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85 Years Ago Berkeley Yacht Club was Formed

APRIL 12, 1939

In the last Now Hear This, I shared the story of our Club’s first dinner meeting. Do you remember where and when the first dinner meeting was held? It was on June 1, 1939 at the Claremont Hotel and over 75 members and families, local notables, City Officials and representatives from other yacht clubs were in attendance.

The Club was formed by a group of boaters whose boats were berthed in the new Berkeley Yacht Harbor. The group raised $1000 and the City of Berkeley provided $2500 to build a Yacht Club. The first board meeting was held at Drake’s Restaurant on April 12, 1939 with Commodore B.H. Crockeron, VC Frank Probert, RC Weldon Nichols, and Directors Ralph Hoyt, Dr. T.O. Lake and Glenn Waterhouse, Secretary/Treasurer Lex Jensen. So here is a little history about the Berkeley Yacht Club.

The first clubhouse was dedicated at its present site on March 29, 1940. Initial membership was limited to 50, anticipating the limited size of the clubhouse. The clubhouse was a two-story Cape Cod structure and the City furnished two flat roofed existing structures which connected to the main building.The flat roofed section to the east contained a small galley. When the clubhouse was completed on June 1, 1940 the Club was solvent, bills were all paid, and rent was paid five years in advance.The lease required BYC to join PICYA, YRA, SBRA and NCPCA; we had to sponsor boating safety and USCGA flotilla #26. Between 1942-1945 areas were off limits for pleasure boats and the Coast Guard had be notified when cruise planned.

Glen Waterhouse, Secretary/Treasurer said, “The whole idea behind establishing a yacht club in Berkeley was to provide an organization and clubhouse where dedicated sailors and boaters could gather and enjoy comfortable surroundings after a wider day on the bay and swap their ’sea stories.’ Most yacht clubs at the time were very formal, and most yacht club members were not particularly fond of getting cold and wet on the bay.”

The boating fraternity was very formal in those days and it wasn’t until Berkeley Yacht Club was formed that real “sailors” had their own club.

By 1963, the Club membership was up to 80. During the administration of Commodore Bert Emberton in 1965 BYC reached the magic number of 100 active members and Bert obtained our first liquor license.

In the mid 60’s Architect Jim Lucas, Commodore in 1968, designed our club building to conform to marina standards starting with the bar/lounge area on the west side. This was completed in 1967 under Commodore Rollo Wheeler, who we still honor today with the Rollo Wheeler Regatta every year.

In 1972, the new dining room and galley on the east side of the Cape Cod clubhouse was started and finished in 1975 by the hard work of four commodores and staff. In 1977 under Commodore Lloyd Tosse, the final phase of construction took place and $120,000.00 raised by members paid off by 1982. The old Cape Cod cottage was demolished, and a new two-story center section was completed in 1979.

Our First Club Manager/Caretaker was Ruth Brooke, hired in 1978. Prior to that the Commodore handled club rentals, catering, dinner meetings and regular duties. The Vice Commodore handled all the bar activities, ordered and inventoried the liquor and found bartenders for events. The Treasurer made deposits from the register, billed members and settled accounts. The Secretary published the NHT. Regular membership was in the range of 200 at that time.

Little has changed in 85 years. BYC is still a place where sailors and boaters can come and share stories at the bar. We may not be as formal as our “forefathers” but we still hold true the purpose of Berkeley Yacht Club.

Note from our bylaws: The purposes for which this Corporation is organized are as follows:

a. To foster, encourage and further the sport of yachting.

b. To promote and manage an Annual Berkeley Regatta.c. To acquire and maintain a suitable clubhouse.

d. To sponsor the teaching of the science of navigation and the art of handling and sailing yachts and other vessels.e. To promote the social interests and pleasures of its members.

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