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News / Articles

2014 Spring Newsletter

Published on 3/29/2014




By Vicki Lathom


  • Club updates
  • New Stuart Customs Office
  • ICW shoaling updates
  • Halifax invite
  • Flag etiquette




John Conley -- Commodore’s Corner

Whenever we go home to re-join our family and summer friends, the first few minutes of dialogue always includes “So, how was your winter?” I expect this year I will hear a lot about frigid temperatures, never ending snow and a winter that just would not quit.  All of which only reinforces just how blessed we are to trade gray northern winters for the warmth and beauty of the Abacos.

While the weather and scenery is important and probably the primary factor that brought us to the Bahamas, it is secondary to what keeps us coming back: the Royal Marsh Harbour Yacht Club, our varied activities (planned and un-planned) and most importantly, our people.  The friendships seem to develop instantly but I'm sure that many will last a lifetime.  We are undeniably sad when circumstances prevent our friends from returning to be with us.  We miss them dearly and fear that it just won't be the same without them.  Sometimes, it really isn't the same and we are left with a hole in our hearts and a void in our activities, too.

We were hit especially hard this year with the absence of so many of our craft artists and their leader, Susan McDaniel.  Although a small group continues and is growing, crossing delays and a late start prevented us from continuing the highly successful craft show and dinner that awed us with the talent in our midst.  The double whammy was that Susan's other half, Ron, was also the leader of our Yoga classes, another staple of our activities line-up.  In that case, the results were more positive as Woody Sutton, together with Susan Cope, took on the challenge and soon had members downward-dogging and mountain posing each weekday morning at 11.

As much as it hurts, there is a certain amount of membership churning and re-organization that is inevitable in a group such as ours.  The upside is that we also get an influx of bright new stars and there were quite a few this year.  However, none rose faster than our new member Karen Westin.  In her first few months of membership, this stellar firecracker took over our regalia sales and all but cleared out the inventory.  She went on to design a 2015 thirty-fifth anniversary Club logo and within days had delivered a few dozen “preview tees” for sale.  Then, as if to prove that she was no one-trick-pony, she volunteered to coordinate our Margarita Madness party.  On short notice she recruited a gaggle of supporting volunteers, oversaw the logistics and threw one heck of a party for 160+ who ate, drank, played beach games, danced and warmed themselves before a bon-fire into the late evening.  After all that she asked, “Would it be OK if I put up an RMHYC Facebook page?”... sure Karen, you can do whatever you want!

Of course, there were many unforgettable moments this season and a slew of people who made it all work-- one more year and a whole new set of memories to add to the growing list.  For me, it was all about the warm temperatures, never ending friendships and a season that quit too soon.  That, my friends, is how my winter was and I hope yours, too.

*     *     *

I've heard it in a number of different ways from a number of different people.  The two most important elements of our Club's non-profit business are our social events and our membership discounts.

Certainly, if you wintered with us in the Abacos, you know that our social committee led by John Cummings put together a full calendar with a lot of fun events that were very reasonably priced.  But, what if you are one of the members who are not with us during November to April?  Please log on to the website and review our member benefits pages (you must enter your user name and password to see them).  Many of the marinas that partner with us offer discounts for other time periods and our publications and merchandise sections are good all year long. 

Similarly, the Abaco dining discounts are available at any time of year.  The list is growing with each of these restaurants offering 10% off: Lubber's Landing, Wally's, Oasis and Conky Joes.  We have even added Sweets by Meeks Bakery to the list where you will get a 5% discount on specialty cakes.  Some restrictions apply, so check out the web site for all the details.

By the way, you can help us all by identifying vendors who would like to partner with us.  One tried and true method is to pull the manager aside and tell them that you really enjoyed being there and would like your fellow Club members to have the same experience.  Of course, the best way to do that is to give members an incentive to visit.  Then let Ray Meyer or me know who to contact.

*     *     *

Abaco Beach Resort at Boat Harbour is the first marina to finalize our special rates for next season.  The existing rates and terms will remain unchanged, with two important exceptions.  First, members who have never before stayed at ABR will be granted a rate of $1 per foot for up to three days.  At the end of that period, if you wish to stay on you may convert to any of the longer term rates, retroactive to your arrival date.  This is separate from the $1 per foot rate for visitors attending Club functions hosted by ABR, which will also continue.

Second, there is a special caveat affecting all of the rates.  The Bahamian government is considering the implementation of a new Value Added Tax which could affect marina rates throughout the Country.  Should the tax be implemented, the rates will be adjusted accordingly.

Please visit the marina discount section of our web site before you arrive to make sure that you will meet all of the requirements to receive these discounts.

