Local yacht clubs continue East Coast tradition

Yacht club opening day parade participating vessel Sol Mate and its crew stop for a photo Saturday. Photo: Barbara Merriman
Yacht club opening day parade participating vessel Sol Mate and its crew stop for a photo Saturday. Photo: Barbara Merriman

By Barbara Merriman

Dana Point and Dana West yacht clubs held their annual “Opening Day” ceremonies and parties this past Saturday, May 17. But, this tradition is somewhat misleading because on this coast yacht clubs never close, so it’s really an excuse to wear yachting attire and have a party.

Starting off this festive day was a boat parade, with some of the vessels “dressed” with code flags in the proper order. Crews onboard were also dressed in traditional yachting attire—blue blazers and white pants or skirts. Usually, the women wear the skirts.

Non-traditional boats and their crews were decked out in casual island clothing with surfboards, leis and palm trees aboard, supporting the theme “Have a Hobie Day,” in memory of Hobie Alter— a surf industry revolutionary and longtime member of Dana Point Yacht Club.

The parade made up of yachts from both clubs, moved throughout the Dana Point Harbor to the cheers of spectators, and then passed the review boats from DPYC and DWYC, where the yachts are acknowledged by a snappy salute from the staff commodores. Back at the clubs, champagne was poured to help those watching the parade enjoy the spirit as much as the parade participants.

Barbara Merriman. File photo
Barbara Merriman. File photo

Then the nation’s military was recognized as the ramrod straight color guard from Camp Pendleton advanced the colors and the audience stood at attention, proudly reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Annabel Martinez, a music student from Cal State Fullerton, beautifully sang our national anthem. After a traditional invocation, recognition was given to all members who have served in the five branches of the military.

The somber “eight bell ceremony” then rang out the bells, signifying the end of the watch for our members who have sailed to their final destination. Recognition was given to visiting officers from clubs and associations who were present. Sailors who have distinguished themselves in races the past year, particularly the Newport-Ensenada race were also acknowledged.

Once the port captain declared the harbor was free of ice, with the exception of what is in the kitchen freezers, the ceremony concluded and there was a brisk dash for the bar and the buffet.

Why do we do this? It’s a tradition that started in New England, because the clubs were closed during the winter. Boats were hauled, fluids emptied and docks hauled out of the water to prevent damage from freezing. Out here, clubs never close because we don’t have weather conditions that warrant it.

However, California clubs begin “opening” in February. Our officers here in Dana Point attend dozens of opening days, which takes up one or both days of their weekends for four months. One nice advantage is that these officers, both men and women, have the chance to meet their counterparts at other clubs and develop friendships and often glean new ideas.

To learn more about both yacht clubs, visit their booths at the Dana Point Harbor Boat Show, which runs from Thursday, May 29 through Sunday, June 1. The yacht clubs will host an “open house” over the weekend, and there will be a water taxi between DPYC and the boat show.

Come and see what these traditions are all about.

Barbara Merriman is a former public school music teacher with a love for outdoor sports, primarily sailing and golf. She keeps a sailboat at Dana Point Harbor, has a passion for protecting the environment and serves on the Board of Directors at the Ocean Institute.

In an effort to provide our readers with a wide variety of opinions from our community, the DP Times provides Guest Opinion opportunities in which selected columnists’ opinions are shared. The opinions expressed in these columns are entirely those of the columnist alone and do not reflect those of the DP Times or Picket Fence Media. If you would like to respond to this column, please email us at editorial@danapointtimes.com.

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