Scuttlebutt Website SCUTTLEBUTT
Who's Online WHO'S
Log in LOG IN         

Forum Index: .: Dock Talk:
Team McLube


The Publisher

Apr 27, 2010, 5:39 PM

Post #1 of 19 (57385 views)

Scuttlebutt 3078

By Nicholas Hayes, Author of Saving Sailing

If I had to make a chart to represent hours of fun I’ve had by originating location, it would show that a big slice of my fun begins at a yacht club. So I generally like them a lot.

At the same time, I’ll admit a personal bias towards the idea that yacht clubs should instead call themselves sailing clubs, and the sooner they do it, the better for sailing. For me, it’s not just about marketing: if I never see, smell, hear or feel a power boat again in my life, I’ll be thrilled. And I hate blazers and slacks.

But more than naming conventions and my pet-peeves, yacht clubs are generally in trouble, because their members are dying faster than they can find or make new ones. They need to make a change. I’ve been studying the problem now for almost 20 years; some of my research inspired the book Saving Sailing. Yacht clubs have an age problem: member average age is usually around 60. Of course most clubs have junior programs as a feeder, but they usually don’t feed. I’ve written extensively about how age segregation is part of the problem - it creates a broad chasm between young skilled, eager sailors, and the older, tiring base of a club. Consider these observations, excerpted from the book:

“In most sailing clubs today, the kids show up in the morning, and leave in the late afternoon, just about the time the adults are arriving”

“...the decline in participation in sailing is better explained as a decline in devotion to intergenerational free-time pursuits.”

It is hard to explain why it seems we’ve gone to such lengths to create this gap -- separating the generations unnecessarily -- accept to suggest that:

1.) it is a passive response to a general trend towards youth-sports and away from intergenerational activities everywhere, because youth-sports are easier to market, coordinate and scale, or...

2.) we’ve come to depend on active, age-specific marketing for everything, and we’re lacking the pop culture hero willing to twitter to inspire both 11 year olds and their moms to try sailing. After all, marketing to parents means marketing to their kids, right?

And then some new data hit my desk, suggesting that it has nothing to do with marketing at all. We have it backwards. -- Read on:

The Publisher

Apr 27, 2010, 5:39 PM

Post #2 of 19 (57382 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3079

* From Bob Johnstone, Commodore, The Northeast Harbor Fleet:
Congrats on Nick Hayes's, 'What's Really Wrong with Yacht Clubs' in Scuttlebutt 3078. Yacht club membership trends are influenced by two factors:

(1) Demographic Trends: A successful YC will have programs and boats that address what the 77 million baby boomers (now age 55 to 65) are now doing in boating. It explains what's worked in boating over the past 45 years- starting with annual sales of 100,000 Sunfish, Hobies and Snarks in the early 1970's when they were in their 20's, then 500 J/24's/yr when in their 30's, etc.
(2) Junior Boats: Yacht Club programs aimed at getting their top youth, aged 14 and over, at the helm of adult boats (instead of weight sensitive kiddie boats) will go a long way in solving the 'feeder' problem to becoming a YC member. Back in the 50's the junior boat I sailed at the Wadawanuck YC (Stonington CT) was the Lightning. We couldn't wait to take on the old guys on Saturdays, often skippering for a sponsoring owner. The Laser may offer "all age" competition, but the primary YC adult fleet(s) today are larger centerboarders and keelboats.

* From The.Buckleys:
Regarding Nicholas Hayes' rant (in Scuttlebutt 3078) about power boats in yacht clubs, I would be interested to see what type of vessels comprise his Club's Race Committee!

* From Lee Smith:
I hope this article generates as much heat as the America's Cup fiasco. It certainly affects far more of us than the trials and tribulations of billionaires who need a life. Haye's chart does indeed seem to wrap up the issue and tie it with a neat ribbon. What to do? The 2010 catch phrase is "target demographics". It didn't take long to figure out that our target is the young marrieds, who will bring the kids along with themselves. They are looking for the most bang for their discretionary dollar, so let's invent a Young Married Membership that's cheap, gets them out on the water, and gets them hooked by the beauty and challenge of sailing a sailboat well. Discuss among yourselves!

The Publisher

Apr 27, 2010, 5:40 PM

Post #3 of 19 (57379 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3080

* From Eric Lind, Traverse Area Community Sailing president:
Me thinks that Nicholas Hayes is a bit off course (in his Scuttlebutt 3078 report). I can proudly report that the Grand Traverse Yacht Club in Traverse City, MI, is at full membership and busting at the seams! We have just celebrated our 50th Anniversary and are still getting used to our NEW clubhouse that opened last year following an unfortunate fire that occurred two years ago last week. Our membership is made up of sailboat racers, cruisers, and yes, powerboaters. We embrace all boaters and 'hangers on' and are open Wednesdays and Fridays year round. If you find yourself in the NW MI area please stop in and enjoy. Blue blazers are not required.

