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How It All Began: Tales from Past

By Suzanne Hurley


Today’s members of the GISC may have
heard tales of adventures in earlier years
and some have asked to hear from some of
the founding sailors themselves. So on an
early summer day, I sat down with Barney
Riley and John Hamilton and long
-time
member Ron Barnett to hear how they had
met and how the club had come to be.


How We Came About


In the 1970s, long before GISC, Barney Ri-
ley mainly sailed his Hobie Cat off the
coast of St. Simons near the King & Prince
Hotel. He and John Hamilton had the good
fortune to first meet when Barney was sail-
ing there and came across John and his
twin keel 18’ boat stuck on a sand bar.
Back then, they looked for a place to keep
their sailboats on St. Simons. So, they con-
tacted the Miami Coast Guard for a deed to
the land at East Beach and were then able
to keep Hobie Cats and Sailfish boats
there. For a time, the sailing was limited to
these smaller boats and that location. Bar-
ney recalled that eventually he wanted a
mono hull that he purchased and brought
toSt.SimonsMarina(nowknownasMorn-
ingside Marina). A group of 12
-13 sailors at
the marina formed a close friendship gath-
ering at one another’s boats, and at the
marina’s Red Top covered area, grilling,
drinking, and talking. In fact, they said, it
was a family where the group thought alike
and did things alike. They were about the
same age and eventually got together once
a month for meetings.


In 1979, wanting to have a formal group,




Barney and Joe Hammill brought together
10
-12 of the original group to create a for-
mal sailing club. Wanting to include sailors
from all the isles, they named it the Golden
Isles Sailing Club. As they told it, “We
knew we weren’t a yacht club and we in-
cluded sailors from Brunswick and the
isles.” Committees included the Cruise
Chair, Racing Chair, and the Nominating
Committee. The first Commodore, first
Commodore Joe Hammill, was a very expe-
rienced skipper and cruiser and their first
offshore cruise trip was to Fernandina,
Amelia Island.


For years, they met at the old bank in St.
Simons. The group bounced to several oth-
er locations, getting kicked out of three!
“Something about some beer cans and be-
ing asked not to come back.” For a while,
they met at the county casino owned by
the county, but couldn’t drink there so did-
n’t stay long. Even so, they had serious
meetings with parliamentary procedures,
committee heads, and usually a formal
program with slides. Topics ranged from a
slide show of cleats showing various ways,
some quite unique, of tying a boat to a
dock,toafilmoftheWhitbreadaroundthe
world race, with appropriate refreshments.


Racing Tales


Once a month there were cruises to desti-
nations such as Cumberland Island and
Amelia Island. One year, they all went to
Greyfield Inn on Cumberland. The following
year, however, they were given the base-
ment the restaurant and, unfortunately,
after that visit were, “not invited back.”

Among other destinations was Little St.
Simons, where the island keeper joined
them and they were able to see the pygmy
deer. Two annual cruises were a Memorial
Day cruise to Belleville, Martha and Hoyt
Carne's home for a cookout and a Christ-
mas party cruise by land to Nancy and
John Hamilton's big Victorian home in
Brunswick.


John was the Cruise Chairman and they
wouldalwaysaskhimabouthiswife,Nan-
cy’s work schedule when planning a big
cruise. A trip to Bermuda was one of the
most memorable big trips, taking six days
over and eight days back. The women all
chose to fly over and met the men there.
On the way, there were a few challenges,
such as when Hoyt Carney blew out a sail.
They also planned to navigate using sun
sights, but for the first three days there
was no sun. Luckily, Loran worked inter-
mittently. As for navigation charts, John
had taped together two different scale
maps, adding an extra challenge. “People
wouldn’t do today what we did,” they de-
clared. Once safely at Bermuda, they real-
ized, “Oh no, now we had to get back!”
Another famous trip was a summer cruise
to the Bahamas two weeks, while John
wasn’t teaching. Four to five boats joined
in and cruised the Abacos.


Since the beginning, the Club has had ex-
citing races, including those up to the pre-
sentday.Thegrouprememberedonerace
to Talbot Island, south of Amelia Island,
which had some unanticipated challenges.
Using an old compass with a 10 degree er-
ror, the crew on one boat was grounded in
ten feet of water. All the other boats were
far ahead, eventually disappearing. After
getting back underway, they got to marker
20 and realized the others were still racing

on a clear pond that hot day and not get-

ting far. Finally, they were neck and neck
with neck and neck with David Heine and
the crew of Contente and to their own
amazement, came in second! “We realized
that, in spite of everything, we could have
won!”


A Very Social Club


These original members report they had a
tremendouscruisingandasocialclub.
They enjoyed each other, ate and drank
together and knew each other’s schedules.
Often they would raft up five boats to a
larger boat, listen to music, and some-
times end up in the marsh. Other times,
someone would, “notice they were mov-
ing, and they would start up, move and
anchor again.”


While the old group has gotten older and
some have moved away, they recall a time
when members had attitudes of the
“outdoor sailor” and a time of fewer dis-
tractions. Today, members’ boats are
kept at a variety of marinas that didn’t ex-
ist previously. Club members have to
make an effort now to be cohesive given
these challenges of time and location.


We have these original sailors to thank for
the GISC’s solid foundation that has lasted
for 30 years. That foundation has provided
members the benefit of its original goals:
sailing education for young and new sail-
ors,racing,cruising,andsocialgatherings
for those who love sailing in the Golden
Isles.