The Beach Club was a central feature of the development of Club Santiago. Originally called the Guest House, it was the first building built by the original developers and opened its doors in 1969. All property owners were welcome to use its facilities and to access the beach.
This page contains: a gallery of photos contributed by members that reflect the history of the club, some information on the history of the Santiago Bay, and a history of what is now the Beach Club.
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A Bit of History of Santiago Bay and Manzanillo
A young Nahuatl boy rested against a Saguaro tree waiting for his father to return from fishing. He dug his toes into the soft brown sand and wondered why there were black streaks of sand, which burned his bare feet. The day was and extremely hot, humid July day, but every afternoon a cooling breeze swept in from the vast water in front of him. He could not see his father’s dugout canoe and he began to worry. He knew his father would not go as far as the edge of the water because his grandfather had told him that if you go where the sky and the water meet, you would be pulled up into the sky and join Father Sun and Mother Moon. His ancient grandfather would not lie.
And then he saw something floating near the sky and water line. How strange. It is a forest with a white cloud hanging from one of its trees. Why is it on the water? He was transfixed with the apparition and then some more trees with white clouds magically floated down from the sky. He became petrified and ran to the safety of his mother’s cane and thatch hut. He did not know it, but his world suddenly changed and would never be the same again.
Three Spanish galleons had arrived; the Florida, the Espiritu Santo, and the Santiago under the command of Alvaro Saavedra. The date was July 25, 1527.
Some afternoon when you are relaxing on the deck of the Beach Club, dozing off to a siesta, close your eyes and transport your imagination back to November 11, 1615. The sandy beach and the Juluapan Peninsula would have looked much the same. Behind you would have been thick with vegetation, and perhaps a few Manzanillo trees, lime trees, banana trees and a scattering of fan palms. The breeze would have been slight and on the lee side of the Juluapan Peninsula a squadron of six sailing ships lay at anchor. Pennants would be flying from the top of the sailing ships’ masts and on the sterns, huge Dutch flags fluttering in the breeze. This Pechclingues fleet (Dutch pirates) led by Admiral Joris van Spielbergen, carried some 700 to 800 men divided equally between sailors and soldiers. They were hoping to intercept one of the returning Spanish Manila galleons loaded with a fortune in oriental goods which were due to pass by at this time of the year on the way to Acapulco. They hid in the well-protected anchorages such as Salagua in Santiago Bay and waited for the galleons. In the meantime the Spanish had been alerted about the pirates. A group of 200 Spanish troops had arrived two days before to defend the bays. The troops hid in a forest by the side of a trail to wait in ambush. Early the next morning 200 Dutch pirates set off for the shore in seven launches and proceeded to march inland along the Salagua River. The Spaniards charged the Dutch and drove the Dutch back to the shore. A battle ensued for four to six hours in which there were about 10 dead and 20 injured. It was a standoff. Spielbergen moved his fleet from Salagua on Manzanillo Bay to Santiago Bay where they anchored and waited for a favorable breeze to take them northwest to Barra de Navidad. On December 2nd, Spielbergen gave up his quest for the Spanish galleon and sailed across the Pacific to the East Indies.
The Beach Club and it’s Early Formation
At a time during the 1960’s two ex U.S. Air Force buddies, blessed with great foresight and vision, purchased what was know as “fraction A of the Miramar Ranch,” part of the Juluapan farm in Manzanillo, Colima.
Lee Stubblefield, a Texan, and Leo May, from Denver, Colorado, had the vision of developing the incredibly beautiful beach and ocean front property of the Miramar Ranch. This property encompassed a large section of the Bahia de Santiago and the Peninsular de Juluapan. These two pioneers developed the Bahia de Santiago Yacht and Country Club with its Mexican counterpart Inmobiliaria Sierra Madre S.A. In 1968 they had a beach house built to act as a kind of bed and breakfast and reception location for prospective buyers of lots to be developed on their property. It also served as the headquarters and office for Sierra Madre Development Company.
Bahia de Santiago Yacht and Sailing Club will (planned to) maintain a fully equipped marina with facilities for mooring, storage, services and repair of yachts of all sizes. All club facilities, including dining rooms and cocktail lounges will be tastefully and intelligently spaced and designed by Mexican architects in Spanish colonial or modern (style). Within standards set by the Club, each member may build the home of his choice to make their homes available to friends or business associates on a lease or rental basis. This is a generally accepted practice in Mexican resort areas, and it is not uncommon for coastal rentals to pay for themselves over three-year period.
