This will be a familiar question for most boaters when they first buy a boat and need to keep it someplace; what does one look for in a yacht club or marina?

Is it the convenience, the atmosphere, the clubhouse, the docks, the racing, the cruising, the price, or the people? In this economy it may just end up being all of the above. However, what is becoming very clear time and again is that it tends to come down to the people you meet and the friends that you make.

Darryl Stodalka and his wife Darlene Dean bought a Hunter 29.5 sailboat 18 years ago and he related his story. “We needed someplace to keep it. Fortunately, we live not too far from the West Vancouver Yacht Club (WVYC) so this was the first place that we investigated. We did not know any of the members, so the Club Manager at the time lined up two members to interview me. I managed to get past that scrutiny and we joined right away in October 1994. It took a few years to get moorage at the Club as dock space was at a premium. In the meantime, I asked what volunteer opportunities existed and I have been busy with the racing program ever since. We have made many good friends here over the years and would not trade this experience for anything.” In fact, you will still find Darryl volunteering his time as a race officer on the water and off the water as publisher of the Notice of Race and Sailing Instructions for their various regattas.

The greater Vancouver area is Canada’s third largest metropolitan area with 2.3 million people, and the most densely populated area in Canada. For more than a decade, business magazine assessments have ranked Vancouver as one of the most "liveable cities" worldwide. The Vancouver Metro Port was the busiest and largest Canadian port in 2009. There is much competition in the area for yacht clubs and marinas to attract boaters. Along the North Shore alone you will find the West Vancouver Yacht Club, Eagle Harbour Yacht Club, Hollyburn Sailing Club and Deep Cove Yacht Club; a ferry ride away are Gibsons Yacht Club and Bowen Island Yacht Club.

As the story goes, in the fall of 1945, six men with a vision signed a charter which formally brought the West Vancouver Yacht Club into existence with six boats in Sandy Cove. By 1951, a syndicate of 18 members had purchased land in Fisherman’s Cove. In exchange, they were allotted a 40 foot slip and guaranteed of an annual cost not to exceed $52 – what a deal! Through the remainder of the decade, the club obtained nearby properties, developed the basin and started the Junior Sailing program. There was a funny story, as related in the monthly Foghorn newsletter, about Commodore Fred Russell and his “unofficial” Superintendent of Works position as part of the syndicate. “The syndicate had previously secured Lot 1. Mrs. Swanson, owner of Lot 2, was willing to deal with Fred because at the time of their negotiations, her hot water tank had burst and Fred’s father did a temporary fix, and eventually replaced it for her at no charge. Lot 2 was purchased for $10,000 – plus the cost of a hot water tank!”

The ‘sixties saw the clubhouse completed and the start of the annual Southern Straits Sailing Classic race. During the ‘seventies (they say if you can remember them you weren’t there, but I guess these folks were) the club obtained their first two outstations, which became their highlight.

Kendrick Island is 22 nm away from the club at the mouth of Gabriola Pass in the Gulf Islands and features natural wildflowers, wonderful walks and great views. Elliott Bay, on Gambier Island, which finally opened in 1990, was to become their signature outstation; it’s open all year long and is only 10 nm from WVYC. It clearly is the most popular due to proximity, size, water sports and a family friendly atmosphere. In 1997 the restored totem pole, which distinctly marks the WVYC harbour entrance was erected.

The last 12 years have seen a lot of change at the once quaint club. The Yachting Centre for improved sail training was built, docks were replaced at Fisherman’s Cove and outstations, and the construction of the west dry wharf with a five ton hoist, and which is now the home to the club’s one design fleet, was completed. The two newer outstations are comprised of a joint marina operation in Duncan Cove and Pender Harbour (39 nm away), on the way to Desolation Sound. Telegraph Harbour (35 nm from the home port) was added in 2010 and also has all the amenities of a marina. These outstations are maintained in beautiful, pristine condition by the members too!

Added to this was the spectacular renovation of the main club house, completed at the end of 2011, which included a larger dining/social area, upgraded entrance and office, new washrooms and bar. This building has a large vaulted ceiling and fireplace, with a marvellous view, so it feels just like “Supernatural British Columbia”. The West Vancouver Yacht Club has a fabulous website that outlines many of the wonderful facilities and activities available to their 700 members and 250 boats that are moored in the basin. Their general manager, Martin Wale, will be more than happy to show you around. Wow, why join anywhere else?

As for the racing scene, there are weekly Wednesday night club races, the signature Southern Straits Race, the Pumpkin Bowl and the Snowflake Series. “If there is wind anywhere, it’s here – it’s very rare for a race to be cancelled due to lack of wind.” They are also home to the NSRT (North Shore Racing Team), which provides youth with the opportunity to compete at the inter-club level. They have also recently instituted a new high school sailing program for which students can obtain four credits in Grades 10, 11, and 12. It runs twice per week for five weeks from April to May. Can you believe it? High School credits for going sailing! I got out of high school FAR too early.

The Pumpkin Bowl was accompanied this year by some strong winds on Sunday with gusts up to 30 knots and inclement weather. The regatta annually sees over 200 young sailors (this year was a record 232) in Optimists right up to 29ers. Regatta Chairman and former sailing Olympian Karen Johnson was delighted with the turnout and commended the young sailors, “on the effort they put in to try to compete in difficult, intimidating conditions. Many stories were shared over the weekend of exciting capsizes”. This event had 100 volunteers turn out to help, which even included carving Harken-inspired pumpkins. Past Commodore W. Gary Wharton, commented that, “If anyone had any doubts about whether the club is about cheap moorage, or inexpensive membership fees, they only need attend the Pumpkin Bowl Regatta to see that the WVYC is far more than a marina. It is truly a collection of people expressing their joy in an activity of mutual interest”. Karen also used a new fire drill, not approved by the fire department, to emp
ty the clubhouse. “Ice cream outside by the flagpole” gets them outside in no time. The tradition of make-your-own sundaes continued despite the weather!!

Moorage is in strong demand all over the lower mainland. With WVYC’s attractive mooring rates, prime location, and only a 3-4 year wait for boats under 25 feet, you can see why it is in demand, though they are currently accepting new members. Karen and her husband Russ Fretenburg joined 9 years ago. According to Karen, “We got a club, moorage and access to outstations for just a little more than we had been paying for moorage. We live on the North Shore of Vancouver, and WVYC has a strong commitment to racing and cruising. I knew that many successful racers had grown up at WVYC. My children have now been involved in the Junior Sailing Program for 4 years and they really love it. It is a friendly club that welcomes sailors from other clubs.”

I’d check them out if I were you, sounds like they have something for everyone – including you.

West Vancouver Yacht Club; 5854 Marine Drive; West Vancouver, BC  V7W 2S2 Telephone 604-921-7575 –

Photo Captions
Photo 1 - Sailpast at WVYC and a scenic mountain view. Credit Alix Bishop
Photo 2 - Map of all WVYC outstations and main harbour at Fisherman’s Cove. Credit Alix Bishop
Photo 3 - A view from the WVYC of the harbour at Fisherman's Cove. Credit WVYC
Photo 4 - WVYC members celebrate Canada Day. Credit WVYC
Photo 5 - (From L to R) Dog the foredeck guy, crew extraordinare Robin, and Elliot (he’s really McIvor) as he can fix anything on a boat. All three crewed for Vic Bishop on Swiftsure in the Kenwood Cup and Sydney-Hobart race, representing WVYC. Credit Alix Bishop

By Katherine Stone