The Morro Mooring

We were interlopers, seeking to join a flock not so that we could join their social order, but so that we could fly their burgee and reap the benefits of affiliation. What was I thinking?

Del Viento- Morro Bay

Windy sailing the Portland Pudgy through the mooring field in front of Morro Rock. At only 581 feet, it may be an unfair comparison, but I think of this as the Gibraltar of the West Coast.Michael Robertson

When we sailed into Morro Bay, the anchorage was crowded and shallow. We need to haul out and install our transducer before our new depth sounder is working, so I wasn’t comfortable trying to shoehorn a spot for us. Combine that with tidal currents that rival the La Paz waltz, and our best option was the Morro Bay Yacht Club dock or moorings.

Yikes! A yacht club?! I concede a prejudice based on Hollywood stereotypes: snooty members in a sea of white pants and silly captain’s hats. Remember Ted Knight in Caddyshack? That’s as close to a yacht club as I’ve been. On the docks, I’ve heard the oft-repeated assertion that yacht clubs are for people who spend more time socializing than boating. And I know that most of these characterizations are outdated and ridiculous, but still.

I tried hailing them on the VHF.

“It’s a volunteer club, usually hard to reach anyone on the radio, just tie up to their dock if there’s room or pick up one of the moorings in front of the club.” We thanked the Harbor Patrol officer and Windy leaned over the bow to thread the needle on an MBYC mooring with our snubber line.

For the next two days, we wandered ashore looking for someone representing the club who could tell us how much we owed for use of the mooring and whether we could use the club’s showers. By day three, I found the sign-in sheet, list of rates, and dropped my check in the slot. Still unbathed, I ran into Lynn coming off her large wooden, John Alden-designed schooner. A huge smile broke across her weathered face, “Can I help you?” She was dressed like a cruiser.

Without even a glance at our I.D., USCG documentation, or proof of insurance, Lynn gave us one of the warmest welcomes we’ve received to date and showed us where all of the facilities are and handed us a key. Bathrooms, showers, laundry, and a dinghy dock were at our disposal. The cost for our mooring and the services? Just $15 a day.

“And don’t forget tonight is burger night!”

Indeed. The club fired up the barbecue on their patio and opened up their bar and clubhouse. Veggie burgers, vegan burgers, salmon burgers, and hamburgers were all offered with various salads and ice cream for $6. Dress was casual and everyone was friendly and helpful.

“This is a cruiser’s paradise,” I said to Windy. “We should look into joining this yacht club; it probably isn’t that expensive.”

“What?”

I reminded her that since starting our voyage, and especially since we began our trek north, several cruisers have touted the primary benefit of their yacht club memberships: reciprocal privileges. When cruising where yacht clubs are prevalent, this is a handy benefit indeed as it allows a member to tie up for a few nights, without cost, in front of other yacht clubs they come across.

I thought back to San Diego, how a yacht club membership would have saved us the $78 we spent for two nights at the police dock. In Dana Point, we could have avoided the dinghy debacle and saved the $200 impound fee we paid to the sheriff. In Marina del Rey, we’d have saved $40 a night and Windy would not have had to scoot past nefarious characters in the park on her way to the shower.

I imagined all of the use we could get out of reciprocal privileges in the Bay Area. "I’m going to look into it,” I said to Windy.

And I did.

"Membership in the Morro Bay Yacht Club is easy and very affordable," I read. Yes, we can do this, I thought.

"Applicants for membership must have two sponsors who know them well (for a minimum of 6 months)." Hmmm. Lynn seemed to really like us, maybe she already felt like she knew us well. And what is time anyway?

Windy noted the cost. "Membership fees include a one-time only initiation fee of $750.00 per family, and annual dues of only $275.00 per year." Wow, affordable is relative.

The social obligations were the nail in the coffin: "applicants are asked to participate in at least four activities (e.g., sailboat racing, work day, fun float, bay cruise, summer sailing lessons)… activities and maintenance are done with the volunteer labor of club members."

I blushed. We were interlopers, seeking to join a flock not so that we could join their social order, but so that we could fly their burgee and reap the benefits of affiliation. What was I thinking? The cruisers we’ve met who enjoy the reciprocal privileges of their yacht club membership were likely connected with their clubs before they left and probably intend to return, probably to host clubhouse slide show presentations about their transient adventure. This wasn’t us.

It’s ironic that we want a yacht club membership for the benefit it offers us as transients. Yet, as transients, we are unable to offer what the club wants in return for those benefits: social participation. I’m reminded again that very few things in life are free, but a mooring ball in front of the friendly Morro Bay Yacht Club is pretty darn close.

_I__n our twenties, we traded our boat for a house and our freedom for careers. In our thirties, we slumbered through the American dream. In our forties, we woke and traded our house for a boat and our careers for freedom. And here we are. Follow along at _