One of the best parts of GTYC is the kids. They are everywhere, always present, and new additions are popping up every month. And, most of them are sailors thanks to the Traverse Area Community Sailing (TACS) program. TACS has been in operation since 1994 and we now teach more than 300 area youth how to sail each year. Our programs include Learn to Sail, Advanced Sailing, TACS Racing Team (summer), High School Sailing Team (spring and fall), Adult Learn to Sail, and we have recently introduced an Adaptive Sailing Program and are about to start a Rowing Club.

The relationship between GTYC and TACS is wonderful. Our kids have been embraced by the Laser and Interlake Fleets and many are crewing on bigger boats for the Wednesday Night and weekend PHRF races as well. Sailing is strong in Traverse City and still growing.

* From Kevin Crandall:
I read Nicholas Hayes segment with great interest- as a 35 Y/O balancing my young family (2 girls), work, house chores and "other" leisure activities make joining a yacht club that much harder. I come from a strong racing background, and my wife embraced and crewed for many years- but the prospects of fitting it in now is laughable.

I roughly overlaid a line of my age on Nicholas' graph, and I think I will be predicted to join when I am 75! What a wake-up call! I want to join now - and we will be first in line to join a sailing club that can magically address our needs.

The Publisher

Apr 30, 2010, 7:07 AM

Post #4 of 19 (57338 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3081

* From Rick Demolina, Wilmington, NC:
Nicholas Hayes (#3078) makes some interesting observations about the aging demographic of yacht clubs using representative anecdotal data. I would like to provide some representative, anecdotal evidence of my own. As a third generation sailor who hopes the tradition lives on with my children, what keeps my family from participating in the sport is finances - pure and simple.

In my area, water access means either competing at the public dock with hundreds of fisherman or coming up with $20K plus to join a local yacht club. The first option is too dangerous; I have no desire to see my child trying to dock a Sabot on the same dock as a half inebriated fisherman at the controls of a 300 HP Grady White. The second option is too expensive; with retirement, college tuition and weddings on the horizon, coming up with that kind of cash, not to mention the monthly expense, is not an option.

Perhaps if clubs created a more affordable tier of membership which might limit privileges to such amenities as a dinghy dock, lift, dry storage and clubhouse, more families would join. As children and household incomes grow, those memberships could be converted to a full privilege, full cost membership. Currently, the only discount memberships that I am aware of are legacy memberships, and unless somebody would like to adopt a husband and father of two, that is not an option either.

* From Bryan Sarber:
I too read the Nicholas Hayes segment with great interest and my wife and I have both read his book (‘Saving Sailing’). As a 42 Y/O balancing my young family (2 boys, 6 & 3), work, house chores, and "other" leisure activities we have made it a family priority to actively participate in our local sailing club for all the reasons Mr. Hayes provides in his book. I do not come from a racing or even boating background, but cannot imagine my life absent the many friends and stories we’ve made since stumbling into the Indianapolis Sailing Club open house in 2002.

When we first joined, a half-dozen children showed-up to the Easter party. This year there were 40. My wife runs the summer camp. I’m a board member and the finance chairman. My older son beamed with self-confidence as he began taking his friends for pram rides last summer. Last evening, my younger son asked me when I was going to take him camping on the "big boat" (a Precision 23). And I can almost hold my own on the race course, thanks to my many mentors within the club and Interlake class. This evening I’ll be enjoying a burger and beer on the club deck watching the PHRF fleet float around on a windless lake and my sons playing with their sailing club friends.

There is no "magic". If you already buy-in to what sailing has to offer, then make it a family priority, find a club, get involved, and make it your own!

The Publisher

Apr 30, 2010, 7:07 AM

Post #5 of 19 (57337 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3082

* From Charles Chopin:
Regarding Nicholas Hayes’ article in Scuttlebutt 3078, “What’s Really Wrong With Yacht Clubs,” I have been what could be best described as a “non-member racer” at my local yacht club for years. I race as crew on members’ boats. I find Mr. Hayes’ article quite correct on most counts, but he fails to mention one major point. Part of the reason for the increasing age of new members is not simply related to the fact that members are recruiting their friends (I’m 39 and I (and my family (wife and three children)) have been invited to join by several members older than my parents).

The most significant reason we have not joined is that membership involves a significant expense in “disposable income” that, while I have three children (ages 12, 6, and 2) who are “fast” approaching college debt, is not really “disposable” when planning for their future.

While the local yacht club is still significantly (financially) easier to join than the local country club (though I sail far better than I play golf, so the choice would be easy if I had to make it), I’m still more inclined to put those funds into my children’s’ college funds than into a few more nights (beyond Tuesday Night Racing) to hang out with the people with whom I like to sail . . . Once my nest is empty (or I win the lottery), paying club dues to hang out with friends on boats will be far more interesting than paying for just a town mooring . . .

* From Jim Champ:
I think there's much more to the demographics problem than can be cured just by targeting a different age group by advertising or whatever.

