1960’s Bras d’Or Station History
by Rod Fraser
Station Historian & Archivist 1992-1999
Early in the 1960’s, largely through the efforts of Carl Vilas and Mel Grosvenor, a movement was afoot to form the Bras d’Or Post of the CCA. Carl Vilas forwarded a petition to the Club Secretary, H. Addison Taylor, in 1966 for presentation at the November meeting of the governing Board.
By way of personal communication with Carl and later Margaret Vilas, it would seem that the proposal to form a Bras d’Or post was “talked about” for at least two or three years in the early 1960’s at the Board of Governors Meeting in New York. “Understandably, the Boston Station may have been reluctant to lose the Canadian members from its roster, but there must have been others who opposed the idea”. Margaret Vilas also mentioned that there was plenty of correspondence in Carl’s files, of that time, with Mel Grosvenor and Mac Grant regarding this movement.
It was reported in the CC News of February 1967, that the formation and formal recognition of the Bras d’Or post was unanimously approved at the November 18, 1966 meeting of the Governing Board. An excerpt from that report stated that “the Post plans to plant moorings at strategic spots in time for the arrival of the CCA cruise to the lakes, in 1967”. The Post is listed in the 1967 Yearbook with Melville B. Grosvenor as Post Captain and Carl Vilas as Corresponding Secretary. Carl described the first meeting of the Bras d’Or Post in the model room of the New York Yacht Club in the initial Post Newsletter “This newest of Posts was formed during the winter of 1966 – 1967. It is made up of Nova Scotia residents, property owners in Cape Breton and Bras d’Or Lake buffs, who wish they could be permanently located.
“The purpose of the Post is to provide hospitality moorings and good fellowship among its members and the general member ship of the CCA.”
The original members were:
- Mel Grosvenor
- Carl Vilas
- Mac Grant
- Paul Sheldon
- Wright Britton
- Dan Blain
- J. E. McKeen
- Charles Bartlett
- Burnham Porter
- Alan Bemis
- Francis Welch
- Robert Truesdale
Gilbert Grosvenor was to be a member but died in February 1966 before the post obtained formal recognition.
The first recorded function of the Bras d’Or Post was reported by Carl Vilas in the February 1967 CCA News as “unofficial rendezvous in Deep Cove, Mahone Bay, NS July 8, 1966.
Yachts present were:
- SANDPIPER, Dave & Grace Bacon
- Brantford, Conn.
- DIRECTION, Carl & Margaret Vilas
- CORISANDE, Dan Blaine
- ACADIE, Mac & Judy Grant
- Captain Tom Moreland
- CYBELLE, Carlisle & Sally Norwood (Guest)
- JEZABEL, Steward & Peggy St. George (Guest)
In the summer of 1967, the National CC A Summer Cruise to the Bras d’Or Lakes included gatherings at Halifax (J.C. McKeen’s Home “BILTON” on the North West Arm, Liscombe Mills, Clarke Cove, (Marble Mountain), the Bienn Breagh gathering was orchestrated by Bras d’Or Post Captain Mel Grosvenor. Account in November 1967 CCA News.
The 1968 Year Book refers to the Bras d’Or Post:
“This Post, consisting of Nova Scotia residents and summer visitors, plus Bras d’Or buffs has a current roster of 14 CCA Members”. (Robin Hayward joined in June 1967)
“The purpose of the Post is to provide hospitality, moorings and good fellowship among its members and among the membership of the CCA as a whole”.
In the summer of 1967, Post Captain Mel Grosvenor provided just such hospitality for the entire CCA fleet on the CCA Cruise, details of which were covered in the November 1967 issue of the CCA News.
Melville Bell Grosvenor
Of particular interest to the Bras d’Or Post was the authorization granted by the Governing Board of the CCA in March 1968 for the ELSIE to fly the CCA Burgee at all times “whether Post Captain Mel Grosvenor was in command or not”. This gesture was made in recognition of the part played by ELSIE, when, during a fall cruise in the early twenties, the CCA’s first Commodore, William Washburn Nutting, discussed with Casey Baldwin, in the cabin of the ELSIE, the idea of forming a club patterned after the Royal Cruising Club of England. In the summer of 1968, there was a raft up on the CCA Mooring in Deep Cove, Washabuckt River, reported by Carl Villas in the December 1968 CCA News.
Yachts present were:
- DIRECTION, Margaret & Carl Vilas
- ELSIE, Mel & Ann Grosvenor & sisters
- SECRETS, Paul Sheldon
- MILKY WAY, Larry Lombard
- NIMA, Captain John Parker
The highlight of this was GAM John Parker’s story of his grounding on Miquelon (story in December 1968 CCA News). Captain Parker joined the CCA in 1968.
In the May, 1969 CCA News, the Bras d’Or Post announced an informal cruise to the South Coast of Newfoundland to be held in July of 1969 inviting all CCA members in the area to attend.
The “official” version of this cruise was reported by Post Corresponding secretary Carl Vilas in the November 1969 CCA News. However, Margaret Vilas wrote a more insightful account to me [Rod Fraser] in 1990. “While Mel Grosvenor was Post Captain, he organized numerous cruises. He was disappointed that so few members could make the 1969 Bras d’Or Post cruise. He didn’t realize that the younger members were working and would be unable to attend. As a result, only four boats of the Post made the cruise – all four owners were retired!”
Those participating in the 1969 Summer Cruise to Newfoundland and St. Pierre were:
- WHITE MIST, Mel Grosvenor
- DIRECTION, Carl Vilas
- CORISANDE, Dan Blain
- NIMA, Captain John Parker
Margaret continued: “It was a wonderful cruise from Port aux Basques to St. Pierre. I remember it all in a nostalgic haze, including various tense moments. There was one scary storm at night anchored in Aviron Bay, which required an all-night anchor watch lest we drag into deep water. CORISANDE had fractured her mast in the blow earlier that day. Luckily DIRECTION carried an extra shroud and turnbuckles in her bilge and we were able to jury rig CORISANDE’s mast. CORISANDE continued on the St. Pierre and then all the way back along the South Coast of Newfoundland and across the Cabot Straight at night to Nova Scotia, in company with DIRECTION. To add to the suspense, CORISANDE’s two guests had jumped ship in St. Pierre. They were intolerant of the lack of amenities on Board CORISANDE, particularly leaks over their bunks. The mast breaking was the last straw. They left the Blains who were the oldest of our geriatric group rather stranded without a crew to return to Cape Breton.