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Spouse situation at yacht clubs
Team McLube

 



The Publisher
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Jun 11, 2012, 10:02 AM

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I recently learned I was not a yacht club member. Or at least, not a member of the yacht club I thought I was. A bit of a shock, really. It came on Opening Day, when I did not receive an award I would have been eligible for... if I had been a member. You see, it is my wife that is the member.

To back up, after I got married, my wife wanted to rejoin the club she had been a member of as a youth. I was a member of another club at the time, but once the kids came along, and household expenses increased, paying monthly dues at two clubs became a strain.

So we dropped the club I had joined, and proceeded along as a happy family. I never thought of reading her club by-laws. I assumed I was a 'spousal member'. But after the Opening Day incident, I got curious and opened the membership book, and found the club extended no rights to the spouse.

I immediately thought back to the regattas I had entered under this club. I then thought of the club's adult pram fleet where many of the spouses compete. Did they know they had no right to list this club when entering a regatta? I also got curious how many other clubs in the U.S. excluded rights to spouses. There were more.

My guess is there was a time, ages ago, when it was the man that became the member, and the wife was much less active. Excluding women from club bars was not uncommon. As time marched on, some clubs have updated their by-laws to be more inclusive, while others have not.

To enter a race under the rules of sailing (75.1), the boat must be entered by
(a) a member of a club or other organization affiliated to an ISAF member national authority,
(b) such a club or organization, or
(c) a member of an ISAF member national authority.

In fairness, my wife's club was surprised by this revelation, and has indicated they are looking into it. Until then, I can still enter races as a member of US Sailing or Scuttlebutt Sailing Club. That, and I need to keep my wife happy or risk having her revoke my guest privileges.

Do you know how your club handles the spousal issue?

- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


The Publisher
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Jun 11, 2012, 1:00 PM

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From: Dan Knox
To: editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com

I was treasurer of a certain YC, and this is how we handled out Spousal Memberships: Very carefully. Our club as most clubs do offers a family membership (which usually included two adults and two or more kids) as well as individual memberships. Guess which one cost more? Well most couples probably should get the family membership few do and instead get an individual membership and the spouse or anyone else that comes along is a guest. After a few years everyone at the club gets to know you and everyone just assumes including the people that are technically just guest that they are members! Guests of course don’t get charged. I can assure you that bringing this up a board meeting or a general membership meeting is NOT a good idea and that’s probably why it is never talked about. It’s really about the $$$ and meetings about $$$ are never anyone’s idea at fun at a YC. Better to just go sailing or have a drink at the bar. And while guest of course are not charged for sailing those bar revenues are very dear for most clubs.




The Publisher
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Jun 11, 2012, 2:16 PM

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From: Nick Imperato
To: editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com
In answer to Craig's inquiry regarding "spousal YC membership", at Toms River Yacht Club in NJ we faced a similar situation under our historical By-Laws first written in the 1800's whereby only a man could be a member, and his spouse had no rights. As amended, we now offer membership equally to men, women, and couples. The only difference is in voting rights, where the couple is awarded only a single vote exercisable by either person. In the event of divorce, the membership is conveyed to both, and subsequently granted as well to any future partners. In the event of death the membership continues with the survivor. We think this is a fair and equitable solution.


The Publisher
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Jun 11, 2012, 2:17 PM

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From: Parsons, Bruce
To: editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com

Some years ago some friends of mine had a similar situation to that which you described – the woman had been the first (crew memberships back when we used to have them) member. When they got a boat and she applied to the membership committee they sent back a letter saying that only a man could be a member. My friend intercepted the letter before his wife saw it and went ballistic, wrote them a cheque and was formally made the member. I don’t think he ever told her.

A few years ago a common law couple , he owned the boat, were opposed when she was nominated to the executive. The objection was that she did not own a boat. It was an ugly meeting, with two judges in the membership being asked to decide on the merits. They both declined. I any event I believe it must have been sorted as she did ultimately go on to serve as our first female commodore.

