How do you find the right yacht club? Many boat owners ask themselves that question after they’ve come to the conclusion that they’re ready to join one, and that decision is often reached because those who love boats just want to spend more time with like-minded people. One of the best ways to build a network of new friends who take their cruising seriously is through membership in a yacht club. Of course, boat ownership is expensive enough without adding the overhead of a club membership, but for many the benefits justify the cost. When selecting a club, consider the following:
1. Boat facilities Many clubs offer you the opportunity to leave your current marina and tie-up alongside members for the season. Some offer slips for dockage; others may only have moorings. What’s your preference? If you’re okay with the process of shuttling your gear and provisions out to the boat via the club’s launch, then a mooring should be fine, and the minor inconvenience of waiting for the launch on a regular basis might be offset by other club privileges, such as access to well-maintained tennis courts and pools, or a fine dining room with a great waterfront view.
2. Cruising Many yacht clubs organize what are sometimes called “cruise outs,” during which a fleet of club boats travel to other clubs in the area. It’s a fun way to visit other ports with adventurous people. In addition to cruises that are relatively close to home, some clubs organize bare-boat charters to some of the hottest cruising areas of the world. It’s a nice way to travel by boat, with a group of people who value wanderlust as much as you do.
3. Reciprocity As a member of a yacht club, you acquire guest privileges at other clubs that have reciprocity agreements with yours. That gives you friends in every port to contact for advice whenever you travel. Reciprocity has value when you’re off the boat, too. If you’re traveling on business, for instance, and need a great place to take a client for lunch, you could have access to a fine dining room at a yacht club in the area. When considering a membership, review the list of clubs you gain access to. There may be a few on that list that sweeten the deal.
4. Youth Programs If you have children or grandchildren, a yacht club membership could go a long way towards turning the little ones into boaters, as many clubs have sailing and seamanship programs. If that’s important to you, check out the reputation of the youth programs and look at the types of boats the kids are learning on. Many clubs also offer kids the opportunity to join swim and tennis teams, so if keeping junior active is high on your priority list, review the sporting options available for children.
5. Attitude and Tone Every club has a unique atmosphere and you want to choose one that reflects who you are. Clubs can range from ultra-formal to ultra-casual. There are the blue blazer organizations, where jackets are required in the club dining room, and others that welcome polo shirts and salt-worn Topsiders at any meal. Which mood best suits you?
6. Waiting List The club you like most may not be taking new members when you’re ready to write a check. Are you willing to wait? Cast off lines for a sunset cruise, take a few turns around the harbor, and consider your options.