Back in the mid-70’s West Bay Boat Works (Bob Core and Bob Sprenger) leased the Coal Dock harbor from Traverse City Light and Power, adding some docks and a travel lift. Sail North (Mike Wills) acquired WBBW in 1984 and with it, the coal dock marina lease, adding about 60 slips to Sail North’s 20 or so (still in use since about 1973).
The coal dock would get 3 or 4 deliveries by self-unloading ships every year. Between deliveries, coal was taken from the pile every day for the power plant and wind blowing across the pile would coat the boats in the marina with fine black dust. The worst was when off-loading coal from ships to the dock by conveyor.
There was nothing we could do about the dust except clean our boats frequently; we had to accept the dust as a condition of the lease with TCLP. So, instead of grumbling and complaining, we decided to make diamonds out of coal! The marina was dubbed “Black Mountain Yacht Club” and a high-contrast photo of the marina and black mountain became the logo.
Boaters were given membership cards and BMYC T-Shirts became a hot commodity, proudly worn in yachting circles around the area and by customers of Sail North’s bareboat yacht charter fleet.
Black Mountain Yacht Club was extinguished in about 1995 when TCLP decided to remove the docks because of the cost to replace the rotting wooden sea wall along the west side of the harbor. Today, the harbor is home to the Maritime Heritage Alliance’s schooner Madeline, cutter Champion and other vintage wooden boats, along with the Traverse Tall Ship’s charter sailing ship Manitou. The school ship Inland Seas ties up frequently, too, when plying lower West Bay. Preserving dockage for the tall ships and opening the dock to the public is the Discovery Center’s primary goal.