This sort of thing must vary from country to country, but something I've observed in the UK more than once is on these lines...

A young couple who sail regularly start a family. As a result of ridiculously inflated house prices the wife must continue to work, even though all she's doing by working is to pay bankers the mortgage interest caused by the inflated house prices and childcare to enable her to work. Come the weekend she wants to be with her children and and in her house, not at a sailing club - understandably: what else chance does she get?

Now there's a name for a man who spends all Sunday at the sailing club leaving his wife alone with the kids and the housework, and that name is "divorced ex-husband", and divorced ex husbands tend to have very little money for boats and in any case Sunday is the only day he gets to see his kids.

The Publisher

Apr 30, 2010, 7:11 AM

Post #6 of 19 (57336 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3083

From Brent Boyd:
The fact is that families with parents in mid 30’s are constantly torn with demands on their schedule (i.e. little league, school, soccer, clubs, homework, etc). They just run out of time and sailing generally encompasses a whole day when you count getting to the club, rigging boats, waiting for good wind or RC, unrigging, cleaning up and getting back home where there are still house chores and homework before the weeklong rat race begins again. If you or your kids race, that can completely take up Friday afternoon for regatta travel, Saturday and Sunday for racing, and Sunday night to get back home. All of this entails a huge time investment and generally precludes other sporting activities that can be completed in a couple leisurely hours on Saturday afternoon.

Time is not the only factor. Bang for the buck is also a big issue for many families. YC club dues keep going up, special assessments are all too common, plus we all know boats and their maintenance are cash sink holes. For many young families club expenditures can be real budget issues when kids can play soccer or T-ball for $50.00 a season including the equipment and uniforms. These alternate sports activities are far less time and money consuming while leaving weekend time for kids to maintain good grades and participate in diverse activities, so they can get into good schools which is getting more competitive each year. As we all know sailing scholarships at the college level is still a big NO-NO; I put two very good sailors through school on my own dime like all sailor parents do. I would vote for this situation to change immediately no matter what the opposing arguments.

From Robert D. "Dan" O'Brien, Olympia WA:
If you want to build yacht club membership and draw younger people into your club, you have to decide first what sort of place you want your yacht club to be. The one you belong to now probably looks like the old folks home and has more rules than 17th century convent. If you want young people you have to make membership cheap!

New classes of membership:
- STUDENT: (one who is learning to sail, any kid that wants to learn how to sail, row a boat etc. Minimum age 10) $5 per year. Membership lasts as long as the member is in some sort of class.

- JUNIOR (a direct relative of a senior member) No charge.

- CREW: Anyone who crews on a boat, teaches a class, or volunteers their time to an activity, includes their spouse/significant other and kids. $25 per year.

The new classes of membership may be restricted in some way or another, such as no charging privileges or parking in the member parking lot, no voting rights or whatever.

This will guarantee that your club will change. There will be more energy, excitement and conflict. It will be a lot more fun and a hell of lot more eye candy. Your club will be a place to go for an adventure, and not a place with a nautical decor where the old folks sit around and bitch that there are no young people around.

Just my usual “two cent rant”. I don’t have a solution, but maybe wiser souls can come up with some ideas.

The Publisher

Apr 30, 2010, 7:12 AM

Post #7 of 19 (57335 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

From Stephen Boyd, UK:
I read the article with interest expecting to find the answer to the question our Sailing Club has also been asking however, he has nearly reached the same conclusion as I have. Ours is a slightly more interesting conundrum in that there are several junior sailing programmes being run locally, all of which are prepared to take children from all walks of life. The missing generations are what Sailing Clubs lack. The children do very well up to the age of 16. From that point on the odds are against them continuing. They are either fully engaged with their studies as most parents strive for their progeny to better their own position in life, or are pursuing their first steps in the in an increasingly tough jobs market.

By their nature Sailing Clubs tend to be beside bodies of water, which are also, by their very nature desirable places to live, this has the effect of raising the housing prices accordingly. When the young people have completed their studies or their apprenticeships they then find that unless their parents have considerable disposable income or are independently wealthy that housing close to a Sailing Club is prohibitively expensive. The second factor is even if they can find accommodation within easy reach of the Sailing Club, the subscriptions are an expense additional to their living costs. As the number of young people who fill the criteria are limited, even if the Sailing Clubs offer them reduced subscription, they find a social life with an aging membership less than stimulating. In my experience the age at which former members re-surface with a Sailing Club is late 30s or early 40s. Thus the two missing generations.

Do I have the answer to the ultimate question? I don’t think so however, to make the argument as simplistic as laid out by Nicholas Hayes is to ignore all the other opportunities that are available to the new generations, many of which require no social etiquette or dress code. I have in mind the new exciting and diverse hobbies that would leave the average Sailing Club member struggling to understand the appeal. They generally have a relatively low initial cost, ample scope for up-grading and are less effected by the winds and tides, and can be performed at multiple locations. How in the face of such competition do you make Sailing and the Sailing Club attractive.

