SAN DIEGO — Are you considering joining a yacht club? While there are numerous benefits to belonging to a yacht club, there are serious issues to examine before taking the plunge.
When Arv and I moved to San Diego, several yacht clubs courted us to become members. We had both been commodores of our funky little Chesapeake Bay yacht club known for its informality – our “uniform” was shorts and bare feet. We weren’t sure we wanted to join a club with a formal structure and ultimately decided against it; periodically we revisit that decision.
Many factors, we realized, play into whether to join a specific yacht club. The decision might be clear-cut if your family has a long affiliation with a given club. But if you’re a newcomer, whether to boating or to the region, you should evaluate individual clubs, which can vary considerably in character. Be sure to meet members to check for compatibility of interests, style, activities and attitudes, and determine whether the club’s recreational facilities meet your family’s needs.
It’s important to remember that, like boating, joining a yacht club is a significant investment of time and money as well as a distinct lifestyle choice. Clubs can offer rewarding camaraderie as well as support to improve maritime knowledge and skills learned from more experienced boaters, especially useful for newbies. But if you’re not very social and don’t enjoy the parties and other activities, expectations to volunteer or participate in an active social calendar might feel more like pain than pleasure.
Yacht clubs often organize group cruises and raft-ups – which I did when I served as fleet captain – which can be both fun and a benefit to novices needing help from seasoned cruisers to improve navigation skills and troubleshoot unexpected problems underway. Yacht club memberships also offer the benefits of reciprocity, allowing use of transient dock space at many other yacht clubs.
Most clubs operate restaurants and bars providing much-needed revenue to support facility operations and maintenance. But many clubs require members to spend a mandatory monthly minimum amount on consumption. That was a major negative for us, since in “foodie” San Diego we enjoy trying both new restaurants and different cuisines.
Be sure to look at the financials as well. What are the full costs of belonging to a yacht club? The initiation fee can be substantial, but consider also monthly dues and any mandatory consumption or other imposed charges. Examine the club’s financial statements thoroughly. Is it solvent? Is its income from dues and other revenues adequate to cover expenses and any pending maintenance? Are members facing assessments to finance needed upgrades or perhaps settlements from litigation?
If you want to keep your boat at the club, check whether slips are available or whether there is a long waiting list. In our case, we learned we’d have a minimum wait of five years for our then-38-foot boat and much longer for a larger boat.
Most yacht clubs have many non-boat-owning members. Find out what the balance of boat owners versus non-boat owners is and whether there’s tension between the needs of the two groups. Do non-boat owners resist investing in dock maintenance?
Most clubs are volunteer-governed, even with a professional staff. Are you in synch with the volunteer leadership’s management style?
Arv and I are both activists and gravitate towards leadership in many organizations we join. We decided we didn’t want to get involved in running another yacht club but wanted to pursue other volunteer activities and served on other community boards.
Before joining a yacht club be sure to weigh carefully the many benefits and any potential negatives.