Last week, while on the dock at the Balboa Yacht Club, I ran into my good friend Mel Redmond. He was boarding the club's electric boat with four other club members for their weekly pilgrimage to the Newport Harbor Yacht Club's yachtsmen's luncheon.
Every Wednesday, yachting enthusiasts from all points of the compass arrive at NHYC at noon for lunch and a presentation. After everyone has had time to eat lunch, the group stands for the Pledge of Allegiance and then the chairmen of the event reviews the agenda, followed by a sailing and fishing report, then into the weekly presentation. The luncheon normally ends by 1:30.
This last week, I was the self-invited guest speaker because I picked up the phone and contacted longtime chairman Robert Bents and asked if I could run a story on the luncheon this week. After a short discussion, Robert came up with the idea of me interviewing the whole group by asking questions from the podium. This week, there was a large group from the Lido Isle Yacht Club and a few members from BYC and NHYC attending. I came to find out that you do not have to be a member of a yacht club to attend; you just have to have a passion for yachting. "It's a type of community outreach," Robert explained.
According to Gordon Glass, the luncheon started around 1947. "In those days, we used to collect change from everyone and have a raffle for a bottle of vodka, scotch, gin and bourbon every week," he said. "In fact, some of the best luncheons in the '50s and '60s were aboard one of the Balboa Ferries. The ferry used to pull up twice a year to the club dock, and on one side of the boat was a lunch buffet and the other side was a bar. We would then take a harbor cruise and not make it back to NHYC until 3 most afternoons." The group gave out a sigh of fond remembrance as Gordon went over the history of the luncheon. The luncheon was also a stopping point for many international sailors making their way east for the America's Cup. Gordon went on to explain, "The yachtsmen luncheon is very often a broadening experience, rather than just our own little community."
The group explained that as many as 100 people will show up for the annual Ensenada race review. Another large showing last year was John Kilroy, who talked about his sailing experiences aboard his different large sailing yachts named Kialoa. Tom Ehman came by to talk about the America's Cup. Bents went on to tell me, "We don't always talk about boats. We have had presentations on aviation, African safaris, real estate, car makers, and history from around the harbor. We even had a guy who was trying to row around the world stop by and tried to raise funds for his project."
"It's all about our harbor's camaraderie and a willingness to share our experiences," Chuck Brewer told me. "We always learn something new here." With that, I asked the group what type of changes they would like to see in my column and around the harbor. One member felt we should rotate the Christmas boat parade route each year, and a couple of other members told me I should remind people of when sign-ups start for the youth sailing programs, and add a few more lines to my column for weekly highlights on what's going on around the harbor. All great ideas, and I hope every one of my readers give Bents a big shout-out for chairing this event for the last 10 years. Harbor traditions are what it's all about, and I, for one, have to thank Bents and all the regulars for keeping this one alive. Please mark your calendars for next week, or call NHYC for the schedule of the upcoming speakers. You will be glad you did.