Many years ago when I was a young man, and it was many years ago, a group of the then younger members formed a junior committee at our Sailing Club. We approached the main Sailing Club Committee and asked if we might use the Sailing Club to run a disco (this shows how long ago it was!). It took several months of persuasion for them to allow us to do this, the aim being to raise funds for items for the junior section of the Sailing Club. The first disco was a huge success. We staffed it ourselves and made sure that the people who came, although not all Sailing Club members, treated the Sailing Club with respect. We asked if we might run another one. This we did and it was another huge success. The main committee then saw how much money we had made and decided we were onto a winner however, they undertook to run a disco themselves. It was an abject failure, no-one came and they lost money running it. All further attempts to run disco by the junior committee were then thwarted, and the junior committee disbanded and looked elsewhere for their entertainment.

Does this point the way forward, perhaps we should ask the age group we wish to attract how they would like to see the Sailing Club run? It’s a radical idea which would take the power away from the main Sailing Club committees, but who wants to be in charge of a sinking ship?

These are my own views, not those of any interested party, but they may just save Sailing Clubs from becoming social Clubs for the aging.

The Publisher

Apr 30, 2010, 7:28 AM

Post #8 of 19 (57333 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Here is a story of a club in Long Beach, CA that is struggling to survive:

The Long Beach City Council recently approved a motion to grant a monthly rent reduction to help the Seal Beach Yacht Club from potentially defaulting on its property due to a 40% loss in membership and subsequent revenue since 2007. A study estimated that if the Council did not approve the motion, and the Yacht Club did default and vacate the premises, the City would sustain a loss of over $110,000 in a best case scenario. The move will cost the city $47,000 over the next two years. -- Full report:


May 3, 2010, 12:46 AM

Post #9 of 19 (57237 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

My club not only suffers from having the word 'yacht' in its name, but also the word 'royal'. This creates all sorts of false perceptions about its supposed exclusivity. Nevertheless, I had been in the club for several years before I stopped being nervous when entering the bar which always contained numerous very elderly and rather off-putting founder members. Actually, they would probably have loved to chat but I am not naturally clubby and was well over sixty before I stopped feeling like a new kid on his first day at school.

Re the disposable time, disposable income thing. In the fifties many people built their own boats, perhaps because there was no television and no easy divorce and hiding in the garden shed was the only thing that made life bearable. It was also 'normal' for the wife not to have a job, hence less pressure on the male to assist with the housework. There were also lots of ex military and ex banking people around who had retired at age 55 and who had the time and administrative skills to run the club. Many had quite a lot of money to 'lend' to the club in the form of debentures.

Of the several clubs of which I have been a member, the ones that seem to work best are the ones where there is a caravan site and members come from a considerable distance and remain there for the whole weekend or holiday. This does mean, however, that the club is dead during the week and in the winter.

Another thing I have noticed is that the modern rather soulless concrete clubhouses work better than the ornate 19th century buildings often used by the 'old' yacht clubs. Everybody gets herded into the same room; the sandwiches and the bar are next to each other; the 'wet' area is probably just half of the same room but without a carpet or soft furnishings. In the older buildings the membership will split between those who are not in sailing gear and who go to the bar/dining room and those who are still 'wet' and who won't.

One weakness of the modern world is that parents won't let their kids do anything unless a rescue boat and supervision is provided. While this may be sensible at some venues, there must be many marshland or river clubs where sailing for pleasure without RIBs, coaches etc is possible. In my youth we used to blah blah blah etc etc. We couldn't afford lifejackets either.

What is often forgotten is that even in the 'old' days many yacht clubs were not financially viable and were reliant on a benefactor who may have provided the original building and maybe some boats.

George Morris


May 3, 2010, 4:39 AM

Post #10 of 19 (57215 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

I've been sailing my whole life, and have found no need to join a YACHT club. It is expensive enough to own a large boat and cough up the dockage to keep it somewhere, but to "pay for a social life" is beyond me. I LOVE SAILING....not hanging out in the pub talking about it. I have supported, organized and run many regattas and fleets and cruising flotillas (which is ABOUT sailing) with no need for a YACHT club, I let the marina owners, park or beach keep their property and we only borrow it for SAILING access. I have seen MANY sailing community clubs thrive, out of a love of sailing, not from "status-seeking" yachties. I will ALWAYS LOVE sailing and will continue to support the sport through FLEET & FLOTILLA & EDUCATION activities and know in my heart the REAL SAILORS commune OUT THERE...not at the dock!
capt.suz~ Bogue Inlet, the Carolina Coast
"a sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind"~ w.chiles

The Publisher

May 5, 2010, 6:51 AM

Post #11 of 19 (57051 views)
Re: [captsuz] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3084

From Bruce Ells:
Unfortunately for many yacht clubs, and for their members who pay the bills, there are lots of sailing crew who won’t step up and join the club where they do their sailing on other people’s boats, because they feel it’s just not worth it when they don’t own a boat or go to the club on any day other than race day. These people are reaping huge benefits and lifetime experiences in the enjoyment they get from sailboat racing, but they want other people to pay for it.

