The Origin and History of:

UNITED STATES POWER SQUADRONS
and the Birmingham Power 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; Nathanel 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 Birmingham Power Squadron is comprised of approximately 225 recreational boaters who interact in three equally important ways. They are committed to providing free boating education to the public, civil service to the United States Coast Guard in the area of cooperative charting, and social interaction with its members on land and water.

The United States Power Squadrons, when first chartered in Boston and New York in 1914, were new power boat operators in a world where sailing prevailed. Since then they have grown into a group of 60,000 or more in 33 districts and 340 squadrons, and have equalized into both sail and power boat enthusiasts.

Birmingham Power Squadron was chartered in 1963. Their burgee with the seahorse pictured above represents the Bloomfield Hunt Club where they first held meetings. The three stars represent the three parent squadrons, Detroit, Grosse Pointe and Mount Clemens, from which we were formed. The blue background represents the waters of Southeastern Michigan, inland and Great Lakes where we do most of our boating.

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. While we have a full navigational and boat related curriculum available to our members, we also offer ten free Boating class sessions to the public each year. Our locations for these classes are presently in Troy, West Bloomfield, Farmington, Rochester, Clawson and Milford. 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 the United States Coast Guard updated on the changing nature of our waterways. While this is underway, we also have an active schedule of summer rendezvous in and around Lake St. Clair.

Birmingham Power Squadron's 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!
Click on the burgee below to see a larger version:

 

 
 

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