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For Boaters, By Boaters®

Origin and History

Birmingham Squadron

Recreational yachting in the early 1900’s was largely confined to sailing craft and large steam yachts manned by professional crews. The gasoline-powered craft was coming into its own by 1909, but not with much enthusiasm on the part of the out-and-out sailors. Yachting was still for the sailors and the new breed of powerboat men found scant fun on club cruises and almost none in racing. Roger Upton was a sailing member of the Boston Yacht club in 1909, but, unlike so many other sailors, he was captivated by the newfangled powerboats. He owned a 50' ketch named "Nirvana" and often cruised up the coast of Maine with his 35' gasoline-powered motor launch to serve as a tender for the ketch and tow her when she was becalmed. The reliability of power appealed to him and he grew to love power boating.

In the summer of 1911, Upton presented his idea for a club-within-a-club to embrace a select group of "gasoliners", who would develop such forms of cruising and racing as the new type of yacht demanded. Upton was elected Rear Commodore of the Boston Yacht Club in 1912, and was placed in charge of the "unofficial" Power Boat Division of the fleet.

There was a need for education at this time, for the U.S. laws governing navigation, applied only to steam vessels. Upton and other USPS founders set out to protect the power yachts from the steamboat inspectors and to remove forever the stigma of ignorance and foolhardiness. On 14 October 1912, the Executive Committee of the Boston Yacht Club unanimously granted Upton’s petition to establish his Power Boat Division officially. At the annual meeting in 1913, the name was changed to Power Squadron, with its officers – Roger Upton, Commander; C. N. Burnell, Lt/C; Nathaniel L. Stebbins, Secretary – and rules printed in the 1913 Boston Yacht Club yearbook.

Assisted by a three-page photo-story in "Yachting Magazine", news of the Boston outfit’s activities spread and other clubs began to plan along the same lines. In June 1913 Charles F. Chapman, associate editor of "Motor Boating Magazine", gave the idea a full–page display, and additional interest was generated. On 12 November 1913, the Boston Yacht Club called together 30 delegates, representing 70 clubs and associations of powerboat owners at the New York Yacht Club to consider the formation of Power Squadrons. Cdr Upton explained the reasons which led to his forming the Boston Yacht Club Power Squadron and told of what was being accomplished in instructing power yachtsmen on the rules of the road and handling of their boats. A second Conference Committee meeting was held on 2 February 1914 and the final work of organizing and launching United States Power Squadrons was accomplished.

The United States Power Squadrons, when first chartered in Boston and New York in 1914, was composed of new power boat operators in a world where sailing prevailed. Since then, we have grown into a group of over 24,000 in 33 districts and 350 squadrons, and have spread into sail, power, and paddle boat enthusiasts.

Birmingham Power Squadron was chartered in 1963. Our burgee (unique flag) is light blue with a white seahorse and three stars. This design was chosen to reflect the squadron's original meeting place – the Bloomfield Open Hunt Club, where we get the 'horse' in seahorse, because we are a boating organization – and the three stars represent the three squadrons that gave us members when BPS was founded in 1963: Detroit, Mount Clemens, and Grosse Pointe. The blue color represents the water that we are all drawn to!

In 2018 we officially adopted our assumed name of America’s Boating Club - Birmingham Squadron. We are still a unit of the United States Power Squadrons but our new name better reflects who and what we are.

Our publication, The Bilge Chatter, is distributed to our members from September to June and includes schedules of activities, member articles, meeting announcements, and other items of general interest.

Our major activities involve boating education and social activities design to generate fun for participating members. While we have a full navigational and boat related curriculum available to our members, we also offer free Boating class sessions to the public each year. Our locations for these classes are presently in Pontiac, Bloomfield, Troy, and Harrison Twp. See our Boating Class Schedule for more information about current public Boating classes.

Our civic service is in the area of cooperative charting where we help keep NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) updated on the changing nature of our waterways. In addition, we provide free voluntary vessel safety checks to help maximize the safe use and enjoyment of our waters.

While this is all underway, we also have an active schedule of summer rendezvous in and around Lake St. Clair.

Birmingham Burgee Julian Fiander 20240719.0556-0400 This image is a registered trademark of United States Power Squadrons.