A beautiful waterfront and harbor such as Gig Harbor sends out a siren song that calls to the boater within, and next thing you know you are buying a boat. At least that is what happened to Gig Harbor Yacht Club Commodore Christine Neely and her husband David. The two owned a small ski boat when they were invited to attend a GHYC function in 2011. They found the club members so nice that they attended another event and then joined the club. After an afternoon on a club member’s sailboat, they were hooked.
“David came home and started looking online for boats even though we knew nothing about sailing. Club members helped us with everything once we found a sailboat. They vetted the boat and taught us everything we need to know to become sailors,” said Christine. This anecdote really describes what the Gig Harbor Yacht Club, which is celebrating its 60th year, is all about. It is a community group that loves Gig Harbor, helping the local community and being out on the water.
It all began back in the summer of 1957 when Helen and Danny Evanovich were having dinner at the old Shorline Café. According to Helen, “During a conversation with Merle, we were informed that he had been instrumental, with two previous groups, in starting a local yacht club, and both failed. Merle offered us the basement meeting room of the restaurant free of charge. He knew of my previous experience in starting two other yacht clubs and that we kept our boat in Gig Harbor, and that I was a familiar person in the boating crowd.”
And so it began. Danny and Helen worked hard all summer to promote the new club that would have its first meeting in October 1957. “One week before the designated Wednesday in October 1957, we placed ads in the Tacoma News Tribune and the Peninsula Gateway newspapers,” recalled Helen. When the big day arrived, the Evanovichs were happy that 28 people from Tacoma and Gig Harbor showed. “We immediately started forming our charter, bylaws and proper name. Walt Williamson served as our first commodore,” she said.
Over the years as the club outgrew the Shorline Café basement, it moved to a few locations until in 1991 a permanent location became available. The board purchased the old Gig Harbor firehouse on Stinson Avenue, which is now the current location of the Gig Harbor Yacht Club. Past Commodore Jim Anderson claims, “GHYC has rich traditions, and we are very proud of its history and honor all those who have and continue to take part in its voyage.”
According to Christine, “We are a fun group of power boaters, sailors and social members. We are 100-percent volunteers except for our chef. In all, we have 35 committees that oversee everything from social events, regattas, monthly cruises and maintaining our facilities. We remodeled our lobby and bathrooms all with volunteer labor.”
“The yacht club membership is fun-loving and friendly. All are welcome to become members, and you don’t even have to own a boat,” added Vice Commodore Linda Strand.
One of the more popular events the club hosts is their monthly rendezvous around the sound. Longtime member, Mark Tronca, said, “What can we say other than GHYC is an awesome social club! With or without a boat, we all enjoy visiting and telling stories of our adventures. One of the best ways to enjoy our passion is sharing them with fellow members at our Rendezvous Around the Sound. These are monthly weekend social events at different marinas from Olympia to Tacoma and Seattle to Bremerton as well as in between. The rendezvous are generally between 15 and 30 boats depending on the location; some may even come by car and hang on the dock with us. Our events range from large-group potlucks to small-group progressive dinners on and/or off the dock. Cocktail hour is always a favorite as the fish stories get really involved. So if you are new to the area and want to meet new friends or learn more about what Puget Sound has to offer—or just have boating partners to hang and journey with—we are the club to join!”
Another milestone for the club this year is the 50th anniversary of the LeMans Race which was held on Saturday, November 18, 2017. This unique race began 50 years ago with Past Commodore Dick Carlson and local boat builder Ed Hoppen sitting around Ed’s kitchen table one night and was inspired by the LeMans’ car race. This year’s event returned to the roots of the race as it was held in 1967, with a special “Founders Class” for the first start. One member of the crew for each boat rowed a dinghy out to their team which is anchored while the crew remained below deck. Once the dinghy arrived, then the crew members could get the boat underway and start the race.
“Things can still get pretty exciting as the fleet of as many as 40 boats rushes toward the 100-foot-wide mouth of Gig Harbor where it leads out onto Puget Sound,” claims Erik Carlson, Dick Carlson’s son and chair of the race.
Community service is very important to the GHYC members. Twice a year, in the fall and spring, they conduct a fundraising event or drive for a local charity. The event they are most well-known for in the local community is the annual GHYC Lighted Boat Parade. Mark, who is the cruise captain for the event, said, “The Christmas Parade annual event is very special to Gig Harbor, and Gig Harbor Yacht Club is proud to be supporting this event again! Our goal is to have at least 1,000 linear feet of decorated boats participating in the parade, ranging in size from canoes and kayaks to boats more than 60-feet long. The time, energy and heart that each captain takes in decorating their boat is an amazing sight to see. You’ll enjoy many creative decorations and even a chance to spot Santa or Rudolph.”
If you are watching from the shore, the club recommends these locations to view the parade: Skansie Brothers Park, The Maritime Pier, The Public Boat Launch Dock or one of your favorite restaurants that have a view from a table. The parade committee advises for those viewing from a dock the use of floatation devices on children as they are standing near the water’s edge in the dark. “The weather hasn’t stopped the parade in the past, but we do take particular caution if the wind is blowing constantly hard,” added Mark.
The Lighted Boat Parade will take place Saturday, December 9, at 5pm in Gig Harbor. Any and all boaters are welcome to join in the parade.
For more information, visit GigHarborYC.com. Register at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in visiting the yacht club, contact their membership chairs at email@example.com.