Adjoining the 625-acre Club grounds is a 375-acre lagoon with 3 miles of still water shoreline. The lagoon provides blue water frontage on three sides of the Club, thus permitting a great many home sites to have private docking facilities. Areas within the Club’s grounds are being set aside for the immediate development of parks with local flowers, palm trees and other native plants.
The following recreation areas will be offered: 18-hole golf course splendidly set at the foot of a mountain that borders the Club’s grounds; an Olympic-sized fresh-water swimming pool as well as a fish-shaped swimming pool located directly in front of the Guest House; tennis and shuffleboard courts; charter boats for deep sea fishing, considered the finest in the world, especially for sailfish and marlin; guides for the hunting of jaguar, wild boar, deer and duck; and one and a half magnificent miles of private beach.
Currently the Guest House nears completion; roads are to be cut and surfaced soon; electricity is installed for the entire area; a high-pressure water system drawing from an artesian well will soon be operative; and home construction is now underway.
The entire environment of the Club has been designed to ensure uncompromised privacy.
The Time of Problems and Transition
Almost everyone assumed the Beach Club was owned and operated by Sierra Madre S.A. and was part of the facilities of Bahia de Santiago Yacht and Country Club, commonly referred to as Club Santiago or the Country Club. The Country Club had it’s own board of directors but it was really (only) an advisory board because Leo May, through Sierra Madre Development Company which owned all the stock in Inmobiliaria Sierra Madre S.A., really called all the shots. Leo May was the president and Lee Stubblefield was the treasurer.
As the developments were progressing the two partners agreed on a division of their property, with Leo May retaining the “lowland” portion around the Bahia de Santiago and Lee Stubblefield taking the “highland” area of the Peninsular de Juluapan which he named “Barefoot’ and “Vida del Mar.”
Purchasers of lots in both areas were issued Ownership Certificates by the Bahia de Santiago Yacht and Country Club and, at the same time, everyone was required to become a member of the “Club” with promises of a future golf course, tennis courts and a beach club.
A surprise, however, was delivered to the members of the Bahia de Santiago Yacht and Country Club when, in 1981, they learned that the Beach House, then called the “Guest House,” had never been part of their membership in the Club, and was, in fact, privately owned by 5 individuals who had formed an association called the Coliman Partnership at the time of building the Beach House in 1969. The partnership consisted of Leo May, H.O. Tucker, Ken Wyler and two others.
On top of this surprising news also came the revelation that Sierra Madre S.A. had been leasing the Beach House from the Coliman Partnership and was hopelessly in arrears on rent payment and was about to lose the benefits of its use.
In 1981 it was learned that Leo May and his Coliman Partnership planned to sell the beach House property to the Sugar Growers Association for $350, 000 U.S. dollars.
Formation of the Current Beach Club
Spearheaded by Bill Babcock, Tony Beltran, George Hilstad, Chauncey Kerr, Bob Monnot and Burt Mills, they convinced 96 people to lend $1000 U.S. dollars each to the Country Club in the form of a non-interest bearing note due in 2 years. This was accomplished and the Beach Club received a temporary reprieve. This group still had to get a final financing plan and in December 1987 the property was transferred from the Coliman Partnership to the newly formed “Club Santiago Recreativo, A.C.” or “The Beach Club.” On February 5, 1988 the first annual meeting was held. The members were now in control of the Beach Club and, even though it was a rundown, rusted out, leaky, poorly maintained building, it was basically sound and sitting on 2 valuable lots on a strategically located area on the beach.
There were some hairy moments in the early years regarding titles because of misapplied funds paid to the Notary and questions of legality of Charters and By-laws but those have all been cleared up now.
What we have now is a well operated, well maintained beautiful Club for the benefit of the members.
This data was collected and presented to the Beach Club Membership during a celebration of the establishment of the Beach Club. A large percent of the information was provided by Louise Geist, one of the original homeowners on this property.
Photos were contributed by Lorna Kramer, Mario Llerenas and Peter Kieran.