The idea of organizing a racing and cruising club for owners of non-class boats in the Long Beach area was originated in 1937 with six people: Frank Coleman, Claude Scott, Frank Davenport, Ernie Miser, Don Swanton and Lee Martin. At that time, non-class boats were not included in any of the Southern California yachting regattas (so if you wanted to go racing, you were pretty much on your own!). A criteria of minimum/maximum length (18-30 feet) with fixed cruising accommodations requirement was established, then the same group developed an arbitrary handicapping system which would allow racing of the non class boats in inter-club as well as intra-club.
All this having been done, all that remained was to find a suitable name for the group. The search was ended when it was discovered that the Charter and By-Laws of an existing yachting organization named Little Ships Fleet of the Great Northwest, located in Seattle, Washington, provided for the formation of other Little Ships Fleet clubs in the area. By seeking and gaining permission for the rights, the non-profit club of Little Ships Fleet of Long Beach became a reality!
Herb Riley and Frank Coleman, who were then members of Long Beach Yacht Club, persuaded LBYC to sponsor the newly organized fleet. The first club meetings were held in a small building located on the Santa Barbara Mole, now replaced by Pier "E" in the Long Beach Harbor. LBYC also permitted LSFLB members to put down moorings and anchor in front of the club. In the three years prior to WWII, about half of the boats were at his facility, and the other half in Hopton’s Landing, in the Cerritos Channel. The first meeting was held in June 1938. Frank Coleman was the first Fleet Captain (the Office of Commodore was not used until 1960) and the monthly dues, which included coffee and doughnuts, was only 25 cents!
Unfortunately, harbor development and onset of WW II doomed the clubhouse meetings and so through the years following, the club nucleus was held together by William "Cap" Walker. With the war over, regular meetings began once again in 1946 and were held, in turn, at the various homes of the members.
In 1952, the membership had grown such that meetings were held in a loft building of the then Long Beach Marine Repair Shipyard owned by Alex Robinson. With the name suggested by "Cap" Walker, the Club’s publication "Three Sheets In The Wind" was originated in 1955 by Jeanne Thompson. The newsletter allowed the members to be informed of the Club’s activities when it was not possible for some to attend the monthly meetings.
From the beginning, Little Ships Fleet had been one of the most active organizations on the West Coast. In 1958, Gene Barber, Howard Kupfer and Howard Thompson, together with members from other yacht clubs, were instrumental in forming the Pacific Handicapping Racing Fleet (PHRF) and its basic handicapping system. In recent years, the name was changed to Performance Handicapping Racing Fleet, which is in use world wide today! The home port of LSFLB had been City Yacht Anchorage on the Cerritos Channel in Long Beach since 1950, but by 1960-61, most of the boats move into the newly opened Long Beach Marina in Alamitos Bay and has been home port ever since. The Little Ships Galley became a popular gathering place for the members over the years and Earl Schultz’s Little Ships Bulletin Board was a convenient place for posting club information. A portion of his storage place was used for many years to store LSFLB properties and for publication of the newsletter.
In 1973, LSFLB established a Dinghy Racing Fleet (beginning with Sabots) and a Junior Fleet. Activity in these fleets flourished for several years, but, as the juniors grew up, interest began to wan. The year 1982, saw the first woman Commodore, Peggy Gregory. LSFLB also had its’ first Opening Day Ceremony and had invited members of the other clubs to attend. It was during this time that LSFLB reached it's glory as the membership surged to over 200 members! Happy days for members and their families as racing, cruising and social events were the order of the day. In late 1984, Commodore Bob Busch lead the effort to locate facilities for the club and subsequently entered into agreement with Four Winds Yacht Club to use their facility in Marina Pacifica. Commodore Al Trentini held the first meeting there in early 1985. This lasted until 1987, which then found the club holding meetings at the Sea Scout Base facility on Appian Way in Long Beach. In 1988, some new members joining and the addition of children brought about a resurrection of the Juniors Fleet to the families.
But unfortunately, the economy begin its’ downward slide, the local aerospace industry was drying up and through the subsequent years, club membership begin to fade (as it did with most other clubs). The club continued to meet at the Sea Scout Base in Long Beach and also on the docks of the Alamitos Bay Marina. However, around 1991, the club was fortunate to acquire the building/shed/park leasehold next to the gas dock. Originally the freezer locker and office for the tuna club, and then occupied by the Coast Guard, the building had a park like commanding view of the Marina with an adjacent storage shed and long dock. Although there was some objection by some of the members, the decision was made to move in. After some modifications to the interior and installation of a flagpole, Little Ships Fleet of Long Beach finally had a new and permanent home! The clubhouse was the site of many member BBQ’s, member meetings, Midwinter Regatta and Charity Regatta after race parties and provided many years of enjoyment for the members.
Again, around 1997, the declining economic times began to take its toll on membership participation requiring the club’s Commodores to serve double duty. Beginning with Stu O’Guinn in 1995 & 1997, Jim Campbell, 1998 & 2001, Matt Barrett 1999 & 2000, Frank Franco, 2002 & 2003, these gentleman took their responsibilities to heart and kept the club’s purpose alive. During the later part of this period, the first color Three Sheets in the Wind newsletter was published and the first website created, opening up a new avenue of communication between the members, Operating Staff and potentially interested members.
The end of 2003 saw a realization, as many of the local yacht clubs had also, that the current times dictated necessary changes that would allow continued existence. To meet this challenge, many changes were instituted by LSFLB…the clubhouse was returned to the city (although keeping the storage shed), the Bylaws were updated, and the race program restructured. In 2004, Steve Cole took the helm of leadership (reverting to the title of Fleet Captain) and along with Staff Commodore Don Warner, kept the race program going strong. During the 2005 season, Commodore Nate Tucker and his Flag Officers, focused on increasing membership (by 20%!), and providing Membership meetings that gave new energy to the interest and participation of the members.
The “fine tuning” continued in 2006, with the club’s name being shortened to Little Ships Fleet Yacht Club, a new and improved website by Commodore Mike Maronta, continued increase in membership, and the commitment to continue providing the niche in the yachting community that allows LSFYC members and their families, the opportunity to enjoy their boats more!