The beginnings of the Squalicum Yacht Club, formerly the Bellingham Boat Owners Association (BBOA), derived from a need over a long period of time for decent moorage in Bellingham. Before the security of Squalicum Harbor, areas used for moorage were at the Squalicum Creek Waterway, Whatcom Creek Waterway, Fairhaven, and BYC at Chuckanut Bay. It appears that during this entire period there were some kind of tie-up facilities at Squalicum and Whatcom Creek Waterways, but they usually not very secure. All were inadequate.
Boaters and other community interests actively pursued better moorage. In 1937 the voters approved a new “South-Side” harbor but concern for safe, clean, and ample moorage still drew some 50 small pleasure boat owners to a meeting September 29, 1937, at the Leopold Hotel. The BBOA was formed at that meeting to pursue those concerns with the Port. General agreement was reached a few days later on October 5, and a large part of the new boat haven was eventually leased to the BBOA to operate as recreational moorage. They erected a small shed on the floats in which they kept supplies, collected moorage, rented grid space, sold bottom paint, etc. The Port granted use of a former office building nearby for a clubhouse. It was moved to the boat haven wharf.
In January 1947, a sudden nor’wester blew with gale force into the wooden heavy-piled, logging cable-bound seawall protecting the South Side boat basin entrance and destroyed the boat basin and numerous boats. With their boat moorage lost, anxious and impatient boaters and other interests pressed the Port and the City for a new harbor. Chuckanut Bay was initially a much favored site among local interests. Funding agencies, however, were not excited about the options. Inaction and controversy dragged on for nearly two years.
In appreciation of the Port of Bellingham’s successful efforts to finally provide a secure harbor near the Squalicum Creek Waterway, the Bellingham Boat Owners Association initiated plans for a ceremony, co-sponsored with the Bellingham Yacht Club, to dedicate the new “boat haven” on September 17, 1949. The event featured 500 lbs of barbequed salmon and Congressman Henry Jackson.
On November 10, 1949, the Port granted a lease to the BBOA for space to build a clubhouse. A building located at the airport was purchased and moved to the site. It was remodeled in club tradition with the club’s own talent, and their first meeting in it was held December 14, 1949, even though a “bit” of finishing remained. Except for two small lumber companies on the “fill” there were no other structures between the clubhouse and downtown Bellingham for over ten years.
Active from the beginning, a 1939 movie shows some 30 member boats on a cruise to Eliza Island. The name of the club was changed to the Squalicum Yacht Club in the mid-sixties. Although the name changed, the character did not. Salmon and clam chowder feeds, dances, and predicted log races were frequent activities of the club along with a staple of the club, the family cruises. Over the years the Squalicum Yacht Club has enjoyed being of service to the boating community. Early on, it operated the South-Side moorage, organized predicted log races and participated in the effort to get Squalicum Harbor built. In 1956 the BBOA joined the Puget Sound Interclub Association, an association of most of the boating clubs in Puget Sound, to participate in the campaign to purchase Sucia Island and to improve customs procedures. Sucia was made a state park in 1960.
Since then SYC has put on countless events like public seminars to help improve boaters’ knowledge and skills. It has participated for more than 20 years in what has become the Adopt-a-Parks program where annual maintenance and improvement work parties have been exercised at Cypress Head, Doe Island, Blind Island, and Sucia Island. More recently SYC has assisted with events like the U.S. Junior Sailing Championships in 1998 and worked with Boat US to co-sponsor a life jacket program with the Port of Bellingham, loaning life jackets to boaters who need them. SYC members have volunteered to take aboard dozens of children and members of Big Brothers, Big Sisters to enjoy a day on the water.
The Squalicum Yacht Club members most value the camaraderie and friendships that they enjoy together. These relationships are cultivated during the popular near monthly potluck meetings and during cruises where members and guests rendezvous in their boats, again usually for a potluck and other entertaining activities, and through sharing of skills to help one another. Then there are our work parties. They maintain the clubhouse and help the State Parks and along the way they also provide for considerable satisfaction of having worked together to produce something worthwhile for many others.