Sails Unfurl For Opening Day On The Strait

Photos from Benicia Magazine archives

The Benicia Yacht Club has weathered a few storms and faced some stiff winds over the years but has come out intact, and now wants to celebrate. What better time to do that than the customary Opening Day on the Strait, an official kick-off to the boating season? This year’s annual festivities take place Sunday, April 10 and are centered at the yacht club, 400 East Second St.

Appropriately, the 2016 Opening Day theme refers to an order given aboard naval vessels that meant a difficult job was at hand, but a celebratory drink would soon be in order. The term, “splice the mainbrace,” is also issued on special occasions when ship crews would get an extra ration of rum, according to the yacht club. Vice Commodore Nick Grebe said the Benicia Yacht Club has seen some decline and financial difficulties since the 2008 economic downturn. But, after battening down the hatches and doing improvements to the building and organization, the yacht club is on good footing, he said.“The Benicia Yacht Club has a long history of weathering through these kinds of things. We rolled up our sleeves to get the ship sailing and moving, and we’re excited about new things. Splice the mainbrace. It’s time to celebrate,” Grebe said.

Opening Day is one of a handful of days the club is open to the public. Arts and craft vendors set up around 11am on the lawn, and opening ceremonies take place at 1pm with music and remarks from civic leaders. At 3pm a boat parade fills the Carquinez Strait with decorated yachts and other boats. As evening approaches, 6pm finds the party moving upstairs for dinner and dancing to the music of Crosstown 5.

Throughout the day, yacht club members will answer questions on youth sailing, membership and other programs. Grebe said the club is not an exclusive enclave of rich yacht owners; in fact, some members don’t even have boats. “The vast majority of yacht clubs are like Benicia’s. It’s just a lot of blue collar folks who enjoy being in the water, who enjoy socializing. This is a very social club,” said Grebe.

Opening Day holds a long tradition in boating communities. It refers to the day yacht clubs would throw a party when they reopened following winter closure, Grebe said. The Benicia club is open all year, but still partakes in the custom in the spring when boaters are spiffing up their vessels and the racing season has begun. For more details, call the Benicia Yacht Club at 707.746.0739, or go to beniciayachtclub.com.

Categories: Arts + Culture, Community, Events, Food + Drink, Live Music, Miscellaneous, Outdoors, People + Places, Things to Do, Waterfront

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