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.
Want to place and order? Maybe we will resume production if there is high demand!
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.
Tall Ships at the Discovery Center
We are the first to admit that parking on the dock is NOT ideal, nor the highest and best use of the dock. But, in the short term, it makes this project feasible and without it, not. Once pedestrians have a way to safely get across the highway (think medians with safe at-grade crossings, bridges, tunnels, shuttles, trams, trolleys) to remote parking lots, we can move parking off the dock. Those solutions will take time and money, but when they are in place, parking can be moved off the dock to free up activity space. In the meantime, there is room around the perimeter for fishing, picnicking, strolling and interpretive displays