Boston Navigators Club

  Promoting the Fine Art of Navigation

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USPS History


The Boston Navigators Club was formally established in 1948.  However, events prior to this were the catalyst used to form the club. In 1963, Howard W. Lewis, a charter member, dictated some information concerning a particular N course as given in 1938.  He started his remarks as follows:  "This is as well as I can remember the people and incidents that pertained to the first N Class of the Boston Power Squadron. (ed.  It is interesting to note the reference to the words "first N Class".)"

He went on to say:  "This class consisted of myself, Clarence Cobb, Henry Fish, John S. Graham, Dr. Lyle E. Reid, Charles S. Young, Philip Chase and a person named Harmon, who was with the USCG stationed at Hull, Massachusetts.  The instructor of this first N Class was Lt. Cmdr. Jack Thompson, who was in the Merchant Marine.  He later went on to become the head of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.  His students gave him high marks as an outstanding teacher and instructor."

"It would seem that a very fine esprit de corps  developed among the members of this "first" N Class.  Some of the sight work was done aboard "DOT III" owned by Clarence Cobb.  He kept his boat at Wild Harbor on the Cape.  He also had a thirty-four-room summer cottage where he played the part of a very gracious host to this first N Class.  Here they enjoyed a clam bake, and when not eating and enjoying the hospitality of their host, most managed to get their necessary sight work completed."

"Several members of the first N Class served in World War II.  Philip Chase became an Officer in the USCG and went on to become the Skipper of the Frigate Groton.  Clarence Cobb became an Officer in the USCG.  Several others served in the Armed Forces during this period."

During the years before 1948, many of the Ns in the Boston Power Squadron became close personal friends because of a mutual interest in navigation and boating.  They would plan cruises and meet at such places as the deck of the Boston Light Ship to practice sight work and to help others obtain their sights for the JN and N classes.

With this sort of friendly relationship existing, it is not difficult to visualize a "club" type of atmosphere developing among the several N's and the students taking the course.  Though there were not any elected officers, it does follow that the teacher of the N Course would be looked to as the leader of such a group.  This group did not have a charter, by-laws, dues or any of the other things that go to make up a formal club organization.  The first reported meeting of the Boston Navigators Club was on Thursday, 29 April 1948.  It was called a "Reorganization Meeting".

At the meeting held on 29 April 1948, all of the thirty-eight N's in the Boston Power Squadron, were invited to attend.  Seventeen did attend and Dr. Lyle E. Reid, acted as Chairman, pro tem, and Cushing W. Billis, acted as secretary, pro tem.  The records of this meeting would indicate that much was discussed and accomplished.  The aims and purposes of a Club of this nature were discussed.  Other items on the agenda were frequency of meetings, membership requirements, dues and fees.  Two committees were appointed and some familiar names start to appear.  A By-laws Committee was created with Hugh P. Duffill, as Chairman.  He was assisted by Willard (Bill) M. Joseph and Oscar G. Wheeler.  The second committee was "The Meeting Place Committee" with the chairman and only member being R. H. Kingsley (King) Brown.

Much enthusiasm and interest was evidenced by these founding members.  The second meeting of the Club was held on 27 May 1948, at the B.A.A. Club Room, 687 Boylston Street, Boston, Massachusetts.  Acting as Chairmen again was Dr. Lyle E. Reid, who appointed Chester E. Wilson, as clerk.  The purpose of this meeting was to establish a roster of Charter Members and adopt a Constitution and By-laws.  (ed.  The list of Charter Members is at the end of this history.)

In reviewing the names of the Charter Members, special note should be taken of the fact that among the list is the name of Lorraine E. McKittrick.  She was the first woman to become a member of the Club.  We are pleased to say that today, we have 20 woman members.  This represents more than 8 percent of our membership.

The committee on By-laws presented the results of their efforts and so with a few minor changes the By-laws were adopted.  A Nominating Committee was formed.  This committee consisted of James A. West, Robert W. Cushing and Lawrence P. Greenlaw.  They immediately retired and after serious deliberation returned to the meeting and submitted the following slate:      

  Captain:             Dr. Lyle E. Reid
  First Officer:       Raymond W. McKrittrick
  Second Officer:  Hugh P. Duffill
  Purser:               Robert L. Grant

The above named were then unanimously elected to the offices indicated.  Following this election, Oscar G. Wheeler and Lawrence P. Greenlaw were nominated and elected to serve as Members of the Staff. 

The third meeting of the Club was held on 16 June 1948, and Capt. Don Hodges, spoke on "Piloting in Buzzards Bay".  This meeting was held in the B.A.A. Club Room.  During the year 1948, five regular meetings of the Club were held.

The records of these meetings indicate that the motivations of the Officers and Members were serious.  However, it should also be noted that there was also a lighter side as evidenced by some of the letters and notes sent out by Doc Reid and Hugh Duffill.  There were also the lighter moments when new members put in their first appearance at a meeting and were asked to demonstrate their navigational skills.

On 27 October 1948 the club records state that a check in the amount of five dollars was sent to Mrs. Meredith Scott for her pen and ink sketch of a sextant which now appears on our Certificate of Membership.

On Wednesday, 7 December 1949 the first meeting of the season was held at the Hotel Lenox.  Fifteen members were present for the dinner and four more showed up for the lecture.  Mr. Kenneth Curtis of the Raytheon Co. spoke on "Radio Aids to Navigation".  He traced the history and development of the diaphone, fathometer, radio compass or direction finder and then such modern devices as loran.  It was noted that these items, of course, do not apply to small boats, but their use is having a profound influence on the science of navigation as practiced then.

