Interested in getting in shape and seeing the view from the river? Head on down to Lynch’s Sept. 21. In an effort to resurrect the Saugerties Rowing Club, which disbanded in the mid-1940s, the Rondout Rowing Club will be rowing from the Hudson River Maritime Museum on the Rondout Creek to Lynch’s Marina, where members will be there most of the day (starting around 10 a.m.) to answer questions about the sport of rowing, the associated costs, and how to join the club, said Renno Budziak, president of the Rondout club.
Many of the Rondout Rowing Club’s founders are from Saugerties, Budziak said, and now they want to bring the sport back to town—maybe even get the high school to create a rowing team, as the Rondout club did in Kingston.
“We started out bringing in teens to our club,” Budziak said, and “once they got interested, the high school started a rowing club, which competed as a club team against other schools. Eventually, the high school made the rowing team a varsity sport and rowers now compete against other high schools up and down the Hudson River.”
Budziak has approached Saugerties High School Athletic Director Chris Curnan about starting a club team, but he said the school doesn’t have a lot of money to use for a new sport.
“Saugerties is a sports-minded community and we would like to see it as a high school level sport,” Budziak. “And if the school can’t fund it, maybe some parents would be willing to begin the club at the high school, which is what happened at Kingston High School.”
The Kingston club began as a volunteer effort. Now some students win scholarships.
“In Saugerties we can see starting it as an adult program, and then getting students and senior citizens involved,” Budziak said.
In addition, members of the Rondout club have sought support from the Kiwanis Club, the Esopus Creek Conservancy, and other organizations. “We want to create a coalition of support for a rowing club and then a club at the high school,” said Budziak.
Saugerties has a rich tradition of rowing competition, with the formation of the Saugerties Rowing Club in 1875, one of the first in the nation, according to village historian Marjorie Block.
Reading from the History of Ulster County, published in 1880, Block said there were originally 24 members with a boathouse on the upper part of the Esopus Creek, where they set up a mile-and-a-half-long racecourse along what is now Esopus Creek Rd.
Several years later, club members moved their quarters to the Hudson River where they rented a boathouse from industrialist William Sheffield, who built the 9W home better known today as the Dragon Inn.
The Saugerties Club was so popular and so well-known that on Aug. 20, 1879, The New York Times carried a story about the “Annual Regatta of the Saugerties Rowing Club.”
The story talks about the regatta that would be held on the Hudson River. Teams from the Hudson Boat Club in Jersey City, the Sewanhaka Boat Club from Brooklyn, the Arlington Boat Club from Long Island City, the Olympic Boat Club from Albany and the Bayonne Rowing Association from New York City would all take part.
The Saugerties Rowing Club would also take excursions. On July 4, 1878, the club rowed to Albany. They traveled along with two steamers, the Pierce and Mills, along with the barge, the Sarah Smith.
The steamships and barge were provided to “give room and comfort to the excursionists,” according to posters of the day.
A band also accompanied the group and dancing was held on the barge, according to a description of the day’s events posted on the Saugerties Fish and Game Club website.
“It will be a delightful sail, giving to all a view of the upper Hudson with its Verdant Groves and fine Villas,” according to the game club website.
“It’s that history, and love for rowing that we want to bring back to Saugerties,” Budziak said.