Adventurous Use of the Sea: The Cruising Club of America

Establishing a club for serious ocean sailors

A club without walls, the CCA was founded by serious ocean sailors in 1922

Several hundred yacht clubs served the social and competitive needs of American sailors in the early 1920s. But a group of 12 experienced sailors, boat designers, and young naval veterans of World War I wanted something more: a club without walls to serve those whose passion was sailing offshore. Perhaps inspired by the 42-year-old Royal Cruising Club, this group met at a New York City restaurant in February 1922 and established itself as the Cruising Club of America, incorporating the club in 1924.

A club without walls

From the beginning, the Cruising Club of America has followed four specific aims:

  • It gathers some of the world’s most experienced sailors for mutual education, enjoyment, and camaraderie.
  • It promotes development of good, safe boats for the open sea.
  • It encourages ocean sailing and high levels of seamanship by recognizing and awarding those who accomplish long or difficult voyages.
  • It collects and publishes information that promotes safe seamanship and assists those planning ocean sailing expeditions.
John G. Alden
John G. Alden (1884-1962)
John G. AldenView full-size image

John G. Alden (1884-1962)

A native of Rhode Island, John Alden worked as a draftsman for the noted Boston designer Bowdoin B. Crowninshield before establishing his own design firm in 1909. An early trip on a fishing schooner convinced him of their seaworthy qualities, and his Malabar series of oceangoing schooner yachts, 1921-30, reflected the best characteristics of these vessels. A skilled sailor as well as a designer, Alden won Bermuda Races with his Malabar IV, VII, and X. Until young Olin Stephens introduced a new shape for offshore yachts in the 1930s, Alden schooners represented the standards of safety for the CCA. Morris Rosenfeld photographed John Alden at the wheel of his Malabar VII in 1926.

© Mystic Seaport, Rosenfeld Collection, #1984.187.18615F

“We shall become an active force influencing others to make adventurous use of the sea.”

Henry A. Wise Wood, 1923
Henry A. Wise Wood
Henry A. Wise Wood (1866-1939)
Henry A. Wise WoodView full-size image

Henry A. Wise Wood (1866-1939)

The son of New York City’s Civil War mayor, Henry A.W. Wood became wealthy as a newspaper printing machinery inventor who held 434 patents. He was also a recognized poet and economic and political theorist. Wood began boating during the canoe craze of the 1870s. In 1908 he and his wife sailed 900 miles in their canoe from Massachusetts to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Wood served on the Naval Consulting Board during World War I and was the elder statesman among the Cruising Club founders. He expressed the CCA philosophy in words, and he especially encouraged the establishment of the Blue Water Medal to recognize sailors who displayed meritorious seamanship.

Mystic Seaport, New York Herald, September 13, 1908

“In this day when life is so easy and safe-and-sane and highly specialized and steam-heated,
 we need, more than we ever needed before,
 sports that are big and raw and—yes, dangerous.”

William W. Nutting, 1922
William W. Nutting
William W. Nutting (1884-1924)
William W. NuttingView full-size image

William W. Nutting (1884-1924)

An Indiana native and engineering graduate of Purdue, William Nutting ended up in New York as editor of MotorBoat magazine, then served in submarine chasers during World War I. While writing a book about the subchasers, Cinderellas of the Fleet (1920), he began to associate with other veterans who wanted to go back to sea in small boats. In 1920 he had William Atkin build him the 45-foot ketch Typhoon and sailed her across the Atlantic, as described in his book, Track of the Typhoon (1922). Perhaps inspired by his contact with the Royal Cruising Club, Nutting encouraged his friends to establish the Cruising Club of America in 1922 and served as the Club’s first commodore. In 1924 Nutting and two companions took the 42-foot Norwegian fishing-boat-style Leif Eriksson from Norway to Iceland, then disappeared somewhere off Greenland. Nutting was photographed at the helm of Typhoon during his 1920 Atlantic crossing.

Herbert L. Stone
Herbert L. Stone (1871-1955)
Herbert L. StoneView full-size image

Herbert L. Stone (1871-1955)

Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Herb Stone grew up in New York and learned to sail on Cape Cod and in a coasting schooner. After working for the New York Central Railroad, Stone was named editor of Yachting magazine in 1908 and made it an influential source for practical boating information and inspiring pieces on long-distance sailing. During World War I he commanded US Submarine Chaser No. 1 and served on a transatlantic convoy vessel. A prime mover of the CCA, he was the club’s second commodore. As Yachting editor he ran the first two post-World War I Bermuda Races in 1923 and 1924 before the Cruising Club took over the race management with the Royal Bermuda Yacht Club. Herb Stone remained Yachting’s editor until 1952 and a very influential boating writer and authority.

© Mystic Seaport, Rosenfeld Collection, #1984.187.68257F