Is joining a yacht club in your future plans? You love being on the water, so you bought a boat. Now that you are a proud boat owner, you want to take a cruise or maybe race in your new boat. A yacht club membership will let you do all that, plus you’ll meet people with similar interests. But are boating clubs worth it and worth the money?
Are yacht clubs worth it? When you find the right fit, yacht clubs are worth the investment of both time and money. In addition to racing and cruising, when you join a yacht club, you can enjoy the camaraderie of experienced yacht owners who can help get you started on your new adventures.
Yacht clubs have a reputation for being expensive and very exclusive. While some yacht clubs are very formal and do still only cater to the extraordinarily rich, the face of today’s yacht club is changing. Not everyone has to be Thurston Howell III from Gilligan’s Island, to join a yacht club. Let’s see why yacht clubs are worth it and why anyone would want to join.
What is a Yacht Club?
Let’s start with the basics and look at the different types of boat clubs and what distinguishes them.
- Sailing Club or Sailing organization
- Boat Club
- Yacht Club
The term “Sailing Club” and “Yacht Club” are sometimes used interchangeably. For this article, we are going to define a sailing club or organization and a yacht club as distinctive and separate types of clubs.
A Sailing Club or sailing organization is focused on:
- sailing activities
- sailboats or dinghies only. No powerboats.
Some sailing clubs offer sailboat or dinghy rentals. Also, some sailing clubs or organizations are community-based and offer activities for everyone in the neighborhood and require less expensive memberships.
- You don’t always need to own a sailboat to be a member.
- Sailing clubs or organizations are usually cheaper and have less restrictive memberships than yacht clubs.
- Sailing clubs or organizations are usually smaller and offer fewer amenities.
In a boat club, the marina owns the whole fleet of boats. The range of boats in the fleet usually includes several types and sizes. A boat club can offer you whatever type of boat you may need for your adventure. If you need a fishing boat, they have it. If you want to try your hand at racing, they have you covered. If you want to spend the day cruising with friends and family, hop on-board.
While membership requirements and costs may differ from boat club to boat club, essentially, you pay an initial joining fee and then an annual or monthly fee. The boat club takes care of the rest including maintenance and insurance. You can go sailing one day and then fishing the next. Just make sure you refill the gas tank.
- You don’t own a boat but have access to many.
- Most memberships have reciprocity which allows you the same access to other boat clubs’ fleet of boats.
- You don’t have to worry about insurance or maintenance.
- Some boat clubs offer training and social events.
- You have to make reservations and sometimes you may find the boat you want is not available.
- You don’t own the boat, so you are not able to make changes or customize it to your taste.
A yacht is generally a longer length boat that is used for recreational purposes like:
Yacht clubs today are no longer the exclusive domain of the super-rich. Yacht clubs can specialize in many different types of activities such as sailing, racing, cruising, but also training for youth.
A more expensive yacht club is usually a location that has much more than just a marina. Most older yacht clubs may have facilities available only for members such as:
- tennis courts
- restaurants and dining halls
- rental halls
Depending on what features you are looking for, there is probably a yacht club that fits what you want and can afford. Some yacht clubs are much like a country club with an added marina. With a yacht club, you have the best options and amenities.
Why Join a Yacht Club?
Joining a yacht club can be a great benefit for you whether you own a yacht or not. However, if you own a boat, a yacht club lets you keep your boat there and take it out when you want. A yacht club has so many membership benefits. It is easy to see why people all over the world think yacht clubs are worth it and want to join.
A yacht club is not only a place for likeminded boat owners to get together to meet and socialize, but by joining a yacht club, you have the advantage of many other benefits. These include:
- Networking and Social Activities
- Reciprocity at Other Marinas and Yacht Clubs
- Group Cruises and Individual Cruising
- Education and Youth Programs
1. Networking and Social Activities
One of the top reasons for joining a yacht club is the camaraderie and social activities. A yacht club is the perfect place to meet fellow boat owners that have some of the same interests as you.
- Talk to your fellow boaters about their experiences and listen to their stories.
- Get ideas of where to go and how to get there.
- Enjoy parties and
- Celebrate holidays, weddings, family gatherings.
- Plan your weekends around activities at the yacht club.
- Play tennis
- Eat at a nice restaurant
- Work out
- Take a swim
Most yacht clubs offer the ability to dock in other yacht clubs, sailing clubs, and marinas. During your visit, this reciprocity benefit often gives you the same access to another yacht club’s marina and facilities that you would enjoy at your home club. Travel the country or the world and feel at home in any port. Some yacht clubs extend their membership privileges to golf resorts and other services as well.
3. Group Cruises and Individual Cruising
Some people love to travel. With membership in a yacht club, you can plan a group cruise with friends and other yacht club members. At a yacht club, a group cruise allows you to plan your trip and travel with your fellow members to new or familiar destinations.
Because you are a member of a yacht club, you may have the option of cruising on a friend’s boat or borrowing one from the yacht club marina. Some yacht clubs offer shorter, more local trips, while some yacht clubs offer longer cruises or even international journeys.
At some yacht clubs, you may find some cruises are centered around activities such as fishing or visiting other places. Because most cruising yachts are bigger and slower than boats designed for racing, they are the perfect way to get to your destination in a relaxed, easy style.
4. Education and Youth Programs
Both yacht clubs and sailing associations offer training on sailing and other boating related topics. Depending on the yacht club and its facilities, a yacht club may be able to offer more options for its members and their children and grandchildren. Also, some yacht clubs tend to have more longtime and legacy members who can mentor others.
Racing is one of the top reasons people join a yacht club. While most yacht clubs offer racing all summer, some are more serious about their competitions.
If you want to get started in racing, you need to know that races are organized in several ways.
