As recorded in the July 23, 1891, Anacortes American more than 100 years ago, the Anacortes Yacht Club was "instituted Saturday evening (14 July1891) at the room of Mr. R. Barnes on P Avenue. Considerable enthusiasm was manifested over the organization of the club." This was the same year that Anacortes became an incorporated city. The area's population was booming and interest in sailboat racing had increased as citizens found more time for recreation.
That evening J.P. Nelson became the first elected Commodore. Also elected were a Vice Commodore, Secretary, Treasurer and Measurer, and three other Board of Trustees members. House, Membership, Regatta, Finance and Rules Committees also were appointed. Later that summer the yacht St. John capsized in the Guemes Channel and it was decided that "it is not a good idea to cleat down the foresail of a sloop."
On September 10th the Anacortes and Fairhaven Yacht Clubs had a rendezvous at Eliza Island. The race was cancelled for lack of wind, but there was good attendance at the dance held on the island at Canfield's Hall! Yachts from Anacortes, Bellingham Bay, Victoria, Vancouver, Tacoma, Port Townsend and Seattle actively participated in various regattas and celebrations for the next 20 years. On August 21, 1892, the Club became a charter member of the Northwestern International Yachting Association (NIYA) formed during an annual regatta hosted by the Fairhaven Yacht Club.
Amos Bowman, the founder of Anacortes, was a member of the Yacht Club's house Committee in 1892, and he generously offered the use of an acre of land on Hat Island and a house in town for Yacht Club purposes. Twenty-two yachts, four of which were from Anacortes, completed at the Queen's Regatta in Victoria in May, 1892. The Anacortes yachts, American and Ariel took 2nd and 3rd places. Unfortunately there was a casualty when Captain Anderson fell off the yacht Oddfellow and drowned.
On October 3, 1892, twenty-seven yachts attended the first NIYA Regatta held in Seattle, and four Anacortes vessels participated. Unfortunately, none of the scheduled races were finished due to 5 days of calm weather, but some skippers stayed long enough to hold an informal race in which the winner lost a mast and capsized just after crossing the finish line in blustery winds!
Racing boats were classified as either schooners, cabin sloops, open boats over 25 feet or open boats under 25 feet. Rating was determined by the waterline length plus half the overhangs fore and aft with no restrictions on sail area. Most yachts were heavier than the so-called "skimming dishes" which won when wind conditions were anything other than near-gale force. There was cheering from many vessels when a heavy finishing boat (with a non-reefed sail) charged through the racing fleet at the 1893 NIYA Regatta in Port Townsend to win as other lighter competitors were capsizing. Unfortunately, the boat was disqualified since none of the crewmembers were yacht club members!
When Anacortes was not chosen as a railroad terminus, the city experienced an economic slump. Then, according to the September, 1909 edition of the Pacific Motor Boat, "After a lapse of seventeen years the Anacortes Yacht Club has been rejuvenated. . . A committee was appointed . . . to draft by-laws and membership rules and report at the next meeting. . . There are in the neighborhood of 208 power boats claiming this city as their home port, so the membership of the club is expected to be a large one." By that year, NIYA had incorporated motor-boat racing into the regattas with the first international powerboat race being from Tacoma to Victoria where the winner averaged 10 mph. Motor boats had become popular and boat owners also enjoyed predicted log races.
World War I brought a halt to organized regattas and the NIYA dissolved. But in May, 1920, at Victoria, Canadians and Americans founded the Pacific International Yacht Association (PIYA) and boating competition once again became popular. In 1949, the May 19th edition of the Anacortes American reported "The Anacortes Yacht Club got off to a flying start last Friday night (Friday the 13th!) with a dinner party attended by over 100 persons. A contingent from the Bellingham Yacht Club came down for the festivities and the commodore of that club introduced the new officers and various members of the Anacortes club." The Club burgee was displayed and the Club charter was read with 53 people signing up as charter members. "Considering the circumstances it seems a safe bet to say the club is assured of ultimate success."
After 1949, the Anacortes Yacht Club managed to find a meeting room in the Cap Sante Boat Haven and for a few years had an annual October banquet and race in Bellingham with the Bellingham Yacht Club. AYC sponsored the Anacortes Outboard Association, held dinghy races, and the fleet would pass in review each year in the Anacortes Mariners Pageant. In 1979, the Anacortes Yacht Club was incorporated as a non-profit organization. It has helped support Interclub, and helped raise money to buy Sucia Island, which was then donated to the State Parks Department.
One of the great highpoints for the Anacortes Yacht Club occurred in July, 1991, when the AYC celebrated its 100th anniversary by moving into its new accommodations at the north basin of Cap Sante Boat Haven. This facility was funded by share sales to club members. In 1992 adjacent property was purchased to accommodate the club's future growth.
In the late 1990's and 2000's the club experience growth in membership and activities. The Board of Director's formed a building committee to add a restroom and finish the interior downstairs to handle the overflow. The downstairs room known as the "Multi-purpose Room" was completed giving the membership a most inviting room, complete with fireplace and wonderful atmosphere for visiting, meeting and gatherings.
Anacortes Yacht Club members have varied social interests and there is a full schedule of year-round sailboat races, cruises, and social get-togethers. A variety of races are held from February through November and many members participate in regattas held throughout the Pacific Northwest, including Victoria, Vancouver, Seattle, and various other locations. Two major regattas, the AYC Tulip Regatta and the AYC Windermere Regatta, are held each spring in Anacortes, and there are other invitational races. Each year, at least one race is scheduled with the Bellingham and Corinthian Yacht Clubs and many AYC members are active in other Northwest races and regattas. Many members enjoy the cruising program, which includes day-trips and weekend cruises to the nearby San Juan Islands, as well as longer cruises with destinations as distant as Barkley and Desolation Sounds. Social events also include salmon barbecues, crab dinners, chili cook-offs and monthly dinner meetings.
See also Memory Lane on this site.