It should come as no surprise that a place known as the Harbour City has a thriving yacht club.
The Nanaimo Yacht Club celebrates its 80th anniversary in the community this year.
But vice-commodore Bob Bollinger said the involvement of Nanaimo residents in boating activities goes back much further than that.
The Queen’s Cup, the first official racing trophy in B.C., was won by Nanaimo Hudson’s Bay Company mine manager Charles Samuel Nicol in his boat Kelpie Nanaimo VI in 1862.
In 1931, a group of Nanaimo businessmen met in the waiting room of an undertaking parlour to establish the club, with Jack McGregor as its first commodore.
At first, the group rented a boathouse about where the Port Theatre now sits.
The first clubhouse at the current site on Newcastle Avenue was built in 1934 – financed through $5 non-interest-bearing loan shares, which were bought or paid for by labour on the building of the clubhouse at a rate of 30 cents/hour.
Commodore Basil Hobbs said what’s unique about NYC is this kind of involvement from its members.
“It wasn’t a club of wealthy people,” he said, adding that the first commodore never owned a boat – he just enjoyed the people involved.
As Nanaimo has grown over the years, so has the Nanaimo Yacht Club.
“It started with about 30 members,” said Bollinger. “Present day we have 650 member families.”
Over the years, the club held various cruiser and powerboat races and the docks and clubhouse grounds have slowly been developed and expanded.
The current – and larger – clubhouse was constructed in 1977, providing members with more space to host events and visitors.
Bollinger said today the club is a self-sustaining group that organizes numerous events each year for its members and the community.
People don’t have to own a boat to be a member.
“The only qualification is you have to be a good standing citizen in the community,” said Bollinger. “And they must live within 10 nautical miles of the clubhouse.”
This covers an area from about Nanoose to the Nanaimo Airport.
Benefits of becoming a member are moorage if it’s available – right now all 350 slots are taken and there is a wait list – use of the clubhouse facilities, and – most importantly – opportunities to meet like minded people who share a passion for being on the water, said Bollinger.
The club also has reciprocal agreements with dozens of other clubs from all over the Pacific northwest, which means people from other clubs frequently make use of NYC facilities and vice versa.
Bollinger said more than 1,000 boats moor at the club’s visitor slots each year and the clubhouse has showers and laundry facilities to accommodate these people.
“It is a destination, particularly with people heading north, heading across the strait,” said Bollinger. “People hang out here for several days, waiting for the right winds. They bring their golf clubs and their bikes.”
The club hosts a range of events each year, including an Easter egg hunt for kids – either on Newcastle Island or the clubhouse grounds, weather permitting – and the annual Sailpast, where boats parade through Nanaimo harbour decorated in naval flags, the commodore stands on the deck of his boat and salutes people as they pass, then everyone returns for a barbecue at the clubhouse.
The annual Snake Island – Nanaimo race on the Canada Day long weekend attracts about 400 sailors, said Hobbs, and the Christmas Light Cruise gives local boaters the excuse to go for a winter cruise.
The club also participates in inter-club events like the corn roast at Telegraph Cove each summer.
On top of organizing events that allow boaters to cruise and socialize together, teaching people to sail and reinforcing safe boating practices is an important part of the club’s mandate.
Every year, the club takes its sailboats to Long Lake to give youth a free introduction to sailing lesson.
More than 100 youth learn to sail in the summer sailing program each year, said Bollinger, and a contractor provides lessons for adults as well.
“This is a really good harbour for learning because there’s always a prevailing wind,” said Bollinger.
He said the club also allows the Canadian Power and Sail Squadrons use of its facilities for training purposes.
The success of the Nanaimo Yacht Club brings visitors to the city and helps residents participate in a wholesome outdoor activity, said Hobbs.
“We’re becoming known as the boating capital of the province,” he said. “We have a very fine facility for people to visit and they come in by droves. The nice part about Nanaimo is it’s always a safe harbour to come back to.”
Sider: 80th anniversary celebration
Nanaimo Yacht Club members want the public to come celebrate 80 years of cruising around the Harbour City with them.
A birthday party takes place Saturday (June 18) at the clubhouse, 400 Newcastle Ave., from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The NYC exhibit that is currently on display at the Nanaimo Museum will be on site, said Bob Bollinger, vice commodore, and people can view the Nanaimo Coast Guard Auxiliary’s new rescue vessel, listen to a jazz band and children can learn about safety on the water from Bobbie the Safety Boat.
Mrs Riches Restaurant is catering the event.
Bollinger said the clubhouse will also be a good place to watch sailboats competing in the Van Isle 360 return to Nanaimo Harbour throughout the day Saturday.
2011 Calendar of Events
April 24: Easter Egg Hunt
May 1: Sailpast Sunday
May 28-29: Sail Training Event on Long Lake
June 10-11: Silva Bay Dinner Cruise
June 18: 80th Anniversary/Parking Lot Party
July 1: SIN (Snake Island – Nanaimo) Dock Party
July 1-3: SIN Regatta Weekend
July 24-25: Bathtub Festival Weekend
August 12-14: Special Cruising Event
September 2-4: Interclub Corn Roast
September 17-18: Newcastle Island Rendezvous
October 22: Fall Wine and Cheese
October 29-30: Vessel Safety Inspections
November 5-6: Vessel Safety Inspections
November 12: Commodore’s Ball
December 3: Christmas Light Cruise
December 4: Children’s Christmas Party