The center of the yachting life is arguably the yacht club. Whether you decide to join one or not is a personal choice, but there are advantages to maintaining a membership that every yachter needs to know.
Clubs are located by a body of water such as seaside, lakeside or on a river. They often feature a marina or an otherwise demarked section of the shoreline with buoys which mark them off-limits for swimmers, and will have safe offshore anchorages as well. On shore they also include a perimeter reserved for the exclusive use of members of the club as well as a clubhouse with attached bar, café or restaurant where members can socialize in a more or less informal setting.
The Ins and Outs
Yacht clubs are organized and run by the membership and exist to promote all things related to the nautical lifestyle as well as provide a meeting place for members to socialize. Generally, members include those who cruise and who race, with crew members and boat owners alike. The members decide on the exclusivity of the club, usually revolving around questions of the type of boating they want to promote. Most clubs are small enough that you’ll find both power boaters and sailors rubbing elbows at the clubhouse bar, though larger clubs may segregate the two.
The Benefits of Membership
Members may fly their club’s unique flag, called a burgee, both while under way and at anchor. Traditionally the burgee is triangular and is flown from the mainmast. It may also be flown from a small pole on the bow, or even beneath the lowest starboard spreader on a flag halyard.
Some clubs have pools, reserved slips at the marina, reserved toilet and showering facilities, laundry facilities, dining facilities and snack bars, access to ice, trash bins, dry storage areas for gear and clubhouses which can be rented by members for social events, usually at a discounted rate. They’re known to host educational events for membership and the community at large on boating laws and regulations, safe boating techniques, beginning sailing, the ecological impacts of powerboats on protected waterways, and more.
A local yacht club is also the nexus for local crew members who are looking for new jobs, so if you’re interested in taking on a new deckhand, using a club membership is a good way to find out which prospective crewmembers are trustworthy, reliable, and discreet.
If you’re planning on traveling extensively it’s important to ask if the club offers reciprocity with other clubs nationally and internationally. Reciprocal arrangements between clubs ensures that as a visiting member in good standing you’ll be allowed guest privileges at the marina and clubhouse, saving you time and money when you arrive at your new port.
It Pays to Know….
Speaking of arrivals, all yacht clubs have rules about pets so if you’re traveling with Fido aboard, be sure you know where you’re permitted to exercise him and what the local leash laws are. Additionally there are rules governing the appearance of your vessel while docked at the club’s marina, sometimes down to where you can dry your beach towels and whether your furled sails need to be covered or not. There may also be rules about clothing and personal appearance, so inquire ahead to avoid uncomfortable confrontations with the dockmaster or local club members.