Rediscover the Block Island Club

Thu, 07/15/2021 - 2:30pm

The Blockireland voice greets you the minute you walk into the newly polished and expanded Block Island Club, an absolute gem of a welcoming family and adult clubhouse of non-stop activity hidden on nearly four acres by the Great Salt Pond, off of Corn Neck Road.

The Irish warmth comes with an authentic welcoming smile from Dublin- and Cork-raised Alex Donohoe, in his fifth year with the club and now its general manager,
overseeing a beehive of a staff “delivering fun.”
Is there a better job description? How many clubs offer Rose Tennis for adults one night a week? County ‘cork’ indeed.
The club offers a smorgasbord of tennis options led by a world-class professional player (Adam Rudowski) and staff; arts and crafts for several age groups; canoeing, kayaking, pickleball, sailing for every level, with certified instructors and a huge variety of boats; and an ocean swimming pool with lanes set inside a Lego-like floating structure that eliminates waves. Whoever designed it should get an engineering award for its remarkable simplicity and effectiveness.
The best part, they are welcoming new members and the club Je ne sais quois is not stuffy, or attitudinal. It’s relaxed, genuine and addictive. And it’s the staff that makes it so.

At nine in the morning recently, as one disembarked from the car, you could hear the joyful shrieks of kids hitting the still chilly Atlantic on a July day reminiscent of daily Irish weather back home near Cork, Ireland. Wet and foggy. The kids didn’t care, the gray sky be damned.

This club staff seems to have figured it all out and genuinely enjoys delivering active fun for a remarkable price considering the range of activities for a family visiting as few as seven days, or living here year-round ($300 and up). Donohoe is quick to credit his staff, which has now largely been in place for three years, for the quality of the experiences, allowing him to focus on planning and expanding the club’s attractions, while attracting new members.

No matter the sport or age group, which can start as young as five or six, they move them along a continuum that builds confidence in their skills, teamwork, and know how. The club’s forte is certainly sailing, from single-person prams on up to competitive racing in boats ranging up to 26-foot Colgates. There are also popular
adult two-day land and sea courses to equip one with the skills to sail independently.

Donohoe is effusive in his praise of long-time islander Henry duPont, who worked tirelessly with the U.S. Coast Guard Academy to bring a small flotilla of 26-foot keel sailboats to the club, calling it “a game changer for the island and the kids wanting to grow into competitive team sailing. The island has grown but we have kept up with options for every level, without once running out of boats on the water.”
The frosting on joining the club is the newly renovated multilevel clubhouse, which is spacious, bright and relaxed, designed with many large glass sliders overlooking the entire Great Salt Pond. One can step out of the spacious second floor function room onto a wide and deep deck sprinkled with Adirondack chairs to take in the sunsets or just absorb the activities. What a sublime spot.
And there are activities galore for members throughout the season from songwriter nights to teen DJ dances, lobster bakes, tennis tournaments, parent-child tournaments, Friday sundown cocktail gatherings, cookouts, pickleball tournaments, and mid-summer catered parties. If it can be invented, the staff has figured out how to deliver it with panache.

They have even expanded the hugely popular August Clamathon. But to learn more or register for whatever that is, you’re going to need to call them (466-5939) and find out how active, affordable, endless daily social fun can be on Block Island in a hidden, jaw dropping setting.