On the other hand, I have always been a little uncomfortable with the elitism that most yacht clubs imply by their requirements for membership. Or, as Phyllis, the died-in-the-wool-liberal in the family, has been heard to mumble under her breath, “just a group of smug rich white men”.
Before too many people jump down our throats for that comment, yes, I know that’s changing, and in fact two of the clubs I belong to that are often considered last bastions of said group, have both elected their first woman Commodores. And, I myself, some thirty years ago, was a contributing architect of the move to abolish the “Gentleman” member only policy of one of those clubs. Still, the feeling of exclusivity remains at many yacht clubs and very few have a representative proportion of their members drawn from minorities.
And then there is the Ocean Cruising Club (OCC), which has only one criteria for membership. I quote from the OCC web site:
The sole qualification for full membership, the only ticket to entry, entails stepping aboard your boat, casting off the docklines and making a continuous ocean passage of at least 1000 nautical miles, measured along the rhumb line, in a vessel under 70 feet.
It is open to anyone aboard, either as skipper or certified as competent by the skipper.
Isn’t that wonderfully refreshing? They even have an associate membership for those who are aspiring to make their “Qualifying Passage”, and a method to bypass the requirement for a proposer and seconder if you don’t happen to know any members.
And now I will share a story about me and the OCC that might give you a smile.
Some years ago, when I still lived in Bermuda, I was neighbours with Tony, who was an OCC Port Officer—a wonderful group of volunteers, many of them retired voyagers, in almost every conceivable port that cruising boats venture into, who provide whatever help they can to OCC members. And help they do, starting with free moorings and dockage and going on to the loan of cars and providing the vital local knowledge that can make such a difference to a visitor to a foreign port.
Anyway, Tony was bound and determined that I should become a member of the OCC. But here’s the thing, despite having cruised Greenland and just about worn a furrow in the waters between Bermuda and the US East Coast, I had never quite done a passage of over 1000 nautical miles point to point.
I say “quite” because I had made a passage from Bermuda to Antigua, which is close, but still not the magic number. But Tony insisted on putting me up saying that with my experience, “surely that passage would do”.
Of course, quite properly, the OCC turned me down. And from that day on, this became a running joke between Tony and me.
A few years later, when Phyllis and I crossed the Atlantic from the Canaries to Barbados and on to Bermuda, Tony practically met us on the wharf waving an OCC membership form. But me, being me, and more out of sheer devilment than anything else, refused to sign and instead suggested that Phyllis should become the member, which she did. And the running joke and the ribbing continued between Tony and me.
A few years after that, Phyllis and I were at an OCC gathering and ended up sitting at the head table with the OCC Admiral—yes, we have an Admiral, and an amazing woman she is too—and the then Vice Commodore. (We were only in such august company because two of our close friends, Doug and Dale, were organizing the gathering.)
It was not long before the Admiral, who is very direct, asked me why I was not a member. And of course, I related this story, to not a little laughter.
The next day Dale shoved a completed form under my nose, pre-signed by The Admiral and the Vice Commodore as proposer and seconder. I may be bull-headed, but I know when it’s time to surrender gracefully to a lovely gesture, so I signed.
I have not met with the Admiral since, and she is far too nice to gloat, but I suspect that when I do there will be a gleam in her eye that says “gotcha”.
Anyway, don’t forget to apply for OCC membership as part of your celebration when you complete your first 1000 mile ocean passage, you will be glad you did.
If I do not know you personally, please do not write to me and ask me to put you up for membership in the OCC. There is a procedure for applying for OCC membership even if you don’t know any members. See the link above.