Yacht clubs to open their doors at Shilshole event

Get on the Water will bring together about 10 Puget Sound yacht clubs at Shilshole Bay Marina on Saturday, May 12.

To the unfamiliar, the mention of a yacht club can conjure up the stereotypical image of a stuffy, exclusive organization.

But a group of Seattle-area clubs are joining together next Saturday, May 12 in the hope of dispelling that notion, giving people a taste of the unique aspects of their organizations and ideally, convincing them to join.

The first-annual Get on the Water event, to be held at Shilshole Bay Marina, will bring together about 10 area yacht clubs who will be staffing booths and providing information. Several clubs will be bringing boats, both power and sail, and offering free rides.

The idea, said Teresa Hedges, one of the event’s organizers, is to give people a sense of the diversity of clubs in the Seattle area.

“The yacht clubs are so different — some of them are power, some of them are about racing and there might be different factions within each of them,” she said. “This gives everybody a chance to ask lots of questions.”

Yacht clubs in Puget Sound range from those belonging to “The Grand Fourteen,” the oldest and most established, to clubs focused on racing or cruising. Clubs may offer junior sailing programs for kids, provide lessons for adults or have fleets of boats available to charter. Some clubs are focused around a specific demographic – for example, single people or gays and lesbians.

And while some yacht clubs charge annual fees in the thousands of dollars, the clubs participating in the upcoming event are on the lower range. The SSYC, for example, has an annual membership fee of $150, while the Puget Sound Cruising Club does not charge a fee or even have a formal membership structure.

Clubs expected to participate in the May 12 event include:

  • Corinthian Yacht Club
  • Northwest Multihull Association
  • Puget Sound Cruising Club
  • Puget Sound Yacht Club
  • Sail Sand Point
  • Seattle Sailing Club
  • Seattle Singles Yacht Club
  • Shilshole Bay Yacht Club
  • Sloop Tavern Yacht Club
  • Windworks Sailing Center

The event comes at a time when yacht clubs around the country are struggling to boost membership and remain viable as the boating demographic ages.

Jack Eichmann, a Seattle Singles Yacht Club member who is spearheading the event, said the idea came about as a way for the club to attract new members and more broadly, let people know about the different types of clubs available.

“If you have a boat, this is a way to get together with other people,” he said. “You can have a chance to meet other folks who might be interested in fishing, interested in racing, interested in weekend cruises.”

But Eichmann emphasized that people needn’t own boats to get out on the water. At SSYC, for example, many members don’t have their own boats but can sign up for trips on other people’s boats.

“There are a lot of opportunities to ride on other people’s boats, learn sailing or go out on powerboats and just be a good crew member,” he said.

“If you want to get out on the water, come down. If you’ve already got a boat and want to find a good group to join, come down.”

Get on the Water will be held on X dock at Shilshole Bay Marina from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 12. Live music by the Shilshole Bay Wharf Rats starts at 6:30 p.m. and a party is likely to follow.

“We have the dock all night,” Eichmann said. “With that many boaters together, there’s no reason not to have a party.”

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