A History of The San Juan Island Yacht Club

“It was a sunny day on the first Sunday in May 1964 that the San Juan Island Yacht Club was conceived. A group of new boat owners were working on their boats Saturday down at Jensen’s Shipyard, and while they stopped for a rest and visited, someone suggested a picnic cruise to one of the other islands the next day. They agreed on Sucia... So it was.... a flotilla of seven boats that set out the next morning.” (Marie Collins, May 1987 Mud Flat Monitor). While the group enjoyed a picnic around the bonfire, one man suggested that they try to start a new yacht club to have many more such trips. They all decided then and there to begin organizing the next day.

On Monday morning May 7, the group met and started the specific arrangements. On May 27, 1964, the San Juan Island Yacht Club was registered as a nonprofit corporation, with 102 charter memberships. The Club’s objectives and organization were essentially as they are today. On May 28, the first Board was elected, and at that meeting one member suggested that a building committee be “named at once.” That suggestion was declined.

The Club burgee was adopted on July 16, 1964, in the form that it exists today, although the record does not reflect that it is to be flown with the long blue edge down. By the end of July there were 203 memberships. During that and the following months, the Club cruising and meeting programs were developed.

The succeeding few years saw further expansion of the Club activities, and periodic, but indecisive concern with the question of a clubhouse. Meetings of the membership came to be held at the Study Club, which became the Grange Hall. The Board met at various restaurants and, therefore, came to be informal, weekly, “Men’s-Lib” gatherings; the women held separate auxiliary luncheon meetings. Early on, the ladies of the Study Club offered to sell their building to the Yacht Club for $36,000, but the membership voted that offer down.

The by-laws then and for many years prohibited women from serving in the flag-officer positions. At a 1967 Board Meeting, the Commodore declined to make the Board minutes available to the membership, electing instead to paraphrase those records at general meetings. The September 1969 Board Meeting produced this record: “Since the Club has grown so much, the question of new quarters was brought up again. All Board members present were of the opinion that something must be done soon. Current possibilities.... No action to be taken this year.”

From the late sixties and beyond, the Club also has been an active cruising organization. Some destinations of Club cruises during this thirty year period have been: Sucia, Prevost Harbor, Reid Harbor, Fisherman’s Bay, Blakely, Rosario, Deer Harbor, Oak Harbor, Penn Cove, Cornet Bay, Bellingham, Seattle, Olympia, La Conner, Poulsbo, Jones Island, Bedwell Harbor, Maple Bay, Victoria, Ladysmith, Sidney, Montague Harbor, Telegraph Harbor, Fulford Harbor, Ganges, Port Browning, Saanich Inlet, and Long Harbor. Two extended cruises are on the record, to Edgemont and Princess Louisa as organized in June 1977 by Commodore Ken Meier. Also, in July of 1993, a cruise to Greenway Sound was organized by Ed Weed, under Commodore Forbes Powell.

The decade of the seventies saw a continuation of the Club’s aspirations and programs. Membership varied: 172 in October of 1971, with the Board limiting new memberships to active boating families because of lack of meeting space. At the end of 1972 there were 178 memberships, in October of 1973 that number had grown to 189. In June of 1974 the roles had swollen to 225. Meetings continued at the Grange Hall, with the Board still meeting at local restaurants. In May of 1976, the by-laws were amended to no longer deny flag-officer positions to women.

The effort to provide a clubhouse gained momentum in 1977 under Commodore Ken Meier and in 1978 under Commodore Bill Stone. In 1977 there was an initial agreement in principle, with the Port of Friday Harbor for the Club’s present location, but in 1978 the project was set aside because of sparked conflicts of interest, disagreements, and confrontations between the Port and the Club. Frustrations continued into 1981. In that year, a poll of the Club membership showed 55% in favor of a new building at the Port, 35% in favor of expanding at the Grange Hall, and 10% in favor of doing nothing.