I agree these sorts of rules attitudes are left over from a misogynist and obsolete past . But I do think spousal members at our club have all the rights and privileges – I could be wrong though


The Publisher
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Jun 11, 2012, 2:18 PM

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From: Jeff Riedle, President, Annapolis Match Race Center
To: editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com

My wife and I were just talking about the issue of spousal membership, last week. We are thinking of joining a club in our area, and found out last week that our friend can't represent their club because his wife is the member. It makes more sense, to me, to have a family membership so he can represent the club in some events, and his wife can in others. That may not help clubs grow membership, but would help with the logistics of active sailing families.

In many classes you can see families sailing together, but also on separate teams. In the lightning class, for example, there are several generations of families all over the fleet. Spouses each entering a boat, parents crewing for their kids, junior teams racing right along side multiple generations. So many classes are great examples of how family membership would strengthen clubs.

I am also happy to see clubs creating more "special event sailing" for adults. Match racing and team racing is offered for juniors, but not adults, at many clubs. Recently I've seen some adult versus junior match racing, and it was good to see the integration of generations. I think these sorts of events will bring more membership, and hold younger members that fade away after junior sailing ends for them. If the whole family can take part, I think, membership will be stronger for generations, and through the whole family.


The Publisher
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Jun 11, 2012, 2:36 PM

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From: John Troy
To: editor@sailingscuttlebutt.com

In the late '90's we dealt with this situation at the Stamford Yacht Club. Traditionally, if a married couple joined, one or the other was the member but not both. We recognized that times were changing and amended the Constitution and By-Laws to reflect that existing or new member couples could opt for single or joint membership. Of course, there was only one vote for the membership. It's really worked out quite well over time.


The Publisher
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Jun 11, 2012, 2:55 PM

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At my club, NLGYC, we have individual memberships, couple memberships (not sure how formal vows play into that) and family (H&W (or H&H or W&W???)) with kids under 25, in escalating cost. If a spouse wants privileges, the couple has to move up to couple membership. We have no such thing as free spousal membership. Same if they have kids. As same-sex marriage is the law in NY, I assume that will eventually have to be dealt with, although I'm sure we somehow will get it wrong. - Cory E. Friedman


ms
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Jun 12, 2012, 1:35 PM

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From Kevin Keogh:

Regarding your story about spousal membership in yacht clubs in issue 3609, I think that American Yacht Club in Rye, New York has it exactly right. The Club treats husband and wife each as members. While they are married, each has the same audit number and they are jointly responsible for the payment of one membership dues and charges although each is a member. If one spouse dies, the membership of the other spouse continues. Divorce does not affect the membership of either of them except that one of them will be assigned a new audit number and each will separately be responsible for his or her own dues and charges.

All proposals for membership with respect to married couples are considered as proposals for the membership of the husband and the wife. Both go through the proposal and interview process. If a member marries a person who is not a member, the member notifies the Secretary of the Club of the name and age of his or her new spouse who is then promptly presented for election to membership by the Board of Trustees without any need for proposers and seconders.



ms
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Jun 12, 2012, 1:36 PM

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* From John Sangmeister:

Isn't California a community property state and if this membership was purchased with co-mingled funds, makes all of this moot?


The Publisher
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Jun 14, 2012, 1:27 PM

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ODE TO SPOUSAL MEMBERSHIP

By Connie and Rick Bischoff, Coral Reef Yacht Club members

In order for yacht clubs to continue to operate successfully, many people believe (us included) clubs need to insure for themselves a sufficiently broad pool of talented and committed members who love boating and sailing and who want (and be eligible) to serve in leadership positions on all committees, on the Board of Directors and on the Flag. By restricting the right to serve to only one person in each couple, the clubs are depriving themselves of a great source of energy and skills. One couple… one vote… two active volunteers… sounds like a “no brainer” to us. Surely not having spousal membership policies will hamper attracting new membership couples who both sail. It also seems to us that young couples who are both professionals (as many are today) will think twice about joining a club where only one can ever rise to a position of leadership.