I understand it costs money to support a family and put children through college, and those are priorities over sailboat racing, but it also costs money to establish and maintain a yacht club. And it takes dedicated volunteers to run the yacht club and all its events and races. The only volunteers I’ve ever seen at the club and at the races are our dues-paying yacht club members. Along with not joining the club, and thereby helping with the cost of providing all the enjoyment non-member crew seem to want to have, many don’t want to volunteer either.

The yacht club members I know happily pay for their own fun, and they pay for a lot of other people’s fun, too. We can help grow membership by encouraging our non-member crews to be a real part of what it takes to have a race day.

From Steve Brownsea:
I understand how the initiation fees and monthly dues required to join a yacht club seem to some to be taking away from your children's collage future, but for me I believe it is an investment in my daughter’s future. The friends she has made and what she has learned through sailing is irreplaceable. It does not take too many trips to the movie theater, the mall or some dinners out to make up the monthly dues required to be a member of a club and give your children a head start in the sort of life that they can enjoy many years to come.

The Publisher

May 5, 2010, 6:52 AM

Post #12 of 19 (57050 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3085

From Dayton Colie:
This is a response to the responses regarding Nick Hayes' "What's Really Wrong with Yacht Clubs" article (in Scuttlebutt 3078). I'll start with some personal demographics. I'm a 35 year old married sailor dad with a seven year old and a two year old. I joined my yacht club recently, despite the steep initiation fees and reasonable annual dues. I live in Charleston, S.C., and waterfront access is at a premium. The venue is awesome, and I didn't mind making a few personal sacrifices to pay for it. My oldest daughter is starting to really get in to sailing, and I love having her on my boat. I'm not going to get into my personal sailing background right now, as you can Google me and find out that information.

Joining a yacht club is financially feasible for young families. I planned for the initiation fees in advance, saving a little here and there when I could. I was on the waiting list for a year and a half, so I had a goal, and that made things easier. When my name came up on the waiting list for membership, I was short due to a recent increase in dues. I looked around my house and sold things on Craigslist and Ebay that I hadn't used in a while. I quit drinking expensive coffee. I started bringing my lunch to work. My car is not fancy. I began to simplify my life and hobbies. I skipped out on gym membership, and exercise daily on my own. My club's annual dues cost less than a gym membership. Many clubs cost less. I'm currently saving for a second boat using the same habits I developed for amassing the amount of cash needed for the initiation fees.

After reading this, some people might think I'm some sort of doctor, lawyer, or engineer. I did this on the salary of a public school teacher. I became a teacher, in part, so I could sail whenever I wanted during the summer. One of my life goals as a teenage sailor was to sail more, stress less. Joining the yacht club has helped me sail more. Selling stuff I no longer use and simplifying my life enables me to stress less.

From Michael Roth:
A while ago a good friend and lifelong sailor Joe Cochran told me, “We looked around on where to live and decided we did not want our kids hanging on street corners or in malls for excitement so we moved as close as we could to the Kaneohe Yacht Club." I have taken his advice and drive my son to our yacht club at every opportunity. He has been on boats since he was 6 months old. At age 8 he has more friends there than I do, but that is to be expected as I am a Staff Commodore.

The Publisher

May 5, 2010, 4:59 PM

Post #13 of 19 (57021 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3086

* From Frederic Berg:
Let's face it, for most juniors it's cheaper to join a yacht club and sail a Laser than it is to go bowling a comparable number of times (assuming you sail once a week). For those who enjoy sailing on someone else's boat, perhaps a limited membership in the club with reduced dues and limited voting rights are an option.

A 'one size fits all' approach to membership categories can have devastating consequences, particularly when a club finds it necessary to broaden its membership base beyond the traditional sailing member to meet its financial obligations. Soon the priority of the majority drifts away from sailing to a more mundane social agenda.

I urge yacht club boards to entertain a broad spectrum of membership categories to more accurately meet its surrounding community's needs while maintaining control of the authenticity of the sailing and sailboat racing experience as it is the very nature of that authenticity that attracts members to the club in the first place.

* From Roy Cundiff:
It is so simple … and Bruce Ellis has many points that are right-on. Let’s look at the Alamitos Bay Marina in Long Beach, CA. The Marina was built in the 50s and PAID for by the users in less than eight years. The wood docks were maintained nicely for many years. But when it came time to refurbish, all the money had been siphoned off by the City for other projects. Terribly neglect has caused some law-suits, and now there is no money to rebuild what had been paid for many times over by the users.

Then there is the desire for marinas to squeeze out the small boats because they produce less revenue. A young person wanting to enter into sailing with a wife and a couple of kids might be unable to afford to keep a boat in the water because of the inflated prices charged by the City. $300 a month, for a 20 foot slip for a two thousand dollar Cal 20? Or a ten thousand dollar J 24? Most are moving to dry storage which means way less sailing.

