Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club member Norm Peron gets into the samba groove Photo by Pat Reynolds

Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club member Norm Peron gets into the samba groove
Photo by Pat Reynolds

By Pat Reynolds

The 2015 boating season is officially upon us, even if last year’s never really ended.

Last weekend members of each of the six major Marina del Rey yacht clubs donned their blue blazers and white trousers on Saturday and Sunday to celebrate Opening Day, a boating tradition that began long ago with clubs on the far less temperate East Coast.

The invite-only Opening Day ceremonies in Marina del Rey are steeped in traditions and rituals that include the sounding of a cannon and the march of a color guard.

It’s a time for clubs to showcase themselves for visiting representatives of local organizations and other yacht clubs up and down the West Coast.

“All these dignitaries, who may never be at our club again, get a chance to see what we are all about,” Santa Monica Windjammers Yacht Club Commodore Themis Z. Glatman said. “All the clubs strive to look their best and prove to the community that they are indeed capable of running a successful enterprise. It is also a time to show appreciation for our membership for all their efforts they put forth in the previous year.”

Opening Day offers rival clubs the opportunity to celebrate each other.

“I find it amazing how, for two days, clubs who vie for members among the small group of people in our community come together and celebrate everything. We all stand together,” said Kathryn St. Amant, vice commodore of the South Coast Corinthian Yacht Club.

Glatman’s club was the first event of the day and kicked the festivities off with an infectious infusion of rhythm and energy. Tapping into her South American roots, Glatman employed two scantily clad and ornately costumed Brazilian dancers to get the parties started. Hips gyrated to a persistent samba beat as guests began the weekend, many of them holding a fresh bloody mary served from a seemingly bottomless punch bowl.

Cocktails aside, an undertone of military respect is generously sprinkled throughout the ceremonies. Every club provides a color guard to present the colors, the pledge of allegiance is usually read by a child and the Star Spangled Banner belted out by a local vocalist or two. Plenty of saluting, too.

Although Opening Day involves live bands, home-cooked food, champagne and plenty of socializing, there can be — let’s admit it — some stretches of tedium that come with all the repetition. At all but one club, each invited dignitary is introduced and individually saluted to by the presiding commodore. It takes a bit of time, but the audience sits patiently while the many names are read.

Steve Napolitano, deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe, summed it up best when at one ceremony he teased the crowd that “this is the only event I’ve ever been to where
the entire audience gets introduced.”

In all seriousness, Opening Day ceremonies involve an enormous amount of preparation, work and expense. But from the food and entertainment to the timing of the canons and speeches, it’s also a labor of love.

“It really takes months to plan and days to execute,” said Glatman. “My heart was overjoyed with the amount of time our members spent volunteering and the work they put into this.”