On a mild, sunny afternoon when buoys gently clanged off the dock and a breeze filled the few sails out on Manhasset Bay, those at the Knickerbocker Yacht Club in Port Washington Sunday were more concerned with selling than sailing. The 136-year-old institution was closing, and everything had to go.
And everything, more or less, did go at a well-attended auction where bidders paid bargain prices for framed nautical flags, trophies and wall-mounted half-boat models, bar sinks and bathroom mirrors, a piano and a defibrillator, tables, lounge chairs and food warmers.
The 7-by-7-foot hooked Knickerbocker Centennial Rug, created by club members - 35 women, four men and 12 children - during 150 hours from 1972 to 1974, went for $400.
Sad was how most of the club's members in attendance, and even some nonmembers, described the day. Members have already dispersed to other yacht clubs, from the Sea Cliff Yacht Club to the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, and now they watched as the last contents of a club they praised as casual and friendly were dispersed as well.
"This is so sad, I can't believe it," said Hank Goldberg, 59, of Rockville Centre, who is a member of the Shelter Island Yacht Club, and bought eight half-boat models for $20 to $30 each for the wall of his study. "This was a really nice club in its day."
Chip Behal, 52, of Manhasset, said his parents were members of the club when he was born. "It was part of almost every summer of my life," he said. "I learned to swim here, how to race sailboats."
Morton Bleetstein, 80, of Roslyn, a past commodore and 38-year member, said, "Everybody's heartbroken." He bought the boat model on the fireplace mantel, in a glass box encrusted with metal plaques from past races won by club members.
The crowd of bidders trailed Herb Mauthner of Mountain Auctioneers from the main rooms into the bathroom, from hallways into the parking lot, where a power boat and trailer sold for $1,500 and three other boats sold for $500 or less.
Upstairs, in the Commodore's Room, the brass chandelier and wall sconces, the metal outdoor balcony furniture and the old television and VCR/DVR all found takers. The big wooden nautical steering wheel, mounted on a wall, went for $150 to Kenneth Adams. "I'm general manager of the Manhasset Bay Yacht Club, so it's nice we're bringing over some of their items," he said, noting he'd also purchased "a romantic pool pump," and table oil lamps.
The Manhasset club will also take over the Knickerbocker Cup International Match Race, part of the world match tour, said Howard Hirschmann, a past Knickerbocker commodore, who noted he was one of about 52 club members to move over to the Manhasset club. They've been made to feel welcome, but, he said, "The old club is irreplaceable. It was very casual, very friendly, not cliquey at all."
The property will be sold for development. The remaining three yacht clubs on the bay - the Manhasset club, the Port Washington Yacht Club and the North Shore Yacht Club - are all larger, and could better sustain the decline in people sailing, and the effects of the poor economy, said Steven Feinsilver, a 16-year member from Great Neck who was "the last rear commodore, which is not something to be real proud of. A lot of smart people from a lot of different angles tried to keep things going. . . . It was impossible to have four clubs on this bay. Now there are three."