Southern Brooklyn

A Visual Guide To Emmons Avenue’s Yacht And Boating Clubs

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The bar at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club (Photo by Elise Feinstein)
The bar at the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club (Photo by Elise Feinstein)

While many bemoan the loss of fishing boats and bait-and-tackle shops along Emmons Avenue, three boating clubs on the strip have maintained the area’s waterfront traditions for as long as 140 years.

Behind their tall fences are bustling communities of boat owners and water lovers. Unlike the yacht club of popular lore, these aren’t stuffy, exclusive clubs for the hoity toity, they’re welcoming organizations made up of working- and middle-class neighbors from around Sheepshead Bay.

Few recognize the role they play in shaping and preserving Sheepshead Bay’s history – including through events like this Sunday’s Blessing of the Fleet, this year hosted by Varuna and including all of the area’s clubs.

Here’s a rundown of the Emmons Avenue clubs, what they offer members, rates to join and a gallery of the sights to be seen on each clubs’ grounds.

Photos and additional reporting and writing by Elise Feinstein.

Varuna Boat Club
Varuna is the oldest boat club in the area, dating back to 1875. Unlike the other two clubs on Emmons Avenue, it is an established men’s club, and in order to become a member you would need to know someone involved. Also unlike the other two, Varuna’s boating culture leans towards motorboats, not sailboats. While it is a private establishment, Varuna allows the public to host parties in their sprawling dining hall that overlooks the water. It has dim lights inside the house, with a bar that is in a horseshoe shape. Inside the club, you can see historical pictures of Sheepshead Bay. Aside from use of the marina, club members have access to a bar and billiards table, and can attend club events. Varuna is in the process of building an outdoors swimming pool to accompany their waterfront picnic area.
2806 Emmons Avenue, (718) 646-1357
Membership price not disclosed.

Miramar Yacht Club
On the other end of the age spectrum, Miramar Yacht Club is the youngest on the strip. Housed in a modern looking space, Miramar opened in 1944. With an emphasis on sailing (though all boat owners are welcome), anyone can sign up to be a member.  Membership rates are as low as $1,600 per couple, and it includes access to two shared sailboats. With membership, you can enjoy being involved in weekly boat races during the summer, and they have showers and lockers. Miramar also has a swimming pool club for members. Don’t want to shell out full membership? The club offers a “Seek-and-sail” class, which is a full day of in-class learning how to sail, followed by a second day where you head out on the open waters. Contact them for more info.
3050 Emmons Avenue, (718) 769-3548
Membership rates begin at $1,600 a couple. Low-cost sailing classes are offered without membership.

Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club
Housed in what was once the stately summer home of the Rheingold Beer family, who legend has it used it to receive and distribute booze here during Prohibition, the Sheepshead Bay Yacht Club has the largest property on this list. Originally established in 1908 on Ocean Avenue, the club moved in after Rheingold went belly up. Membership rates run from $1,250 for a boatless summer membership (Memorial Day to Labor Day), up to $3,200 for annual membership with a boat.The grounds feature a large swimming pool overlooking the water, barbecue stations, locker rooms, and a bar – as well as a large dining room that can be rented. The bar has billiards and darts for members to kick back after a day on the water. The club also has weekly sailing races, including several in conjunction with Miramar.
3076 Emmons Avenue, (718) 891-0991
Membership rates begin at $1,250 for a summer or $3,200 for a year.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. What the three clubs can/should offer is a stop off destination for cruising sailors. Sailing between here and the Carib, I come across many cruisers wishing to visit NYC. They either go to the 79st Marina in NYC or Atlantic Highlands. When I mention Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn they say WHAT? Some have anchored in Dead Horse Bay or Gateway Marina (outrageous docking fees with no amenities) but have never heard of Sheepshead Bay moorings or clubs. Come on guys…there are cruisers wishing to spend $$$ to visit!

  2. F.Y.I. At The Varuna Boat, you need not own a boat to be a member, nor are our dues and fees as high as other Clubs. This is the result of our members providing the manpower and talent to maintain and improve our Club as well as it’s daily operation and management. We are also not exclusively a power boat Club. We have both power and sail enthusiasts. We work hard to be able to enjoy our beautiful spot on the Bay as we have for the past 140 years. Our best wishes to all of our sister Clubs on the Bay for a wonderful and safe summer boating season……

  3. So glad to read of The Varuna Boat Club going strong! And about the new pool. My relatives all belonged when they lived in the neighborhood. I stopped by 11 yrs ago and was thrilled to see a picture of my uncle James Kistler from when he was on the Olympic rowing team probably 100 years ago. It’s wonderful to know that they are keeping the history alive.

  4. Reciprocal agreements are fine for yacht club members but they don’t draw $$. But what of the Canadian cruisers who pass thru NYC on there way south in the fall? How about all those snow bird cruisers that spend the winter in the Bahamas and summers in Maine? They must pass this way. Why not make Sheesphed Bay a Destination?

  5. We use to gas up in the Bay back in the 1980’s and 1990’s. By Stella Maris which is the only real bait station left! Now, not only no gas but the few day boats left leave late around 7 AM! Anyone who thinks Sheepshead Bay is booming because of the yacht clubs and fishing is delusional! Those days and the folks who made it flourish are essentially gone! Oh the Bay will continue to boom , but it will boom in Russian, Ukrianian, Catonese, Turkish, and Arabic! Folks who have never been considered seafarers! Das vadanya everybody!!!

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