History of the Mount Dora Yacht Club

The Mount Dora Yacht Club is oldest on Florida Inland Lakes

By Martha Herron, MDYC Historian

In 1913, Henry C. Fuller and a group of fellow boat owners met at his boathouse to discuss and make plans for organizing a yacht club. They enthusiastically drew up Articles of Incorporation, subscribed money to buy land on the lake and build a clubhouse, and voted for the officers, making Henry C. Fuller himself the first Commodore. On May 26, 1913, land was purchased from Charles and Cora Fuller (no relation to Henry Fuller) who owned land between what is now Fifth Avenue and Lake Dora. Built at a cost of $5,000, the clubhouse was ready for the new members to enjoy by October of the same year. The first Regatta, featuring power boats, took place shortly after the opening of the Mount Dora Yacht Club. Many regattas were held that year to encourage boating, but the first one was so special that all the businesses closed so everyone in town could watch the races.

The first inland waterways yacht club in Florida, the Mount Dora Yacht Club received its charter on October 11, 1913, signed by Governor Park Trammel. The club has been in existence ever since and celebrated its 90th anniversary in 2003.

The original club was formed for the "promotion of yachting and education in seamanship." All members were required to be boat owners, a rule which was enforced until the 1940s, when the loss of membership due to the war, and gasoline rationing made the requirement impractical. During World War II, several MDYC members assisted the Coast Guard in patrolling Lake Harris every day. The Club itself was used as a USO during the war, and food was prepared by the members, who bore both the expense and the sacrifice of some of their food ration coupons in order to provide for the servicemen and women who visited the USO. Some 17,000 servicemen and women were entertained at the Mount Dora Yacht Club. At the time Mount Dora's population was less than 4,000 people. The Club never closed its doors, even though World War II took a heavy toll on the membership. It remains the oldest inland waterways yacht club in Florida.

Both regattas and cruises were major activities in earlier years, and continue to be so today. In the beginning, however, races were held for power boats and speed racing. Since 1953, Sailboat Regattas have replaced them, and have been held every year since except for one when a storm with lightning prevented the Regatta from taking place. Cruises now are not as long as they were in earlier years when members took their boats to places as far away as North Carolina and Maine. Today cruises are more likely to Silver Springs, to local destinations like Howey-in-the-Hills, and to Palatka and Jacksonville by the way of the St. John's River.

In 1966, the Mount Dora Yacht Club's original building burned, and a new one took its place at the foot of Fourth Avenue on Lake Dora.

During the 1950s and early 1960s, the Yacht Club owned a number of small sailboats called Prams, and held sailing classes for young people in the area. These classes have been revived and are now held at the Mount Dora Yacht Club. Young people are taught by some of the graduates of the original Pram sailing classes held at the Club. The classes are open to any child in the community. Additional sailing instruction is given cooperatively with the Lake Eustis Sailing Club on Lake Eustis. The Mount Dora Yacht Club owns a private dock built in the 1990s for the members' use. The dock is currently being improved to accommodate additional Club activities. The MDYC now has 95 members, a large number of whom own and use their boats, although it is still not a requirement of membership. Club members own nearly 70 boats, not including the Mount Dora Club Fleet Boats.