Opening Day on the Straits Returns from Benicia Yacht Club and Benicia Marina

Photos by Luke George Photagraphy

“I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying.
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the seagulls crying.”

Sea-Fever by John Masefield

Sailboat with turquoise sail on the water in front of sunset sunset

The popular and beloved Benicia Yacht Club will once again celebrate Opening Day on Saturday, May 14th from 10:00 am until 10:00 pm.  The Club promises more than twelve hours of music, water activities, vendor booths, and food and drink as well.  Last year’s Opening Day was canceled due to the pandemic, and in response, BYC has outdone itself in organizing this event.  This is a great opportunity to explore all the amenities the club has to offer, as the usually private facilities are open to the public all day.

BYC History

Founded in 1977 by Russ Blanchard, the first Commodore, Benicia Yacht Club sits in the Carquinez  Strait, midway between San Pablo Bay and Suisun Bay.  Blanchard wanted to support sailing, yachting, and all types of water sports.  He helped to create a platform for sea otters with the help of the Sea Bees, who were part of the Navy construction crew sent to Benicia. At first BYC’s meetings were held in members’ living rooms, in barracks in the Industrial Park, and at the Clock Tower.  In the early 1980s, their building, an old army office structure, was purchased from the military and moved to its current location at 400 East 2nd St. In 1985 the clubhouse was formally dedicated. Forty-one years ago, founding members Veronica and Dick Tipton organized the Benicia Yacht Club’s first Opening Day with dingy/rowboat races in the marina. This is a far cry from the jam packed agenda promised for May 14th.

The Benicia Yacht Club, along with many other yacht clubs in the Bay Area, maintain a Cruising Program where BYC hosts visiting yacht clubs and in turn, BYC is hosted by other yacht clubs as well.  The Cruising Program allows members to enjoy different clubs’ facilities while practicing the fine art of seamanship.  This popular PYC custom affords members the chance to visit other seaside locations and meet like minded and fun loving individuals who enjoy boating as well.

Three sailboats on the water in front of Benicia coast
Three sailboats on the water from above

History of Opening Day

Opening Day is a time-honored tradition in many boating communities.  It harkens back to the 1800s when boats were finally allowed back onto the open seas in the spring.  Benicia Yacht Club is a member of PICYA, the Pacific Interclub Yacht Association, which launched an annual celebration called Opening Day in 1917.  The Benicia Yacht Club is on the Carquinez Strait, hence the name Opening Day on the Strait.

A common tradition on Opening Day is the annual Blessing of the Fleet.  Originally, the Blessing of the Fleet began centuries ago in the fishing communities of the Mediterranean to ensure a safe boating and an abundant fishing season.

As always, the Benicia Yacht Club welcomes and encourages everyone in the community to celebrate Opening Day on the Strait as the event that not only embraces sailing and boating traditions, but also celebrates our beautiful waterfront, its stunning views, and everything BYC has to offer. Members and non-members alike are excited and eager to enjoy Opening Day after a long hiatus due to the pandemic.

BYC Opening Day on the Strait

As mentioned before, Opening Day on the Strait is open to the public. According to Dena Stults, Vice Commodore, a full day is planned with arts and crafts vendors on the lawn at 10:00 am.  The Outrigger Club will be present and will offer demonstrations of their water sport.  The Youth Sailing group will also offer information and demonstrations. A supervised kids’ play area will have fun activities for the younger attendees. The Club’s Ship Store will be open for shoppers to purchase BYC t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, napkins, burgees, and other assorted gear.  The BYC dining room will offer lunch and dinner featuring a menu courtesy of the Club’s own Chef Carlos. Opening ceremonies will take place at noon with remarks from civic leaders, flag raising, and the singing of the National Anthem. There will be a Blessing of the Fleet and a decorated boat parade at 1:30pm. Live music will be played throughout the day, with the first of several bands beginning at 11:00 am and concluding with dancing upstairs in the Norton Lounge until 10:00 pm.

Yacht club members will be available to answer questions about the club regarding membership, youth sailing program, the aforementioned cruising program, volunteer opportunities, and entertainment activities. Membership is open to both boaters and non-boaters of good character. Vice Commodore Stults stresses that Benicia Yacht Club is a great way to meet new people and have fun. Trivia Night , Karaoke Night, Talent Night and other seasonal celebrations round out the monthly events. Benicia Yacht Club functions throughout the year, and its facilities are open Wednesday–Sunday. What more could one ask for?

Two sailboats on the water in front of the hilly Benicia coast

BYC – 400 East Second Street, Benicia, CA 94510 – 707.746.0739 for more information.

Photos by Luke George Photography