Last year at our club in South Florida, some directors were wracking their brains seeking ways to enhance the number of prospects for membership. As was the case in yacht clubs throughout the country, membership rolls had declined and young prospects seemed harder and harder to entice into joining. When we were asked to put our thoughts into solutions, we suggested, among other ideas, to consider the implementation of spousal membership policies, as we understood that they had had some success elsewhere in gaining young members. As sometimes happens when one innocently makes a suggestion, it follows that they are implored to expand on the theme.

Thus, a number of folks sought out the experiences of other clubs who reportedly had positive results of policies relating to membership arrangements where both spouses can be committee members, committee chairs, members of the Board of Directors, flag officers and yes both can represent the Club as race entrants; in short “spousal memberships.” We relate our findings with some misgivings as the representations about what other clubs may have done was not “officially” verified and thus their results may be seen as successful to differing degrees depending upon what member one might talk to.

Our group found five examples of spousal membership policies at the following five clubs:

Sarasota Yacht Club apparently found its solution through an interesting process. In 2006, SYC decided to hire a marketing company to conduct a study of community attitudes about the club across Sarasota County. They were hoping to find some solutions to the difficulty in growing membership. The answer was a simple one. The results of the resulting 85 page report could be summarized as saying that SYC was “stale, pale and male”. Although this sounds cruel, SYC saw that it gave them an opportunity to grow. SYC began to take a number of steps to change, including how they treat memberships. Instead of limiting membership to only one person per family, they switched to joint family memberships or spousal memberships. This innovation has proven to be successful, say some of their members as evidenced by the fact that their recent Commodore was a “spouse”. They naturally have rules which say that only one family member can be a director or flag officer at a time; but that either family member can serve on a committee and that the female spouses are not limited in their committee involvement to Ladies Day, Entertainment and Race Committee. We were advised that their By-Laws Article VIII now details their membership policies as follows:

Active Members shall be twenty-one (21) years of age or older. Active Membership may be held by an individual or by a married couple. Active Members shall have all Club privileges including the right to hold office and to vote. Both spouses of a married couple, however, may not hold office concurrently nor may their names appear simultaneously on any ballot for elected office.

The By-laws of Newport, RI’s Ida Lewis Yacht Club state, we were advised, that “a membership can stand in a family name and shall include children under 23 and shall be entitled to one vote. Anyone can be the head of a committee; only a member can be a flag officer. A spouse can head up a committee and serve on the board if nominated and elected”. Although this is not full spousal membership, it goes some way beyond other clubs. We suspect that their membership policies reflect some other goals beyond merely enhancing membership as we also understand the Ida Lewis continues to have a long waiting list for new members.

Eau Gallie Yacht Club has gotten a lot of attention recently at the Florida Council of Yacht Club meetings as the fastest growing yacht club in the state. Their membership is over 900 with a lot of young members who especially like the new exercise room. Deborah Palmer, their Membership Coordinator reports that they also have joint memberships or spousal membership. Their By-Laws state:

A Resident Member is a person or married couple over the age of 21 years who maintains a legal residence in Brevard County, Florida. Only Resident Members may vote or serve as a member of the Board of Governors. In the case of a married couple both the husband and wife are equal members, with all rights and privileges of a Resident Member, but are considered as a single joint Resident Member for the following purposes:
i. There is only one vote per resident membership, which can be signed by either member
ii. Only one member of the couple can be nominated for or serve on the Board of Governors at a given time
iii. Both individuals are jointly responsible for financial obligations to the Club

Another club which has taken an innovative approach is American Yacht Club in Rye, New York, a very active sailing club on the Long Island Sound. We were told that when someone becomes an active member at American (limited to 375 families with potentially 750 voting members), both husband and wife are members and each has their own vote, can serve on committees, and are full members in their own right. Apparently this feature has been given credit for the expansion of young families and their junior sailing program.

At Marco Island Yacht Club, where the recent Chairman of the Board is a spouse, the By-laws have no mention of who can or cannot serve, and there are spouses on the Finance Committee and the Board of Directors. Article V of their By-Laws states that all memberships shall be held only by private individuals. Membership shall be for a maximum of two persons residing in same legal household with one person designated as the Principal who shall have the voting rights. Unless otherwise designated in a letter to the Secretary and signed by both persons, the first name appearing in the Membership shall be presumed to be the Principal. Both Members of the Membership shall be jointly and severally responsible for the debts of the Membership.