In January 1983, the Mud Flat Monitor reflected the Commodore’s conclusion that lack of sufficient pledged funds made building a clubhouse impossible. In that month’s general meeting, there was a resolution from the floor to study the Club’s aims, goals, organization, financing assets, and by-laws, all oriented to the resolution of the clubhouse issue. Club membership varied from 173 in 1978 to 128 in 1983. Relations with the Port were now in balance. In July and August of 1984, under Commodore Dutch Graef, the pressure was increased for a clubhouse, and there was intense work all summer by a Long Range Planning Committee. In September 1984, Club moorage was rented from the Port, and reciprocal Yacht Club arrangements commenced.

On October 12, 1984, the San Juan Island Yacht Club Building Project was developed, and in November 1984 came the decisive commitment to build a clubhouse. The cost estimate for the building was $350,000, and two types of funding were proposed. First, five hundred building-fund units were to be made available to the members at $500 each, redeemable for $600 by annual lottery each January. Second, initiation fees were to be held at $1000 until 125 “Charter Building Fund Members” were reached. In February 1985 dues paying membership stood at 116. In March of 1985 funding for the clubhouse reached 50%, and in April second-term Commodore Graef made a final plea for support of the building fund. Members Paul and Lucy Whittier participated mightily—they purchased one-half of the available bonds, thus ensuring solid funding of the clubhouse. By June 27, 1985, a total of $375,000 was accrued in the fund, and during the balance of that year members’ efforts were involved with permits, plans and bids. In March of 1986, reinforcement of the lower level of the building started, and actual construction of the clubhouse began in earnest in June. The Bond Committee conservatively planned for a final bond redemption in 2007; however, the final bonds were paid off in 1995.

The clubhouse held its inaugural event on January 22, 1987. The building stands to the good credit of those members who worked for years and persevered in their convictions. In recent years the Club has continued to progress for the pleasure of its members, in support of yachting, and as an asset to the community. Membership as of January 1996 stands at 191, reflecting a total of around 350 people.

In 1976 the Membership made a revision to its By-laws to allow women members to serve on the Bridge. By 2000, the Club had its first female member to proceed through the chairs and become Commodore. SJIYC has definitely come a long way since those early days and has no intention of slowing down. There is much to look forward to in the coming years.

The clubhouse has been redecorated several times since its inauguration in 1987. In 1998, with the outstsnding help of the Club’s Décor Committee, it received a major facelift. Numerous model ships, classic pictures of America’s Cup sailboats, trophies reflecting Club events, and several Yacht Clubs’ pennants and burgees carry out a nautical motif., “Bonnie Blue”, the Club’s lovely figurehead, welcomes members and visitors as they enter the dining room.

The Yacht Club is often filled to capacity with its members and guests. Friday evening dining, along with the Thursday evening barbeques during the summer months, continues to draw people in to socialize. The Board is again reviewing and discussing clubhouse expansion in order to allow additional space for its members. It definitely is the place to be for camaraderie and fun, whether attending a monthly meeting, enjoying a Friday evening dinner, or dropping by for a Thursday barbeque.

Club improvements are an on-going commitment for the Yacht Club’s Bridge. During the past few years, a new metal roof was added to the building. A walk-in refrigerator, new restroom flooring, a new set of double doors in the bar were installed. The outside front handrails were replaced and the deck was painted. These are just a few of the upgrades the Club has experienced in recent years. Present plans include the installation of new carpeting during 2007 and possibly a future expansion of the bar area.

Club membership has experienced major changes recently. Starting in 2002, efforts were made to change the requirement for new members to have the option of initially paying a $2500 initiation fee or paying on a five-year installment plan. This payment plan was intended to attract a more diverse membership in the Club. After much debate, and sometimes heated discussion, the Club’s By-laws were revised during between 2003 - 2005.. Under this progressive direction, the Club is in its best financial position since it was initially formed in 1964. Memberships are currently capped at 202 due to the limited clubhouse space. There is a waiting list of potential new members who have submitted their applications and first installments. Between 2005 - 2006, the Club experienced the largest growth in its history, with the addition of new 95 Memberships (186 members). This wave has brought additional energy, diversity, and fellowship into the Club.