A nod to East Coast tradition, the ceremonies endure as an exercise in camaraderie

PMYC Vice Commodore Keith Mott welcomes the Opening Day Crowd
Photo by Paul M.J. Suchecki

Why do yacht clubs in Marina del Rey stage Opening Day ceremonies even though members can sail year-round?

The custom traces back to the practices of climatically challenged clubs on the East Coast, but in sunny Southern California it’s a chance for club members to deck themselves out in formal attire, have a few drinks, celebrate camaraderie and welcome prospective members.

The marina’s yacht clubs celebrated Opening Day last Saturday and Sunday, encountering foggy conditions while boaters from Boston to New York were at home bracing for a blizzard.

Local ceremonies range from the elegant to informal. At Pacific Mariners Yacht Club’s 54th Opening Day Celebration on Saturday, outgoing Commodore Kent Andersson — proprietor of boating supply and repair shop Andersson Marine — passed the office onto new Commodore Curt Bersche.

Following three blasts from a signal cannon, a rubber chicken flew in on a wire to welcome guests inside for food and drinks, a recent PMYC tradition that Bersche explains like so:  “Somebody got the bright idea to release a flock of doves as part of the ceremony. Since the birds he got were homing pigeons, they were circling around when the cannon that signaled the official opening of the season was fired. The birds then did what most birds do when they are startled. They let loose. The cleaning bill for club members was substantial.”

— Paul M.J. Suchecki