- Boat Class
- Boat Size
- Race Type
Your yacht club can give you more details about races and how you can participate.
You have your yacht, but now you need somewhere to store it when you aren’t sailing.
You want to look for a slip that has the following features:
- Easily accessible by water and car
- Access to power
- Access to water
- Possible sewage connections
If your yacht is big, you need to know that the yacht club marina can handle it. Some yacht clubs offer dry dock storage for bigger boats.
How Much Does it Cost to be in a Yacht Club?
You may think joining a yacht club requires a lot of money. While that may be so with some of the older, more exclusive clubs, there are yacht club membership options for all levels of income. Fees vary from yacht club to yacht club. Let’s look at what costs go into being a member of a yacht club.
- Location, Location
- Initial Joining Costs
- Monthly or Annual Fees
- Mandatory Restaurant Meals
- Dock maintenance
- Paper Clubs
- Sometimes It’s who you know
Not surprisingly, where the yacht club is based plays a lot into its costs. You would expect a yacht club based in the Hamptons to be more expensive than one based in Hampton, Virginia. If you live in or want to live in a more expensive area, you should plan to pay more.
Initial Joining Costs
Some yacht clubs require you to have $6000 or more for your initial joining costs. Others have joining costs of less than $100. What you pay upfront will depend on the amenities and privileges offered by the yacht club. Also, it is good to note that older, more established yacht clubs will probably be harder to join and charge higher rates.
Monthly or Annual Fees
Again, monthly and annual membership fees vary from yacht club to yacht club. Some yacht clubs don’t publish their monthly costs or initial joining fees and only reveal them on a need to know basis. Expect a normal average monthly cost anywhere from $35 to $500 or more just for the individual membership. Annual costs can vary anywhere from less than $100 to over $6000. Adding a spouse or a child could add to the costs.
Mandatory Restaurant Meals
It costs a lot of money to cook all that good food and serve it in that gorgeous restaurant or café. As a result, some yacht clubs require that you spend a minimum amount of food consumption per month to recover their food and employee costs.
Before you sign your membership contract, look into any fees you may be expected to pay.
Look for the following costs:
These may be included in the cost, but it’s good to know how much you are paying.
While we have described traditional yacht clubs that have their own buildings and grounds, there is another, cheaper, option available in some places. A paper yacht club is a club that doesn’t have a physical home. Instead, they borrow brick and mortar facilities.
Because they don’t have a physical location, they don’t have access to the grounds and recreational activities. As a result, membership is very inexpensive, sometimes as low as $35 a year.
Some members of yacht clubs with physical addresses think of paper club members as freeloaders. However, many of the races paper club members participate in, those same paper club members have helped organize.
If you don’t have the disposable income needed for some of the bigger yacht clubs, and you don’t mind not having access to social activities, you might want to consider membership in a paper yacht club.
Sometimes It’s Who You know
To join some yacht clubs, you may need a sponsor, or sometimes two or three sponsors. If the club wants you badly enough, they may offer a reduction of fees or waive them all together.
This scenario sometimes applies if you excel in racing. Many yacht clubs rely on their reputation in the racing world. If you are a good racer, the yacht club may offer incentives to join.
Many yacht clubs want to increase their younger membership and may offer youth or junior discounts.
And of course, several yacht clubs offer the normal discounts for seniors and spouses.
Questions to Ask Before You Join a Yacht Club
There is a lot to consider when you start to think about joining a yacht club. Once you think you have made your mind up, there are a few more questions to ask and things to think about.
- Is There a Waiting List?
- How Formal is the Yacht Club?
- Are there Enough Slips Available?
- Is the Location Convenient to You?
- Do Non-Boat Owners Have the Same Responsibilities?
- Are There Any Hidden Costs?
1. Is There a Waiting List?
Most clubs don’t have a waiting list to join, or the waiting time is only a few months. Other more exclusive yacht clubs don’t feel the urgency to add new members and have a waiting list for as long as six years or more. Before you get your heart set on becoming a member of a particular yacht club, check to see if there is a waiting list to apply or a wait time to be accepted.
2. How Formal is the Yacht Club?
While the current trend is towards a more casual environment, some yacht clubs are a throwback to a more formal time. Members may be required to wear a yacht club blazer (usually blue) and stick to a strict dress code for every day. A collared shirt or polo shirt with khakis is the expected uniform. More formal events will of course require more formal attire.
3. Are there Enough Slips Available?
You want your boat to have a home. You should ask how many slips are available for how many members. Don’t forget reciprocity. Are these numbers taken into consideration for the count? Do the available slips have the same available options such as water and electricity?
4. Is the Location Convenient to You?
You have a big beautiful boat and you want to be able to use it when you want. Keep distance in mind when looking at potential yacht clubs. If the drive to your yacht club is too far away, you may not be able to participate in all the social events or take advantage of the privileges your new yacht club membership has to offer.
5. Do Non-Boat Owners Have the Same Responsibilities?
At most yacht clubs, not all yacht club members need to own a boat to join. You might want to ask if these members are required to pay for club activities like cleaning and maintaining the yacht club fleet.
6. Are There Any Hidden Costs?
Using this list as a starting point should help you discover the major costs involved in joining a yacht club. But it never hurts to ask what else is included, or not included, in the costs. You don’t want any surprises when you get the first bill.
By joining a yacht club you are joining a long history of boat owners and enthusiasts. The first official yacht club was established in St. Petersburg by Peter the Great in 1718. The oldest yacht club in the United States was the Detroit Boat Club founded in 1839 in Detroit, Michigan.
If you are passionate about your yacht, a yacht club membership has a lot to offer. A yacht club membership can offer you more than just a place to park your boat. It can be a place to socialize and learn from other boaters. You can join races and go on a cruise with friends. For the right people, the right yacht club is well worth it.