely house just perfect for a retired sea captain. It may have been 1935 or 1936 when he took an old 12' canoe, and transformed it into a 12' Schooner. It had a 12-inch wooden keel running the whole length, was decked over with a beautiful planked deck into which, between the two masts, was cut a cockpit that resembled an old-fashioned bathtub and was about that same size. An amazing boat! Very likely to capsize unless it was ballasted by crew who knew what they were doing. Captain Reeves sailed this with his two nieces, Calista, and Beatrice Rault, and I recall watching when the fore halyard had to be re-reefed during a race by sending Beatrice up the mast while the Captain and Calista continued racing the boat!!! The two girls visited each summer for a month or so before they returned home to New Orleans. And then - lucky me! - I was asked to crew for Captain Reeves and ultimately was even entrusted with sailing it without him (with another crew, of course).

In addition, the Chew Mickle family lived next door to our farm; Mr. and Mrs. and daughters Pat and Ann; at some point they acquired a 10 or 11-foot sloop. John Valiant and his brother Jim had a Hampton. Damon Gadd had a Comet, Jeanne Valiant had a Hampton, Pat and Deede Stevens (of Northwest Point) had a Hampton, later the Hutcheson family bought Alder Branch Farm across the river from Gunston, and Peggy Austin (daughter of Mrs. Hutcheson) sailed a Hampton. Dicky Ashley (Long) had an 18' hard-chine sloop (which was very highly powered and required several male crew to keep the boat upright) called "The Battleship."

It is difficult to remember the chronology precisely, which is why I start this by saying " as I remember." However, to go on - Camp Gunston was happy to have us sail in races with their boys, particularly, I expect, because we had some GIRLS from time to time. So we did.

This brings us to the Corsica River Yacht Club. One day, as I think I recall, Nancy Fox and I were just goofing around in our respective boats. We were at what we then called Gravel Pit Point just upriver from sparbouy #4 at Wash Point. Someone suggested we should race around the sparbouy, and someone said that our parents had told us that, to be proper, one had to belong to a yacht club to run or participate in a race. It was then concluded that we would constitute a yacht club, and we would call it the Corsica River Yacht Club - so, we did - and it was! When we went home to our parents we were shocked to have them tell us that there had been other attempts to have a "Corsica River Yacht Club" and they had always failed (in this connection, the boathouse and pier in Emory Cove has names of "CYC" member boats painted on the walls - this is one of the predecessor Corsica Clubs). We then decided that, if that was to be the attitude of adults, we would not have adults in the club! We operated for a time - very short I think, but we had managed to be invited to the Chester River Yacht and County Club for a regatta, and we wanted to reciprocate. When we approached our parents on this, they said they thought the invitees' parents might prefer to have an adult take the responsibility for the affair and for their kids, so we asked Captain Reeves to make the invitation on behalf of the club and he would be Commodore. So it was! - and Captain Reeves remained Commodore until he had to go to New Orleans in a WWII connected job, then we appointed Mrs. Fox to the position.

When we invited others to come to our first "regatta" they were all minors, I think, and our parents were wonderfully gracious and outgoing to see that all were fed and housed at no expense to them. This was the basis, which continued for many years, for all small-boat sailors to be housed and fed without expense to them when they came to participate in our regatta.

Captain Reeves [see his photograph in the Woodford Collection, below] took his job as Commodore very seriously. He held the end of the season watermelon party on his property, and he instituted a prize (a ribbon) for "the most improved sailor" (in his mind). Mrs. Reeves was a superb hostess and cook! The costs were supposedly paid for from our dues, which were 50 cents per boat (all regular crew were covered by the boat's dues). Our burgee was a blue field with a crescent moon (the crescent moon purported to represent the letter "C." The present burgee came after WWII and after the club was properly incorporated, which occurred, I believe, when I was overseas).

Immediately after the conclusion of WWII, A. Temple Blackwood, our father, returned to Fairview Farm on the Corsica River. From September 1939, the outbreak of WWII, until December 21, 1945, he was involved with the British War effort; he served as H.M. Vice Consul (for shipping) in Baltimore. He and our mother had an apartment in Roland Park, Baltimore, and they came to the farm periodically to check on the farm operation. Involved as he was with shipping, Dad was in a good position to purchase surplus 20' life rafts ($20 each) which were carried on all merchant ships during the war. Eight of these were bought for, or by, the Yacht Club and secured to pilings to make a 160' pier on what we knew as "the old Jacob's Place". This was just about where the Club is planning to build a pier on the approach to Emory's Cove on the property we now call "Ship Point". In 1946, this was our base, and I'm not sure what financial or legal matters were involved. The property was ultimately purchased by Kenneth Wilson, or it may have been purchased by the previous owner, Wilson Foss.

The Sailing Class was originally started at Fairview Farm, and I think my brother, Tim, was the first instructor. It was conducted there during the time I was in the army and I'm not sure of the dates. A local artist, Charles West was commissioned by the Yacht Club to do a charcoal sketch of the sailing class in action at the pier at Fairview Farm, and this was given to our parents in recognition of their providing the place. My brother, Tim, now has that drawing in his possession. I recall at least two instructors who followed brother Tim. One was formerly at Camp Gunston, and one was Phoebe Wood's husband, I believe. By 1950, the sailing class was moved to Pioneer Point for a couple of years, but the Board of the Club were concerned that the club's operations and Mr. Raskob's summer program for his own grandchildren were running into each other. Tim and I were asked to approach Mr. Raskob to ask him to donate the point of land at the upriver limit of his property to the Club for its operations. Mr. Raskob was very gracious in refusing, and he offered to give us a sum of money to purchase land if we could find it. After this was reviewed, discussed, and considered, we were asked to thank him, but "no". As we stood on the pier at Pioneer Point, Mr Raskob offered to build us a pier across Quartermain Cove and allow us sole use of it and enough property on shore for our operations, and the Club accepted. Mr. Raskob built a dirt road to access it. The Club then purchased a prefabricated chicken house, and poured a concrete base for it, and this provided storage for Penguins and protection from the weather, and a place for dressing, etc. This became our base for all but our Annual Regatta, which was still held, courtesy of Mr. Raskob, at Pioneer Point. After Mr. Raskob's death, at least two subsequent owners were persuaded to continue these arrangements.

During this time, i.e. from WWII through the 1950's, the Club matured. Many people, adults, now, became active in the club and its operation. The new, current, burgee was flown by Foss, Jelke, Potter, and many others, in many other cruising grounds. Hall Barton, the whole Thomas family, the Rev. Tom Donaldson and his family, the Charles Lucke family, the Valliants, Freestates, Woods, Hoggs, and so many others I just can't list them right now, all became active in sailing, and in supporting the club on race committees and other committees. We were always very proud of our race committees, and of our powerboat people who provided patrols, and we were recognized for running good regattas and races. We joined Chesapeake Bay Yacht Racing Association in 1946-1947 ( Ref: Chesapeake Skipper Magazine August 1947), and I was proud to be the Club's representative thereto through year 1966, after which I moved to Connecticut for 20 years."