Regular meetings were held until 1951.  Speakers were obtained from the Navy, Coast Guard and a number of private sources.  About this time, the initial drive and enthusiasm of the founders began to taper off and for the next few years no new members were taken in.  A rekindling of interest came about at a meeting held on 21 October 1954.  This was prompted by many N's in the Boston Power Squadron, under the guidance of Cushing W. Ellis, one of the Charter Members.

From its founding the Club was limited to N's who were members of the Boston Power Squadron.  This of course fixed the number of potential members.  It was about this time that USPS reorganized their Districts into smaller areas.  The increased interest by the general public in boating began to put a strain on the existing Squadrons which necessitated the chartering of a number of new Squadrons.

Because of the increased number of Squadrons in the area, the By-laws of the Club were amended so that the N's from all Squadrons could apply for membership.  This change created the impetus  that the Club needed.  Today, 24  squadrons are represented in our membership of 164.

During the existence of the Club, there have been many meetings and picnics.  Some of the more outstanding meetings should be mentioned in this brief history.

On 15 May 1968, the Club celebrated its 20th  Anniversary.  This meeting was held at Valle's Steak House in Braintree, Massachusetts.  Dr. Donald L. Hosmer was Captain on this occasion.  Over one hundred of our members and guests sat down to dinner.  All of our Past Captains were present except for two and this event was recorded by a photograph.  Most of our charter members were present and this was also recorded by a photograph.  We were especially pleased to have as our guest Mr. & Mrs. Walter J. Sutcliff.  Walter was the presiding president of the New York N Club and a Past Chief Commander of USPS.  He has the distinction of being the first honorary member of our Club.  He was presented with an Honorary Membership Certificate, a Club flag and a Past Captain's Pin.

The next meeting of mention was on Saturday, 20 June 1970.  This was a joint meeting between the Boston Navigators Club and the New York N Club.  A number of our members arrived on Friday evening and checked in at the Howard Johnson Motor Inn, located in Mystic Connecticut.  On Saturday morning we left by bus for the Submarine Base at Groton, Connecticut.  We met our New York friends at about 0930 and started a tour of the base including a visit to the Submarine Museum.

After a full morning, during which all enjoyed the fine hospitality of the US. Navy, we repaired to the Base Officer's Club for cocktails and lunch.  In the afternoon an outstanding lecture was given on submarine navigation followed by a number of comments on the Polaris Program.  This was followed by a tour of a World War II submarine.

From 1800 to 2400 we reconvened for a social at the Base Officers Club and a very fine dinner.  For the young at heart, there was dancing till midnight.  The Saturday activities were outstanding and added to this was the chance to mix and get acquainted with our N Club friends from New York.

Our Club completed this wonderful weekend by visiting the Mystic Seaport on Sunday.  Everyone was on their own.  At noon, our members brought the weekend to a close by having lunch at the Seaport Seaman's Inn.

The next milestone for the Club was the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Boston Navigators Club held on Wednesday, 16 May 1973 at the Officer's Club, Boston Naval Station.  The guest speaker was Captain Elliot H. Winslow, a bon vivant, an oracle, a cousin to Poseidon.  As a master mariner, navigator, and licensed pilot he related his experiences of many years around the sea front.  A 25th Anniversary Yearbook was presented to the membership.

At the Annual Meeting on 4 October 1978, a new secretary-purser was elected.  This ended twenty years of service by Lester M. Clark as Secretary-Purser of the Boston Navigators Club.  He was presented with a Paul Revere Bowl suitably engraved for the occasion.  During Lester's time as Secretary-Purser, he contributed significantly to the Club and was one of the more influential members to assure that the Club is still in existence today.  The establishment of a Permanent Fund to sustain the financial integrity of the Club was one of many contributions by Les Clark.  Les has been a member of the Club since 1954 and was Captain in 1958.  He is a Life Member and is still active forty-two  years later.

On 16 February 1990 the Club voted and accepted a revised set of By-laws.  The revision to the By-laws was required to bring the Club up to date on changes incurred since the original By-laws were approved in 1948.  Dr. Harry F. Hinckley was the major contributor to this revision and his efforts were unanimously appreciated by the Club.

Another member to be recognized is Ernest F. Tetrault.  Ernie, a member since 1968 and now a life member, was Captain in 1980.  In 1982 he assumed the task of Secretary-Purser.  Ernie held that position for 13 years, until 1995.  During that time, the Club experienced critical financial problems.  However, through Ernie's persistence our bank account grew and we are now financially solvent.  We owe Ernie many thanks for his dedication to the Club.

In 1998 The club celebrated its 50th Anniversary.  The well attended event was held on the Odyssey cruise ship with a dinner cruise on Boston Harbor

During the many years of the Club, several of our members have past on.  Our records contain several memorials to our members who have contributed substantially to the club.  Members such as Fred Harding, James A. West, Charles S. (Cy) Young, Samuel S. Lord, and Dr. James E, Grainger will always be remembered.

Our members have always felt a certain amount of pride in belonging to the Boston Navigators  Club.  In turn, the Club is proud of the many accomplishments of its members.  An applicant for membership must pass five examinations before they can be  given an application for membership.  Few organizations, if any, have such a requirement.

The Boston Navigators Club continues to flourish.  Our membership is stable and we continue to have interesting meetings and social events.  Typically there is a spring and fall meeting, a holiday party and a summer picnic.  We have met at the Essex shipbuilding Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum and the Newburyport Maritime Museum, visited the Friendship in Salem, learned about the Cape Cod Canal from the Army Corps of Engineers facility and visited the Weather Bureau in Taunton. We have had speakers from marine equipment manufacturers, wooden boat builders, and world wide travelers.  Special events may also be scheduled depending upon the officers.      

(ed.   Note: This history was referenced from the 25th Anniversary Yearbook, 1973 as written by Lester M. Clark)