In January 1913, a handful of sailors met at Peterson's Boat House at the foot of 12th Street in Oakland. They formed Oakland Yacht Club which was incorporated in December of that year.
Early history of Bay Area yacht clubs suggests that there were two yacht clubs named "Oakland." It is thought that our Club has its roots in several former clubs including The Panama YC.
Judge H.W. Pulcifer was elected the first Commodore, and the first meetings of the board of directors were held in the Judge's chambers. (The Judge served as Commodore again in 1916-1918).
Oakland Yacht Club was the ninth yacht club to be formed in The Bay Area. The others are Alvarado and San Francisco, formed in 1869, followed by Corinthian, Encinal, California, South Bay, Vallejo and Aeolian.
In our first year, Oakland YC received our first eviction notice. Board minutes of February 1, 1914 noted that a new clubhouse committee was formed. That October, OYC moved up the Estuary to the 19th Avenue site that would be its home for the next 63 years. A new 30' by 40' clubhouse was constructed: cost $250.
The marina consisted of wood pilings driven into the mud. Members tied their boats to the pilings and access was by dinghy. Some secured their boats to stakes on shore making access a muddy affair at low tide. In January 1919, all members were assessed $1 for a new wooden walk out to the boats. In September of that year, the board took quick action to shore up the wharf underpinnings; otherwise, the clubhouse would be laying over in the mud. Next month the board authorized payment of $95 "for labor on the wharf."
In those early years, yachting and yacht clubs were largely the domain of the wealthy and privileged who could afford the trappings of a private club and to have their wooden yachts maintained. That first year, the OYC fleet was 30 sailboats.
Jack London's sailboat was among them. The famous author-adventurer was a member from 1913 until his death in 1916. He was in good standing with the club when he died, but was posted in 1915 for non-payment of dues and then granted the first non-resident membership.
A prominent member in those early years was Dr. George Pardee. He was elected Oakland Mayor in 1894 and served as Governor of California from 1903 to 1907. Among Governor Pardee's pals were John Muir and Teddy Roosevelt. When Roosevelt visited California in 1903, he tried to convince Pardee to become his vice-presidential running mate. Pardee opted to stay in California. Amazingly, thirteen years after he left the governor's mansion in Sacramento, he became Commodore of Oakland Yacht Club. He served as Commodore again for four years -- 1925-28. Pardee is well known for founding the East Bay Municipal Utility District and was its president from 1924 to 1941. Pardee Reservoir in the Sierra foothills is named for him.
OYC's modest marina facilities improved in the 1920s when floats were installed for use in loading and unloading boats. By the mid-1930s, more floats were installed and the 19th Street harbor was dredged. This occasion was celebrated with a huge "Nite In Venice" party at which all yacht clubs and many local dignitaries were present. More than 300 boats, many gaily decorated, attended the party to help OYC celebrate its newly-improved harbor facilities.
Sailboat to power boat ratio has had wide swings throughout the club's history. In spite of its early roots as a sailing club, in the late 1920s and 1930s, power boats prevailed. In 1936 the OYC fleet consisted of 61 motorboats and only six sailboats.
Famed construction and engineering firm president Steve Bechtel was a member in the 1930s and 40s. During the construction of the Bay Bridge, he regularly took visitors and business associates on his boat out to view the progress of the huge concrete stanchions, his firm's prized project.
Before the club's move to Alameda in 1977, Wednesday lunch -- sandwiches brought in by a catering firm -- was the only regular food service. Wednesday lunch continues today as one of the club's most popular weekly events.
Demands by the Port of Oakland, owner of the Oakland property, caused relations to became strained. In January 1977, OYC members voted to abandon the Oakland property and move to Alameda and take over Pacific Marina. A $250 assessment was levied and membership dropped to below 80. Virtually all members participated in the move which included towing the floats down the Estuary to the foot of Alameda's Triumph Street.
A modest two-story wood building located about 100 yards from the Estuary became the new clubhouse in November 1978. The building, thought to be a WWII temporary building, was formerly the office of Del Monte Properties, then owner of the large parcel that has since been developed into Marina Village. The area was strictly an industrial neighborhood of warehouses and storage lots.
The first cook was hired in 1979, but the galley continued to be largely a do-it-yourself operation. Steaks, hamburgers and spaghetti were the order of the day and the galley was operated mostly with wives at the stoves. It was the Commodore's job to shop for the food on his way to the club on Friday. During this period, Friday night dinners became a club tradition that continues today as the principal regular meal of the week. A sign-up sheet for volunteer bartenders was posted in the club lobby until the first bartender was hired in 1985.
OYC was in the path of urban renewal and in 1989, members voted to build a new clubhouse nearby. In May 1990, following a temporary stay in the building now occupied by the Pacific Lighthouse Restaurant, OYC moved into its fourth, and by far, most luxurious clubhouse.
Now over 100 years young, Oakland Yacht Club enjoys a rich heritage and an enviable reputation among the Bay Area's boating community. With the acquisition of its marina in 1998, OYC is one of only four area yacht clubs that owns all of its own facilities. Its 240+ member families enjoy a calendar full of race, cruise and social activities.