We got our boat in late fall 2017 with the goal of taking her to the San Juans in the summer of 2018. At the time, it was a fairly random (and lofty) goal as we were new to trawlers and totally new to boating in the Pacific Northwest. We just figured – the islands are out there, we should go. We had no plan other than first cruising around Lake Union and Lake Washington for a while, coupled with some trips out to Bainbridge, to get a feel for the boat and figure out what the heck we were doing; but the San Juans (and beyond) were a big reason why we bought a boat over a weekend cabin, and we were looking forward to getting out there even if we didn’t quite know the first step.
On one of our first trips out to Bainbridge, we saw a completely empty dock and headed in to tie up – we had some friends on board and were looking forward to lunch and a little walk around Winslow Way. As we approached the dock, a man came out, frantically waving us off – and yelling in no uncertain terms that that particular dock was only for members of one of Seattle’s many Yacht Clubs, and we were certainly not one of them. We backed off and went to grab a mooring ball in the harbor.
And so, after we got waived off that gorgeously empty dock, I started to wonder if joining a yacht club was something we should look into, even though we didn’t feel that we were yacht club people. But we realized it might be a good idea to join a group of folks around here who had been there, done that and could guide us in the world of boating in the PNW. Next up came the Google searches, emails to clubs, and open houses to meet folks. There is no shortage of yacht clubs in Seattle – some offering cheap moorage, many offering none, some with great clubhouses, some not so much. Short version here is that one day while heading from our slip out to Lake Washington, I noticed a neat little clubhouse tucked back along the shore just before a bridge and made a mental note to check them out – we went to an open house and found our people. Laid back, fun, diverse -not at all the marble-mouthed vision I had in my head, and next thing I knew we had joined a yacht club, and I still feel super weird about saying that – sometimes instead, calling it “our boat club”.
Anyhow – at one of the very first meetings at our new boat/yacht club, the cruising calendar was announced; and there it was, at the end of August: a two week cruise north to the San Juan Islands and Canada. Sign us up. We are in.
This was perfection – we could go on this cruise and learn from others how this whole boating, cruising thing is done. That was the expectation. The unexpected part was making what I feel will be lifelong friends. I’ll post about our 2 week cruise on the blog, but for right now, cannot state enough how awesome it was to embark on such a trip with about 7 other boats. More stories of the trip to come. And I hope, many more over the years!
So, as someone who was more than a little anti-Yacht Club to begin with, here are my tips for finding your perfect Yacht Club:
- Feel like I’m really stating the obvious here, but research what’s available in your area.
- Know what you’re looking for. Moorage? Reciprocity? Social Scene? Cruising? This will help narrow your search down.
- Only in it for the reciprocity? Check to make sure the places you want to go are the places with which the club has reciprocity.
- If you’re looking for a club that cruises/sails a lot, make sure they have lots of trips scheduled, and that members actually participate.
- Read everything about the club when visiting the website – we were able to easily decide that some just weren’t for us based on website info alone, narrowing down the search, and saving a visit to an open house.
- When you find some that look good – do go their open house or event for prospective members, its the best way to see if there’s a fit. Are they your people? You’ll know it pretty quickly.
As reluctant as I was to join a yacht club, I definitely drove the bus on the whole endeavor. Steven’s got big plans for our future in boating – and sure, we could muddle through stuff and figure it out, but thought it would be more beneficial (and more fun), to make some new friends and learn from others along the way.