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Hacking SF: How To Go Yacht Clubbing Like a Pro

America's Cup be damned. Put the "fare" in "seafaring" with our some-nonsense guide to joining a Bay Area yacht club.

With the America’s Cup on the horizon, it’s a good time to consider your own aspirations on the water. But like that dream you had of buying a racecar after watching the Indiana 500, splurging on a 72-foot multi-million dollar catamaran might not be in the cards. Don’t you just hate the recession?

Joining a yacht club is your next best bet: it’s a classy move and doesn’t require owning a boat. We’ve checked out the requirements and consulted with the commodores—after all, who else are you going to take your seaward advice from, the Bluths? So here’s the breakdown of how to join the yacht club of your ritzy dreams (sea charts not included).

South Beach Yacht Club
The Crew: 500 volunteer members make this the second largest club in the city.
The Harbor: “You may know North Beach,” reads SBYC’s site, “this is South Beach. And it's not Miami.” The club’s waterfront lies along the eastern shoreline in the “lee” of the city (landlubber translation: sheltered side) where historic clipper ships once dropped anchor.
The Perks: An annual oyster festival with local wineries, Friday night races
Membership: You’ll need three current member sponsors, according to Commodore Tom Rogers, and a “demonstrated interest in boating and a commitment to volunteer.” To demonstrate that interest, why not arrive at meetings in your old Jack Sparrow Halloween costume? That’ll go over great. Initiation into the club culminates with “the telling of a light-hearted biographical anecdote” and a “humorous” presentation of the SBYC Burgee to the new member at a membership meeting. Sounds like hazing to us. Start by completing a membership application (with a $100 application fee), then pay some steep initiation dues ($750 for an individual) and finally settle into reasonable monthly rates ($45). Do you think they take doubloons?

Treasure Island Yacht Club
The Crew: Commodore Russell Breed tells us there are approximately 35 active members and a few other non-resident members. We take it the non-residents are out at sea?
The Harbor: TIYC is relatively small and located in Clipper Cove on Treasure Island in the heart of the San Francisco Bay. It was originally founded as a US Navy recreation club and maintains a naval feel.
The Perks: Club facilities include a clubhouse with a full wet bar, a BBQ, and of course, a dock. Frequent theme dinners include a chili cook off, pirate burger night, and crab boil.
Membership: Though there’s typically an application fee, Breed tells us they’re waiving it if people pay the first 6 months of dues up front, a reasonable $180. “We encourage people to come to the club when we have activities going on, because it’s a good meeting opportunity to see if it’s a fit, and for us, if it’s mutual.” Joining a Yacht Club is beginning to sounds a lot like dating: is there an app for this? Go to the summer Sailstice, “a great opportunity for that” and also a chance to check out their pig roast.

Oakland Yacht Club
The Crew: Over 300 members from the Bay Area make up this 100-year-old club.
The Harbor: Technically located on Alameda Island, the OYC is one of the few clubs in San Francisco Bay to own its own marina.
The Perks: Plenty of “galley” cooked dinners (that’s pirate parlance for kitchen), lots of races, Wednesday happy hours, and, according to Harbor Master Fred Doering, lots of cruise outs, “which is where 10 or 20 of our members go out on boats and cruise to other clubs.”
Membership: The OYC seems eager to welcome new members. There’s an initiation fee of $500 and dues are $95 a month. “I would say it’s fairly easy to join,” says Doering, “we do require you to know two members, and if you don’t know them, we’ll introduce you to some who can get to know you and then decide to sponsor you. Then there’s a formal interview and it’s up to the board.” Last, Doering offers to take applicants out on the water as part of their induction. So what are you waiting for, the recovery bubble to burst?

DIYacht Club
The Crew: You and your friends in nautical themed pashmina afghans.
The Harbor: Ocean Beach, where you can launch your castaway-style "yacht" built from debris, or Stowe Lake, at the paddle boat launch.
The Perks: You save money on expensive yacht club champagne by bringing your own rum, and why not start calling yourself a commodore? That'll look good on your resumé.
Membership: Must look excellent in swimwear, so membership is highly exclusive—unless you start charging dues to save up for a real yacht club membership, then it's wide open.

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