Coconut Grove Sailing Club has recently signed a fifteen year lease as it is located upon city property. Its dues are $250/ year, its membership is up to 800 members (despite only 51 parking spots), its food and beverage service is making a profit and its boat storage rates are very reasonable. Its website states that “Regular/family Memberships have one vote in club matters and club privileges are extended to the entire family, (children up to age 20)”. Its previous Commodore, Alyn Pruitt, is a perfect example of the benefits of joint membership: he is a “spouse”, i.e., the husband of the original member.

Nonetheless, not all clubs will find themselves able to adopt new membership policies, much less to embrace “spousal membership”. Their boards of directors (after all, that is who makes these decisions) may adamantly declare that the “talent pool” of their individual members is more than sufficient for the future. (Some of us may wonder whether the same conclusion would be reached by outsiders…or by a survey of spouses.) Some clubs may not have (or believe they do not have) a problem registering new young family members. Others may assert that opening up “membership” to spouses who may not have been “vetted” might “cheapen” the membership or might or injure the club’s “Corinthian” culture!

Sometimes it seems as if no one in a club’s decision-making hierarchy believes as if existing spouses are not already a part of the club’s family. Maybe, in some cases, they aren’t.


Connie Bischoff
A proud, but spousal member of Coral Reef Yacht Club and a member of the Race Committee

and

Rick Bischoff
A CRYC Member, CRYC Race Committee Member, past Board Member, past Chair of numerous committees and Past Commodore of CRYC




Mystiko
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Jun 18, 2012, 5:09 AM

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I am the "Male" spouse of the "Official" member, my wife was available that day I was not, she also knew many on the membership committee, I did not. As a husband of the member of the CRYC, a sailboat owner and new racer, I feel very strongly that spouses must have equal membership rights at our club. It appears to me that our club has an rapidly ageing membership and one way to attract some younger "middle aged" couples that can afford a boat no less club membership is to have equal membership rights. But that is not the only reason...
Generally the rules were set up many years ago to keep women, the wives of the members out of the clubs hierarchy as most if not all members were men "back then"... Well things have changed in society and clubs like CRYC need to change for the better to keep up with the way the world is now.
I do not want to run the club, I do not want to take over the club, I only want to be an "equal" member with an equal voice, which currently I do not have. My vote is for equal rights for all...now that is the American way.


Clark Chapin
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Jun 18, 2012, 7:58 PM

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About 20 years ago, US Sailing considered not allowing entrants in Championships or their qualifying events to clubs that did not allow women to be members. At the Board meeting in Seattle where this proposal would be voted upon, there was a lot of heated rhetoric on both sides. The more conservative clubs believed that it was their prerogative to set membership policies and predicted wholesale defection from the membership ranks.

In due course, one of the observers present asked to be recognized.

“Let me relate to you the experience of my Club, which is in a reasonably progressive Midwestern state. A few years ago, one of our members called me one night and said that he had agreed to be nominated as President of US Sailing. I congratulated him, but he said that he would have to resign his club membership before his election.

“Stunned, I asked him why. He replied that as President of the National Authority, he could not remain a member of a club whose bylaws excluded women as members. I urged him not to resign immediately and that I would work to correct that situation.

“I called all the living past commodores of the club and cajoled them into meeting at my home. Then, I wouldn’t let them leave until they agreed to sign a proposal to the current board to revise the bylaws to allow women to be members. It was a long night, but finally they all agreed. Faced with a proposal from all the past commodores, the board agreed to put the measure to a vote.

“Then the firestorm erupted. I had members whom I had known and been friends with for literally a half century stop speaking to me. Members yelled awful things at me in the club dining room. People I thought were my friends called our home and said things that literally reduced my wife to tears. But in the end, the proposal passed and we are proud that our club member went on to serve as President.”

