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.