No wonder sailing in Southern California has come to a screeching halt. They have vacated 20% of the revenue by moving tenants out while having no plan …losing BIG revenue! A private company would have had the job done years ago. Where does this insane thinking come from and where does it put potential newcomers to sailing?

The Publisher

May 6, 2010, 11:38 AM

Post #14 of 19 (56995 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

Scuttlebutt 3087

From Robert Keefe:
With all this talk about yacht clubs, it is surprising to me that there has been no mention at all of just how important alcohol and drinking is to yacht club life, and the sports of yachting and yacht racing. Until just a few years ago, almost all the big and major yacht races in the world were sponsored by yacht clubs. Now we see corporate sponsorship, but as a rule it is done in conjunction with a yacht club. Corporate Board Rooms have learned that they can use our sport to sell their "whatevers"; whether it works or not is still questionable.

Now where does the money come from within the yacht clubs to sponsor and put on a major yachting activity or race? To some degree initiation fees and dues of course, but more often than not they barely provide enough revenue to cover ongoing operations and overhead. A yacht club is golden if it has its own yacht harbor. Properly operated it will throw off cash that can be used for big time yacht racing. A yacht club may be golden if it has a hotel or at least some accommodations. But often the cost of operating a hotel more than eats up generated revenue. Most big clubs putting on big time yachting events will have a dining room. Unless they are magic, that is a big time money loser that must be supported by initiation fees and dues; no excess cash here, only a cash drain. Entry fees help, but in only a few cases cover an entire event.

So, what's left? What's left is a bar, maybe two. Keep it busy and it will generate income far exceeding the dining room losses, and provide the needed funds for important and major yachting activities. In other words, a great deal of the sport is in place because of bar room successes. Drinking has always been a part of yachting, not boating. A visit to the bar prior to getting underway and on return is just part of yacht club life.

Sailing is not like other sports. It is pretty hard to have a couple of drinks at lunchtime and a glass of wine or two, and then go out a play a really great round of golf, or a set or two of tennis. Alcohol is an embedded part of our sport. The point of this is not to promote or condone, but simply to point out that much of the sport is one way or another tied to alcohol. Not just bar revenues, but through commercial sponsors within the liqueur industry. For the most part, they have done a good job for us. Those that didn't ain't with us anymore.

Regatta Fanatic

May 11, 2010, 9:52 AM

Post #15 of 19 (56601 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

This is REALLY fascinating - I am going to study it in more detail and then probably take it to our yacht (sorry SAILING) club in St Maarten where we have noticed the same trends over the years, and are at the moment struggling with a variety of issues. I am sure your insights will be most beneficial - thank you!

The Publisher

May 27, 2010, 10:46 AM

Post #16 of 19 (56165 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

I read recently that the ‘third place’ in society is suffering. I instinctively figured that meant people were tired of not winning. Wrong! The ‘third place’ is the term for that place we go for socializing that is other than one's ‘first place’ (home) or their ‘second place’ (work). Got it?

Certainly, sailing’s ‘third place’ - the yacht club - is suffering. The attrition in the sport along with the struggling economy is giving clubs a wicked hangover. The Coconut Grove Sailing Club in Miami, FL - famous for hosting one design events in Biscayne Bay - is also faced with other problems.

The State of Florida now requires all moorings to be open to the public. The state is enforcing its sovereignty over submerged lands and opening them up to everyone is now required by law. So the Sailing Club now has to allow everyone access, not just club members.

By doing this, those with full memberships are losing one of the added values to having the membership. If the club cannot persuade enough people to become full members, it cannot survive. The cash bar service was eliminated a few years ago because under the club's charter, it is not allowed to operate as a restaurant/bar and must only be open to members.

Given the choice of ‘evolve or die’, the club has now proposed this plan:

1) Elimination of the $1,000 initiation fee.

2) Reduction in dues: the current regular members pay $700 in dues (those with and without boats pay the same) plus $245 in other assessments for a total annual cost of $945. The proposal is that all members will pay $250 annual membership dues.

3) Creation of a variable operations and maintenance fee: this allows a cost structure that recognizes that members with boats use more of the club facilities and services than those without boats (launch, fuel, hoist etc). In the past all members essentially paid the same for the operation of the club, as part of their membership dues – which were equal for all regular members. This fee will vary from $140/$60 per month for someone with a boat on a mooring to $17/month for someone who does not own, and /or does not keep a boat at the club.

4) Charging the operations fee on a monthly basis: Another barrier to entry, and continued membership, in addition to the initiation fee, was the need to pay “up front” the $945 annual cost of member dues and assessments. The operations and maintenance fee is billed monthly through the club billing system. So - for a regular member without a boat they will be billed only $17/month.

