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A Little Bit of History: From the Beginning

By S/C Betty Gray

In our last Now Hear This, we discussed the 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 from a group of boaters 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 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 to be notified when a cruise was 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.

In 1963 the Club membership was up to 80 and during the administration of Commodore Bert Emberton, in 1965, BYC reached the magic number of 100 active members and Bert obtained our liquor license. In the mid '60s, architect Jim Lucas, 1968 Commodore, 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. 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.

The Club hired our first Manager (caretaker) in 1978, Ruth Brooke. Before 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 hired bartenders for events. The Treasurer made deposits from the register, billing members and paying bills. The Secretary put out the Now Hear This. Regular membership was in the range of 200.

Not much has changed in 84 years. Berkeley still is a place where sailors and boaters can come and share stories at the bar. We may not be as formal as our “fore-fathers” but we still hold true the purpose of Berkeley Yacht Club. See you all on May 20 as we honor Berkeley Yacht Club’s members that have continued to serve and stay true to the club’s purpose.

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

  • To foster, encourage and further the sport of yachting. To promote and manage an Annual Berkeley Regatta.

  • To acquire and maintain a suitable clubhouse.

  • To sponsor the teaching of the science of navigation and the art of handling and sailing yachts and other vessels.

  • To promote the social interests and pleasures of its members.

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