Mr. Roberts – Signal Boat

July 12, 2010 3:04 pm
Mr. Roberts

Mr. Roberts II

Mr. Roberts has been a well-known name among members of Fishing Bay Yacht Club for sixty years. These days, however, guests hoping to meet him will be directed towards FBYC’s offshore boat dock on Jackson Creek. And technically, they will be seeing Mr. Roberts II.

Mr. Roberts will be an important name to know during the USODA Layline Nationals this year since it is the primary signal boat. It has a tall bridge that is ideal for viewing the starting line, and has experienced other big regattas such as the 2005 USODA Atlantic Coast Championship, the 2007 Flying Scot North American Championship, the 2000 US Laser Masters and many others. Those of us at the club who routinely participate in the offshore race season are also accustomed to looking out for the signal flags that are raised from the tall poles at the stern.

Mr. Roberts 1980

Original Mr. Roberts at its dedication in 1980

What most guest sailors might not know is where the name came from, and why it is spoken with an unusual amount of fondness considering it refers to a boat. In fact, Mr. Roberts II acts as a memorial for Mr. William C.B. Roberts, who served as Club Manager from 1949 until his death in 1980. After FBYC moved from Urbanna to Deltaville, Mr. Roberts came along with his tractor to help build the boat ramp, and he continued to act as a devoted Club Manager for several years before he received any pay.

Prior to arriving at FBYC, Mr. Roberts was a member of the Coast Guard, and became a Gunnery Officer on a submarine chaser at the start of World War II. After losing much of his hearing, he retired from the Coast Guard and moved to Deltaville with his wife Eleanor. Buying his tractor allowed him to find work both at the yacht club and for others in the area. He was known for giving children tractor rides, and for doing all the maintenance work with his own hands. In addition to running the facilities, he fired the shotgun to announce the opening of each new season. He also had a love of proper flag etiquette, and ensured things were done according to the rules. His affection for the juniors often resulted in free sodas, even when they were caught trying to break into his soda machine. In 1978, FBYC awarded him with the Mathew Fontaine Maury Bowl for his “outstanding contribution to sailing.” It was obvious that FBYC would have been quite different without his loving care.

In 1980, the club bought a wooden 40-foot deadrise cabin cruiser to serve as race committee boat, and named it Mr. Roberts. In 1988 or ‘89, the aging boat was replaced by Mr. Roberts II, a 1981 39’ Dickerson with a fiberglass hull and a single screw engine. The new boat was much more suitable for open water. In 1991, FBYC overhauled the boat with dual gas engines and later replaced them with diesel engines in 1999. To this day, Mr. Roberts II preserves the memory of a beloved Club Manager and continues his work by making sailboat racing possible at Fishing Bay Yacht Club.

Mr. Roberts II

Mr. Roberts II starting a fleet of Lasers

Thanks to Jere Dennison, David Lee and Paul Howle for their contributions on this article.  Further reading about Mr. Roberts can be found in the club history.

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