“The largest group of black sailors of both men and women in the country —cruising and racing.”
John Buckner is one of the earlier blacks sailors, I remember, sailing out of Jackson Park. John had a 20-foot Rhodes Oday. Another sailor, Kofi Moyo, raced in the Star Fleet in the early seventies.
During the mid-eighties, a group of black sailors would sail into Jackson Park. Burt Waters, Keith Hall, Alpha Ray Thompson, Bob Nelson, Jack and Eunice Lyle, Tess and Frank Garner and Bill Pinkney were amongst the earliest of sailors.
Leon Harris, Alpha Ray, Yvonne Nelson and a few others would form fleets and cruise up to the North Channel and Wisconsin. I arrived in the late '80's from Wisconsin, to have more camaraderie. There was some participation by Blacks in club cruising and races at this time. During the late eighties and early nineties, the black sailing community exploded. We were taking cruises to Hammond, East Chicago, Michigan City and other points.
Frank and Tess Garner, Nate Morgan, Jack and Eunice Lyle, Alpha Ray and Yvonne Nelson were among the earlier sailors to join the Jackson Park Yacht Club. The Garner's joined in 1981, only after the Sea Scout group Garner heading, wasn't allowed to use the washrooms. Dr. Nate Morgan joined in 1984 (he later became the club's Fleet Surgeon). During the early '80's, there was still 'tension' in the atmosphere. It wasn't until 1986 that women were allowed to join on their own.
Bill Pinkney often sailed out of Jackson Park before his circum-navigation in 1992.
> In 1994, we formed the first African American crew of both men and women to sail in the Mackinac Race. Captain William "Bill" Pinkney, world renowned, solo-circum-navigator, captained the crew of eight. The boat, "Upanayana" (Keeper of the Magic Flute) was that of Dr. David Blackwell, also of the crew. The crew: Theordore Graves, Dr. Nate Morgan, Pamela Rice, Robert Bassett, Yvonne Nelson, Lance Lovely, Dr. David Blackwell, Wesley Smith and Captain Bill Pinkney. These sailors were all captains and skippers of their own boats.
With the help of publicist, Barbara Samuels, we were able to generate a great deal of publicity for this historic sail. Though, we were not the first all black crew to enter the Mac Race. In 1965, a sailor by the name of Dave Mayberry, put together a crew of five men to race his boat in the Mac Race.
Mayberry had a boat in Burnham harbor, in downtown Chicago. As a fireman, he would work on boats as a mechanic. Another sailor, Ted Jones would captain this crew. Story has it, that it was the lack of good navigational equipment that they did not finish the race. Dr. Nate Morgan was fortunate enough to speak with one of his patients who was a relative of one of the crew--they kept a log of this race (which we have been trying to acquire for publication).
An interesting fact was learned of how sailors would navigate on Lake Michigan. Radio signals from off-shore on either side of the lake were received via regular VHF antennas. The antenna would be angled toward the strongest radio signal from each point on land, and wherever those signals would meet, that would be the boat's position.
The Mac Race in 1994 was a stepping-stone for many black racers. The following year, Nate Morgan outfitted his boat, 'Natalie" and entered the race with members from the previous crew. The years to follow, we were always represented in the Mac Race. Ted Graves raced his boat "DeDa's Toy" in 1996. Racing was taken to another level by racers like Ted Graves, Bob Nelson, Nate Morgan, Jack Lyle, Frank Garner, David Ward, Robert Bassett, Edmond Eueringer, and Robert McMiller.
In 1997, Frank Garner would become the first Black Commodore at JPYC. More black sailors joined the club during the late nineties.
In 1995, after sailing my purchase back from Musekegon, I got the idea to form a flotilla. For the next seven years, for 7 to 14 days the Annual BCS Flottila sailed with up to 10 boats, up the coast of Michigan and Wisconsin, averaging 220 - 350 miles.
It was after our group was forming closer ties, that Robelle McMiller suggested we name our group Black Chicago Sailors. Knowing how difficlut it would be to nail down sailors and free-spirits, I decided that a 'virtual' organization would work best...no meetings, no dues, just sharing each other's company--hence blackchicagosailors.org
Though, times have changed, people have come and gone, along with their vessels, there remains a heightened interest in the sport of sailing. So if you are ever in the neighborhood, stop down, and say 'ah-hoy'!
by Editor and Founder, Pam Rice
1994 Mac Team
Center: Practice day
Bottom: On the race
John Buckner with Jack Lyle
Frank Garner, JPYC 1st Black Commodore