*     *     *

Our Bahamian Charter and our By-laws have provisions that allow us to support community organizations and projects that benefit the cruising community.  This year our Donations Committee led by Susan Harward, provided a $3,000 gift to BASRA and a $727 grant to Friends of the Environment for replacement and repair of the moorings at Mermaid Reef.

But, the individual generosity of our members does not stop there.  Through the initiative of Rita Wieczorek, household items and clothing were collected and distributed to victims of the disastrous fire in the Haitian community of Pigeon Peas.  Further, member Sheri Smith had the wonderful idea to put out a tip jar at the open bar during Margarita Madness, collecting $668 for the benefit of Every Child Counts special needs school.  Well done!

*     *     *

Have a great summer.  I look forward to seeing you in the Abacos next season! – John



Renew Membership in August or September

Membership Chairman Ben Bechard urges RMHYC cruisers to renew membership before leaving the States next fall.  “It’s much easier than running around in Abaco looking for someone to do it,” says Ben.  Also, you can print your own card on photo paper or card stock.  Currently, RMHYC has 569 members, with the new website accounting for the high level, according to Ben.


Gimbaled Chef... A Cook’s Blog   

It’s new -- the club’s web site has a recipes blog on the home page. Valerie Arden is looking especially for items that members have cooked on the boat.  The idea is that this will be the go-to spot that members visit when away from the Abacos to remember good times and enjoy some marvelous cooking ideas.  Members should send in recipes as noted in the blog. For more information:


 “Fire and Ice”  2015 Commodore’s Ball Theme

To give you a head start on costume planning, event coordinator Heather Patterson offers the following:


“Keep it cool or heat it up, the 2015 Commodore's Ball is Not To Be Missed!  This elegant affair will bring out the hot bad boys and the ultra cool cats, sexy women of passion and the stormy queens of ice. 

White dinner jackets, crimson ascots,

 gowns of scarlet, cool silver or icy blue.

 Anything elegant that's fire and/or ice will do.
Flirt with fire or dare to skate on thin ice. 

 Some say the night will end in fire, some say ice

......we shall see!”

The “Fire and Ice” theme is inspired by one of Robert Frost's most popular works published in 1920.  Frost's biographers say his poem was inspired by Dante's Inferno, full of heated emotions and icy evils.





Slated to open as early as next year, a new customs office will be located at Witham Field, near the St. Lucie river and Okeechobee Waterway, making another location for boaters to clear on the Treasure Coast.  The closest other customs offices are in Ft. Pierce and Palm Beach.





At special request, this mile marker information was put together especially for RMHYC by Mike Ahart, News Editor of the Waterway Guide.  Mike says that many of the ICW problem areas in NC are being dredged; however, none of the problem areas in SC or GA are, as far as he knows. – Vicki Lathom


1064 - Las Olas bridge: Due to construction, only opens on the quarter hour and only one span opens. Currently the east side span.

1031 - New Lantana Bridge completed, opens on signal (20' closed vertical clearance)

1028.8 - Lake Ave. Bridge schedule, opens on the :15 and :45 hour1005 Jupiter FL shoaling at R2

1021.8 - Flagler Bridge Operating Schedule during construction, open once an hour at quarter past the hour

992.2 - Peck Lake Anchorage not usable until May due to St. Lucie Inlet dredging operations

684 - Jekyll Creek, shoaling. Take mid-tide rising and call Jekyll Island Marina for updates

653 - Little Mud River, shoaling, take mid-tide rising

601 Hell Gate, shoaling, take mid-tide rising

592.9 - Skidaway drawbridge has been replaced with hi-rise bridge

574 - Fields Cut, shoaling on inside of bends, good water on outside edges

516 - Ashepoo Coosaw Cutoff, shoaling

440-460 - Isle of Palms, shoaling to 2' MLW, but high tidal range, so take mid-tide rising

330 - Shalottes Inlet area, recently dredged

320 - Lockwoods Folly area, recently dredged

288 - Masonboro Inlet area, shoaling

236 - Browns Inlet area, shoaling




At Halifax River Yacht Club we are accustomed to seeing sailors from RMHYC in the spring as they head back north and wanted to let you know of our spring race on May 23rd from Ponce Inlet to Charleston. This is a great opportunity for anyone that would like to avoid the twisty Intracoastal Waterway in Georgia and join a group offshore for some nice friendly competition.  Below is the link to information about the 2014 Gulf Streamer on the Halifax River Yacht Club website. There you will find the entry packet, NOR, sailing instruction and contact information. Hope to see some boats from RMHYC! Thanks – Mark Webb (





Article from

Flag etiquette has been transmitted to us by generations of mariners. Although not often appropriately respected these days, especially not by charterers, we might add, observing flag etiquette can provide some pride of perpetuating a very old tradition as well as some fun. We will not get into deep details and purist fanaticism. However, we will try to show charterers the minimum that is expected for basic respect of rules.


