A Long Tradition. A New Approach

The Willapa Bay has an obvious sailing heritage that goes back to the earliest days of Oyster Farming by non-indigenous peoples.  To get around the bay they needed fast moving, shallow boats that could navigate all of the shallowest areas on the bay while also competing with the rapid tidal currents that flowed.  It was and still is a challenging place to navigate.

By the 1850s San Francisco’s oyster beds were depleted and the Willapa Bay became a significant source that fed the city’s demand.  This brought new wealth to the communities of Oysterville and Bay Center.

 In 1869 the first yacht club on the West Coast was organized: San Francisco Yacht Club.  Then 3 years later Santa Barbara formed the second. 

With a large contingent of fast sailing boats the residents of the Willapa Bay were often organizing sailboat races around which significant betting occurred.  This enabled the formulation of the third yacht club to be formedbon the West Coast of the United Sates: The Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club.  Formulated in 1877 it predates any club in Oregon and Washington. The oldest is San Francisco Yacht Club (1869) and .  Its first regatta was July 4th of that year.

Today, the Willapa Bay is still a thriving oyster community that produces a significant number of oysters that help to feed our country.  However, the sailing heritage is gone.  In fact there is virtually no recreational boating on the bay.  A bit of salmon fishing and crabbing; but by and large the bay is navigated by the oyster boats year around and a few months of the year by commercial crab boats.  Beyond that it is possibly the least traveled bay in the Continental United States.

Now, in 2022, we are a community that has decided to re-invigorate the Shoalwater Bay Yacht Club.  We have acquired a historical building to act as our clubhouse: The Taylor Hotel, on Bay Avenue in Ocean Park. Built in 1887, 10 years after the yacht club was established it is one of the oldest buildings on the Peninsula.

The Yacht Club will be open to the public.  Membership will provide a discount on the food, beverages, merchandise and boat rentals.  The focus is on creating a community gathering place focused on giving our children a new afterschool and summertime activity that is focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning and teaching how to both have fun and be safe on the water. 

The club is committed to buying a fleet of 20-25 foot sailboats that members can rent and for the Juniors (under 18) to use as part of the after school and summer sailing programs.

Additionally, the club will operate a full bakery, kitchen, and restaurant that will be open from 7am until 8pm every day.  To support that, it has partnered with Amber Delfosse, back from a 2 year stint at culinary school, to open a new bakery.  Additionally, the club will offer a light lunch and dinner menus along with an upscale bar with locally produced wines, beers and spirits. 

We expect the club to be open for business by November 1, 2022.  We expect to begin the junior sailing program to coincide with the summer break of 2023.

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