He concluded, “I offer this as a lesson in how hard and divisive it is to change these policies. As much as I believe that equal membership rights is the right, fair, and correct thing to do; the effect on US Sailing will be harmful and distracting. The motion should be defeated.”

The Board, on a close vote, defeated the proposal.

That speaker was former USYRU President Lynn Stedman from Bayview Yacht Club in Detroit, one of the visionaries who transformed NAYRU from an organization, it has been said, “run out of broom closet in the New York Yacht Club”, into a truly national organization that has strived to listen to and represent all of the sailors in our country regardless of location, gender, or marital status (among other factors).





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Jun 21, 2012, 7:40 AM

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From Steve Gregory:
Regarding the spousal membership thread, for those Yacht Clubs that remain in the dark ages when it comes to membership rules, they are supporting a pretty screwed up scenario: a member can compete for the club while their spouse cannot. How eager will the spouse be to volunteer when they can't even write down the club's name on their entry form? Worse yet, how many people are cheating in the sport without even realizing it?


Dan O'Brien
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Jun 21, 2012, 11:30 AM

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In the early years of the 70s I ended up being Commodore of Lahaina Yacht Club. No one else wanted the job The Club was fairly new, and when formed had adopted the Constitution and by laws of one of the other established yacht clubs in Hawaii. It was pretty much the same as every other Yacht Club, but no one really paid any attention to such trivia. You had to have a Constitution and By Laws to be a real Yacht Club so anything was better than nothing.

Also Lahaina Yacht Club was a co-sponsor with the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club of Vancouver BC Canada of the Victoria-Maui International Yacht Race. So it was felt that we should shape up a bit and be proper. We didn't want anyone to feel uncomfortable while visiting. Also admitting that you were a member of Lahaina Yacht Club would get you frowned upon in some other of the more high faluting establishments.

So at one of my first Board meetings we had several issues to resolve formally. One had to do with a dress code. It was decided that flappers and a tee shirt would be required after 1800. You had to pay your bar tab in a timely manner or your membership would be suspended, you know important stuff like that

Regular membership dues at the time was $100 per year. Only regular members could vote or hold office. There was no restriction as to male/female membership. The regular member could designate their spouse as a Spouse Member who had all Club priveledges except voting and holding office. Either could enter races as captain or charge at the bar.

The problem that confronted me as Commodore was that most of our members weren't married? In fact couples seemed to change partners on a more or less regular basis. The most common reference was the "old man, and the old lady" everyone understood the system, but what do you do when couples are no longer together, but still wanted to be members. We decided that whomever was the regular member could change spouse members as the situation arose. It was more a consideration as to who could make bar charges on your tab. The ex spouse member could become a regular member if they wanted to. The cost wasn't much and admitted you into the cheapest bar in Hawaii, that was free of tourists. The problem wasn't who could be a member so much as who paid the bar tab.

I was confounded though at a Board Meeting in which one of our Board members that was of the gay persuasion asked if her partner could be a spouse member. We had quite a number of gay members, and no one really thought much about it one way or another, but if we allowed gay members to have spouse memberships the place just might become a gay bar. I didn't think our membership was quite ready for that so discouraged the idea, and it never came to a vote. You have to keep in mind that gay and incestuous relationships had a long tradition in Hawaiian culture so we had not only our other members to consider but tradition as well.

I made a mistake at that time for not taking that issue head on, but it was 1970 and even our free life style membership had a few latent conservative thoughts.

So for those of you who belong to yacht clubs that are dealing with male/female membership issues, you had better think of the next step ahead.

You are going to have more and more gay/lesbian members and their families. They may or may not be married dependent upon local legal considerations or their own desires. So if you are smart you will forget all about the sex of your members and who they are living with. Let them figure out who will be the prime member and who can vote, or devise a new class of membership that is all encompassing. The idea is the comradrie of those who like to "mess around in boats" Who cares what creed, color, political party or marital status or arrangement they prefer? If they share your passion of all things that have to do with boats, open the door and make your life a lot more fun.

Dan O'Brien,
Dan O'Brien


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