Therefore, we will only talk here about four main flags, potentially used by charterers and charter boat owners: the Ensign or the National flag; the club burgee; the Private Signal; and the Courtesy Flags.


Boats should fly the National Flag. Most pleasure boats in US waters have a choice of two.

  • The yacht ensign, with its fouled anchor over a circle of 13 stars, the "Betsy Ross" flag. Originally restricted to documented vessels only, it is now commonly flown on recreational boats of all types and sizes instead of the National Flag.
  • The 50-star flag "Old Glory" you are familiar with (see pix).

The appropriate time to fly the ensign is from sunrise to sunset, except when racing. However, whenever a boat is taken into international or foreign waters, the 50-star U.S. ensign is the proper flag to fly and the yacht ensign cannot to be displayed. In other words, if you own a US boat in the British Virgin Islands, you should not fly the Ensign, but the National Flag.

Boats today fly the ensign from the stern, which provides the best visibility, but it can also be flown from the leech of the most after sail. When flown from the stern, it should be on a staff (pole) that is sufficiently long and angled, and that is offset to one side (traditionally the starboard side), so the flag flies clear of engine exhaust and rigging.




It is a small flag displaying the symbol of the skipper's yacht club or other sailing organization. It may be flown day and night.

Most people opt to fly the burgee lower in the rig, hoisted to the end of the lowest starboard spreader on a thin flag halyard. While purists rail this practice, it is an accepted adaptation of another tradition, which is that the starboard rigging is a position of honor (when you visit a foreign port, that's where we fly the host country's flag). Besides being reasonable, flying the burgee in the starboard rigging is such a widespread custom that to try to end it would be close to impossible.

Private Signal

It is a small, custom-designed and custom-made flag that carries symbols standing for the owner, so it can basically be anything. The signal may be flown day or night, but is not displayed when another sailor is in command. (The rule is: the private signal and burgee follow the sailor, not the boat.)

On a multi-masted boat, the private signal is flown at the head of the aftermost mast. On a sloop, the private signal may be flown from the starboard rigging, either below the burgee or alone.

Courtesy Flags

As a matter of courtesy, it is appropriate to fly the flag of a foreign nation on your boat when you enter and operate on its waters. There are only a limited number of positions from which flags may be displayed. Therefore, when a flag of another nation is flown, it usually must displace one of the flags displayed in home waters. However, it is hoisted only after the appropriate authorities have granted clearance. Until clearance is obtained, a boat must fly the yellow"Q" flag. All charter boats should carry the national flags of neighboring islands as well as the yellow flag, in case charterers want to visit those islands.

The courtesy flag is flown at the boat's starboard spreader, whether the United States ensign is at the stern staff, or flown from the leech. If there is more than one mast, the courtesy flag is flown from the starboard spreader of the forward mast.

As a side note, some authorities are not amused at all if you fly their courtesy flag using an old, raggy flag. Some will even fine you for disrespect! It happened to a friend of mine who was chartering in Turkey.

Lastly, it is also a common courtesy to fly the national flag(s) of your guest(s) on board, if they have a different nationality than the ensign is showing.

Flags' Dimensions

Flags come in standardized sizes, but there are guidelines about selecting the proper size for your boat.

The size of a nautical flag is determined by the size of the boat that flies it. Flags are more often too small than too large. So in the rules below, round upward to the nearest larger standard size.

  • The flag at the stern of your boat: U.S. ensign or national flag should be about one inch for each foot of overall length. For example, on a 40ft. boat, the ensign should be 40 in. i.e. about 3.5ft.
  • Other flags, such as club burgees, private signals and courtesy flags used on sailboats should be approximately 1/2 inch for each foot of the highest mast above the water. For example, on a 30ft. boat, with 50ft. between the masthead and the water, the burgee should be about 25 in. The shape and proportions of pennants and burgees will be prescribed by the organization which they relate to.

Raising and Lowering Flags

Fly the ensign from morning (8:00 a.m.) to evening (sunset) whether the boat is at rest, under sail, or under power. The exception to this rule is: The ensign is not flown by a boat in a race, which signals to other boats that you are racing.

To prevent wear and tear, the flag may not be flown when out of sight of other vessels or when nobody is aboard. The flag is flown while entering or leaving a port, even at night. For purists: In the morning, the ensign is hoisted rapidly before other flags. In the evening, it is lowered slowly and with ceremony after other flags come down.