5) Allowing current social members to upgrade to regular membership at a reasonable cost: The proposal is to return to one class of regular members – at a more affordable level for members without boats. They want to retain existing social members and are therefore offering a conversion discount. The upfront cost for a conversion a social membership to a regular member under this proposal will be $137, which is just $2/year more than the current social membership annual dues of $135. (all dues are billed in July- the start of their fiscal year).

Social members who convert to regular membership under this plan will:
- Vote on all matters requiring membership votes, including the selection of officers – (social members do not have a vote)
- Parking sticker for use of the club parking lot – (social members do not receive a parking sticker)
- Monthly billing of operations and maintenance fee, and purchases at the restaurant/bar – (no more need to worry about use of credit cards)
- Use of club kayaks, sunfish, ensigns and flying scot sailboats at very, very low rates.


- Craig Leweck, Scuttlebutt


Jun 7, 2010, 7:54 AM

Post #17 of 19 (55272 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

100+ Clubs Share their Best Practices for Energizing Yacht Clubs & Sailing Programs

Last month we initiated a survey to capture what yacht clubs are doing to successfully energize and evolve their club’s programs and sailing activities. Over 100 clubs and organizations from across the United States shared their ideas and best practices for ensuring the long term health of sailing. The results revealed great optimism amidst sailing's generational challenges. It is clear from the response that clubs are passionate about these themes, and committed to the future success of their club and programs.

You can read the article here: 100+ Clubs Share their Best Practices for Energizing Yacht Clubs & Sailing Programs>>

Some Highlights and Quotes from the Survey:

More than half (61%) of clubs say the amount of time members spend enjoying sailing and boating is "About Right" at their club. And only about a third (29% of clubs) say that today their club members spend "Too Few" hours simply enjoying sailing and boating in general.
- "So much else going on, it is hard to spend all day at the club anymore." - SHYC

- "Weekend recreational sailing seems to have diminished, as has participation in club racing." - Anonymous Class Association

However, three-quarters (74%) of clubs believe that there are "Too Few" teenagers participating in sailing at their club
- "Where 10 years ago we had 20-30 kids in our weeklong training programs, now we have 6-10 kids." - Anonymous Sailing Club

- "Most teens nowadays set their own schedule, and sailing is not on their horizon. It seems to be something that old fogeys do, as far as they are concerned." - Blackbeard Sailing Club

The majority (73%) of clubs feel that "Too Few" young adults and young family members are joining their clubs.

- "Our club is getting older, and our big problem is getting younger members to join." - The Yacht Club of Hilton Head Island
- "The cost of buying and keeping a sailboat for a young family seems to be an impediment to enjoying the sport." - Caloosahatchee Marching and Chowder Society

About half (48%) of clubs say there are "Too Few" interactions among the generations of sailors and members at their club.

- "A serious problem with all clubs, we don't have an answer. We have tried a few things to do this, but none have worked yet." - The Yacht Club of Hilton Head Island
- "It seems like families sailing together is a thing of the past. Kids have their own boats and progress through them like sizes of shoes." - Ensign Class Association

You can access the full article and results of the Gowrie 2010 Yacht Club Survey here >>

As the US SAILING endorsed insurance experts behind The Burgee Program - the nation's leading insurance program for yacht clubs - Gowrie Group is always on watch for trends related to sailing and yacht clubs. The Gowrie team is comprised of yacht club members and sailors who are invested in sailing. We know that clubs across the country are exploring and implementing a range of initiatives to preserve and enhance the sailing experience in their communities and at their clubs, and we want to facilitate the sharing of these ideas. Learn more:,


Jul 5, 2017, 1:10 AM

Post #18 of 19 (33631 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

I have a similar opinion on yacht clubs. I honestly think they are a poor investment in my experience, and here's why.

When you drop your initiation fee, there is no guarantee that the Bridge will be the same group of affable people that they were when you thumped out a check for a (non-refundable) considerable portion of money. These people, as the bridge changes, can hold you hostage; knowing they are holding a considerable amount of money in non-refundable fees and that you will bend over backwards to prevent losing it.

The Bridge can also very rapidly change the tenor and social atmosphere of the Club. In my own Club, it went from a blue collar yacht club complete with a beer and ice machine for the use of members, where anyone could use the facility for any purpose they chose to, that made exceptions to the bylaws for members's personal situations, to one with no beer machine, a haughty taughty attitude, the Clubhouse is booked half the summer for "for rent" events, and the Bridge is making executive decisions far from the bylaws on matters ranging from types of payments accepted to blowing a wad of cash on completely redoing the clubhouse, even moving the kitchen from one side to the other, at great expense.

Bear in mind this is a volunteer operated club. We all have to put in 8-20 hours to join and 8 hours a year thereafter.

Selective enforcement of bylaws based on personal relationships is also very frustrating. Watching as there are 8-10 liveaboards when liveaboards are expressly prohibited and then having the letter of the law thrown out at you while the quote the bylaws over something inane is exceedingly frustrating. In my own club there are people who are 180 days late on moorage; I wrote a post-dated check and after they cleared it early and I said I'd have to send another check, they were talking about impounding my boat.


