Old boat club slips into season with new basin

JOHN HICKEY/Buffalo News
The Buffalo Launch Club holds ceremonies to dedicate its new basin Sunday. Cutting the ribbon, from left, are Commodore Wes Hoddick, Jerry Middlefelt, Rear Commodore John Holler and Past Commodore Peter Schwabl.
News Northtowns Bureau

There have been warmer launches to the boating season in Western New York, but maybe none as memorable as the one Sunday afternoon at the oldest powerboating club in the world.

The flag at Grand Island's Buffalo Launch Club was raised in 42-degree temperatures, marking not just the start of the the 2002 powerboat season, but also of a new $850,000 basin that nearly doubles its former capacity at the 99-year-old club.

"It is truly an exciting time in the history of our club," said George R. Schlemmer, fleet captain of the club.

When the few of the nearly 250 club members who weren't in attendance Sunday get to the East River Road grounds of the club for the first time this year, they'll find a treat, club officials say.

Ribbons were cut on the new basin featuring 86 floating wooden slips and a new breakwater. The project, which has been in the works for more than three years, was funded wholely through about $1 million in member investments.

"I don't think there's anything that will stop the club now. Please enjoy the new basin as we step into our second century," Jon H. Holler, chairman of the basin expansion, told the large crowd gathered at the river bank on the blustery March-like day.

Strangely enough, it was the warm winter that allowed crews to transport and install the new wooden docks from Perry Sound, Ont., where they were built, to the club's location on the east Niagara River in time for Sunday's dedication ceremony and flag-raising.

"This is an important day in the history of the Buffalo Launch Club, and we want this to be remembered for the next 100 years," Schlemmer said.

The expansion allows the club to welcome three dozen new boaters this season. Those extra memberships and dock fees are expected to pay for the expansion project, officials said.