The first sailboats appeared on Pelican Lake around the turn of the century. It is no surprise therefore to find that the Pelican Yacht Club (PYC) history is closely tied to another landmark on Pelican Lake; the Manitoba Sanatorium; or it is locally referred to, as simply the San. The San was established in 1910 and it was coincident that the people associated with it, also associated with the lake, and it was a natural progression to sailing.
It comes as no surprise therefore that the first commodore of PYC was coincidentally the Medical Superintendent of the San. Dr. A. L. (Al) Paine’s writings are our window to the history of sailing on Pelican Lake. In an article printed in The Messenger (February 1948), Dr. Paine writes eloquently of his life at the San and his introduction to sailing. Therein he writes that between 1928 and 1948… “very few craft have plied its waters, a period during which the writer has come to know and love its solitude through many ramblings over its surface.”
Although he admits that there were resort seekers prior to the development of the San in 1910, he also states … “that the great majority of resort seekers abandoned the lake for new and more northern bodies of water.”
Other history of the period tells similar stories of Lake Clemente near Brandon, and an exodus in the 30’s to Riding Mountain Park and Clear Lake, so presumably Dr. Paine’s resort seekers were also traveling to these new destinations.
Dr. Paine writes of Dr. Stewart as “among these nature lovers and during his twenty seven years at the Sanatorium was a constant student of lake and marsh life. In the early days he was an enthusiastic sailor and his boat was a familiar sight on these waters and offered a welcome and necessary release from the incessant burdens of his calling. Early sailing days however came to an end around 1920 when three patients and an employee were drowned when they took off, unknown, in a row boat with an improvised sail. After this Dr. Stewart regretfully discouraged the pastime, and I believe the sailboat eventually succumbed on shore to time and disuse. Iceboating also flourished in the early days. Bob Lumsden still tells of the trials of skill and speed between Dr. Stewart’s craft and one built by the Swedes who worked on the early construction gangs that erected the first buildings.”
Later in the same article, Dr. Paine (Al) writes that… “As a young staff doctor in 1929 I had my first contact with the lake through Dr. Lall Montgomery, who already knew it well.”
But it was not until several years later, he writes… “In the winter of 1936 I built the sailboat. Dr. Stewart, then in poor health and for the most part in bed, followed its progress with interest and impatience. By late spring it neared completion and Dr. Stewart frequently had Ralph bring him down by car to watch Bob Lumsden and I working in the long June evenings. He was present at the launching, and I am sure would have come on her maiden voyage had he been at all able.”
He continues to write in the article of memories of sailing from the cottage at Manhattan to the Sanatorium. He speaks of storms and mishaps, lost anchors, swimming, fishing and generally enjoying the lake from the sailboat. In 1938… “when on a blustering overcast day Drs. Moir and Scarrow, in youthful exuberance, challenged me to pile on all sail and drive her under.”
“More extended jaunts down the lake are equally memorable. In 1944, during the holiday time, Dr. Lim Yuen and I took a two day trip to the other end.”
This researcher found little in the record between Al Paine’s writings in 1948 and 1965 where again the same Dr. Paine emerges at the forefront of sailing and promoting sailing on the lake through the development of a yacht club.
It was on an August 1965 afternoon that a group of land lubbers met at the Pelican Lake Motel, and founded the Pelican Yacht Club. The club’s role and mission was to promote competitive sailing and youth sailing programs on Pelican Lake.
Teddy Paine (presumably Al’s son) writes greetings to PYC on the occasion of their 25th anniversary where again he shed some light on the mid 60’s. He writes… “Most of the boats then were built by the owners, all helping each other.”
It would also appear that the yacht club operated out of the “House on the Hill” as referenced in the same document where Teddy speaks of… “the regattas and the cocktail parties in the old ‘house on the hill’, during the five years that Al was the first Commodore.”
The club became affiliated with the then recently organized Manitoba Sailing Association in November 1965. The club grew rapidly, drawing members from both the community and summer residents. Dr. A. L. Paine, a long time sailor on Pelican Lake, was unanimously elected to serve as the club’s first commodore.
The first of many Junior Sailing Instruction Programs was conducted in 1966 and the Club soon became known for its hospitality and ability to organize successful regattas. It has hosted both Provincial and National Sailing events.
Over the next several years the Club’s facilities were used by the Sea Cadets and Boy Scouts for sailing instruction, and by the Red Cross for water safety programs, as well as for regular Club sailing and social activities.
More specific information on the clubs formation comes in a newsletter dated August 17, 1965 indicating that as a result of increasing interest on Pelican Lake, a group of people met on August 1 at the Ninette Motel to found PYC. Their plans were to host a regatta, a two week junior sailing course, and acquisition of a small fleet, (2 cadet sailboats).
The group that met in the Motel dining room on the long weekend in August of 1965 had no idea that they were organizing a club which would host the Canada Summer Games’ sailing and board sailing events in the summer of 1997. [source: Riverside heritage 1896-1996 c. 1996 Published by Riverside Centennial Committee. Box 149, Dunrea, Manitoba R0K 0S0]
In The Prairie Sailor, a newsletter “published occasionally by the Pelican Yacht Club”, a news item from the June 1967 issue has Dr. Jack Findlay of Branson as bringing the first lazy E to Pelican Lake. The same newsletter speaks of the people of Ninette becoming “quite accustomed to the ‘sailing vagrants’ who invade their town twice a year in ever increasing numbers.”
It speaks historically that in 1965, … “Dr. Sykes and Dr. McQueen were the only Fireballs” resident on the lake. In 1967, the Manitoba Fireball Championships were hosted at PYC in the July regatta.
As can be seen by Dr. Paine’s writings, sailing on Pelican Lake predates both the acquisition of the clubhouse and the formation of PYC, but the physical structure of the clubhouse predates both. The building itself was the Pelican Lake schoolhouse originally located six miles northeast of Pelican Lake. It was in operation from 1918 to 1968 when plans were made by PYC for its purchase and relocation. [A former school house in operation from 1886 to 1917 had burned down as was rebuilt a year later.]