In yacht clubs there is always a ying and yang pendulum as the racing/sailing component of the club blows a bunch of money on pilot boats, racing equipment, sailing schools, which angers the powerboaters who by nature just can't or don't participate in such things. Then the powerboaters take over the bridge and push the pendulum in the other direction, aggravating anyone with a boat that can run a sail. Personally I don't race, I cruise, so I'd see more eye to eye with the powerboaters than the racers, but when on a "cleanout" rampage if you can fly a sail you are part of their problem. I'd rather have a drink on the dock than race around a bunch of markers, but blindness to reality in committee politics is rife.


I mentioned these above, but it's worth mentioning again. Initiation fees, moorage surcharges, minimum spends, none of this is refundable, even should the Bridge decide to push you out of the Club for whatever reason they desire (usually popularity contests and because they have friends that want in). That cheaper moorage might look attractive, but if something goes south and those thousands in non-refundable charges are in the lurch, it doesn't look so cheap anymore.


I know it's a Club; and not supposed to be a business. However many clubs do operate like a marina, and if you need something fixed and you don't know the right people on the Bridge, good luck. You may be spending thousands a year on moorage, putting in all your volunteer hours, be paid up in full, but good luck getting it done.

Further to "The Bridge" commentary above, my Club switched the key locks. Despite being paid in full, having POI and just wanting a key to the docks, when I called the Commodore and complained, I was given the following statement 'Well if you want to rescind your membership just let me know". Ironically someone else at the Club was in the same boat - his boat sunk that day because he couldn't check on it.


This one befuddles me. All these efforts to attract new younger members, but if someone is playing music all the old grouchos come out to complain. I don't have a huge stereo on my boat, just a couple small speakers and in testing you could barely hear it two fingers away - mid week during a slow day - and I heard nothing but gripes. I wasn't playing anything offensive, just the local radio station.

Like, you have a boat - why the hell are you even here if you're (a) not going out on your boat, and (b) can't take a little noise of someone else enjoying a night at the docks? There's a zillion other places to get silence, first and foremost by staying home.

I invited another couple to an event at the Club (tiny club too) so they could meet some local boaters in the area. Was told "members only, no they can't come". They owned the same boat as me and were moored on the government wharf less than 5 minutes walk from the Club. What a way to attract new members.


There are some perks to being a Club member. First and foremost, you do have an implied list of people to ask for help about random boating matters. This can come in handy and as long as you give what you get you will reap the rewards... that is if anyone is around because it's dominated by senior citizens who are in bed by 8 o'clock PM most days.

Moorage is also cheaper; but you need to factor in the non-refundable charges to see that you're really getting a deal. Often you aren't.

Cheaper education classes. VHF, marine safety, Clubs often offer discounted courses.


Simply put, you get what you are paying for. Pay the moorage and get the services of moorage, a slip, electricity, and the facilities they provide. No volunteer hours, no non-refundable charges, marinas compete on the quality of their facilities.

No politics. The marina wants your money, plain and simple. You sign an agreement to get X services for Y dollars. Done. You have legal recourse if they don't fulfill their end of the bargain, and they have legal recourse if you don't cough up the bucks or play by their rules, which are written.

No bridge. Need I say more? The owner is the owner and the management follows the owners' rules.


I will never join a yacht club again. I will only moor at marinas that are professionally managed.

In my own example, my boat partner died, and I was offered the lovely offer of ponying up $3,000 more in non-refundable charges (on top of the $1,500 I had already paid) to move the boat and sit on a wait list while paying someone else for the moorage. That is 2 years worth of moorage, and god knows who will be able to jump the queue and get ahead of me on their wait list.

You'd think there would be some clemency seeing as my partner (the full member) died during heart surgery to just let me top up the initiation fee in chunks and keep the slip. Nope. They filled my slip in minutes with a friend and even tried to sell my boat on me for pennies on the dollar as a "fixer upper", which it's not. When I told them the minimum price I'd let her go for, I never heard back another word.

Honestly, stick with a Marina. It's nice to have the cachet of being a Yacht Club member, but you will probably spend more of your time spinning your wheels fencing with the bridge and the "powers that be" than you enjoy boating.

I'll miss the members of my former yacht club, but I sure as hell won't miss all the BS I had to put up with to stay there.


Aug 26, 2019, 8:44 PM

Post #19 of 19 (5181 views)
Re: [The Publisher] WHAT’S REALLY WRONG WITH YACHT CLUBS [In reply to] Log-In to Post/Reply

My son is 10 years old and has been a keen sailor for the past two years, I would like him to join our local sailing club and we have tried but it is very difficult to gain membership, I fully agree with Mark Welch " this is heading our club to extinction"
soundcloud converter

Viewing the Forums: No members and guests

Search for (options) Contact Forum Forum FAQS Markup Tags Forum Rules