Fast Facts: ‘Butcher Boy’ and the start of yacht racing in San Diego

SAN DIEGO—Boating has been a popular pastime for some decades but that wasn’t always the case. In the early days of boats and ships, they were used primarily as a means of trade, transportation, for military purposes and the fishing industry. When did yachting, sailing and boating for pleasure really begin?

In San Diego, a city’s whose link with the sea has been continuous since its founding, the earliest accounts of boating for pleasure can be traced to 1852. According to the San Diego History Center, on March 16, 1852, the first local yacht club, the Pacific Pioneer Yacht Club, was founded. According to the San Diego Herald there were fifteen members with a variety of sizes of sloops and schooners. The yacht club held its first regatta on April 10, 1852. San Diego History center’s website goes on to say nothing more is known about the activities of the Pacific Pioneer Yacht Club, stating no mention of the club or its dissolution is found in local San Diego newspapers nor is it listed in city directories for this period.

In the late 1860s, reports of boating for pleasure popped back up in the area.

“Aside from legitimate stage shows which came once every two or three months and a Charter Ball held once each year, there was very little else to do socially,” San Diego History Center wrote on its website. “Thus people were inclined toward the natural sports such as boating. Fishermen did not fish on Sundays, and people began borrowing or renting their fishing boats for picnics and eventually for racing or pleasure sailing. A small racing fleet eventually was organized for racing on Sundays.”

A local butcher, Charlie Hardy, would use his boat to fish when the fish were running. When other larger vessels sailed into San Diego Bay, Hardy would sail out, take their orders for fresh meat, sail back to his market, load the meat on his boat, sail back out and deliver it. Hence the name of his boat, Butcher Boy. Hardy also raced Butcher Boy on Sundays against other boats and completely outclassed them. Deciding that he wanted a boat that would be even faster than Butcher Boy, Hardy built the first power driven boat in the San Diego area, according to San Diego History Center. His meat market was called the Bay City Market, and consequently, he named his power boat Bay City.

Kent Howell bought the Butcher Boy, and converted her into a true yacht or pleasure boat. She is thought of as the first real yacht on San Diego Bay, and her conversion marks the beginning of true yacht racing in San Diego.

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