Sailors have been coming to the shores of Kachemak Bay for, well, who knows how long. Riding the waves, moved along by the current, driven by the wind.
Only makes sense a club and races would follow. The front page of the Aug. 17, 1967, Homer News carried the headline, “Sailing Club for Homer?” The previous Sunday sailboats from Anchorage were in Homer for the Regatta Day races, an event coinciding with a two-day silver salmon derby.
“Boat owners were impressed with the water and sailing conditions on Kachemak Bay and plan to return for more sailing,” the article said.
Sixteen years later, in 1983, the Homer Yacht Club incorporated as a nonprofit, its focus education of sailing and boating safety.
What was booked as Homer Yacht Club’s first regatta fizzled in August 1983, due to lack of wind. A rematch a week later hit the front page. Also known as the “Harbor Grill Yacht Race,” the one-day affair included seven boats maneuvering “in a brisk breeze.”
The club actually began taking shape years earlier. Current member Craig Forrest recalled the camaraderie among sailors in the late 1970s. As much as a gathering point for sailors, which numbered as many as 75 boats from Homer and Seldovia at one time, the club offered a strong social connection.
“It was very family oriented. We did picnics, fun-type races, overnights, hunting trips, ski trips, things beyond yachting activities,” said Forrest.
Clambakes factored large in the club’s activity schedule, thanks to Patti Boiley and her husband Brendan. The couple came to Alaska from the East Coast, but hadn’t sailed until they arrived here.
“We were always water people and always in boats and canoes, but we didn’t have any sailing experience,” said Boiley.
That changed after they sailed with friends in Seward and realized the financial benefit sailing offered.
“If you have a little sailboat, the wind is free so you can go out every day and it’s not costing you much,” said Boiley.
While they learned to sail, the Boileys taught locals about clambakes. Club members and guests sailed to the designated beach on the south side of Kachemak Bay, clams were harvested and a pit dug in which a fire was built on top of rocks. Once the rocks were heated, live coals and burning wood were removed, the rocks were leveled and a covering of seaweed added. Over that went a wire mesh basket containing clams, mussels, ears of corn, potatoes, and brown bags each containing a slice of salmon, halibut, onion, lemon and piece of Italian sausage. A canvas tarp came next, covered by another layer of seaweed and a double layer of canvas tarp, over which water was periodically poured. Two hours later, the steaming basket was lifted from the pit and the feasting began.
“We had some really successful clam bakes,” said Boiley. “There was one time we had a clam bake in Peterson Bay and the Seward yacht club came over and we had a lot of people.”
Today, the Homer Yacht Club boasts about 30 members and their families. The club is headed by Commodore Carlin Rauch, who began sailing by racing with friends on Lake Huron. She now owns the 28-foot Martha J. Rauch also works for True North Kayak Adventures, as a guide and, having recently earned her 100-ton license, operates True North’s water taxi.
Her primary focus with the Homer Yacht Club is promoting safe boating. Members recently did a damage-control course with the U.S. Coast Guard that simulates being in a sinking vessel and learning to use materials at hand to repair a breach in the hull. The club also has done man-overboard and abandon-ship classes, as well as survival suit training and flair discharge. Coming up is a session addressing boat fires.
This weekend, the club celebrates the 18th year of the Homer Yacht Club-Land’s End Regatta, the first having been covered in the Homer News, July 3, 1987.
This year’s festivities begin Friday, the race is Saturday and Sunday, and an awards banquet is held Sunday evening.
“Kachemak Bay is absolutely a great place to sail,” said Rauch. “The mountains, the sea life. I love how it changes. There’s something new every day.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
18th annual Homer Yacht Club-Land’s End Regatta
6:30 p.m. Regatta registration, $25 member boats, $50 nonmembers, Land’s End Harbor Room
7 p.m. Luau, with music by the Homer Ukulele Group, hula dancing by Annie Ridgely, $5 suggested donation
11 a.m. Skippers’ meeting, P Float, Homer Harbor; anyone interested in crewing is welcome
1:30 p.m. Race start, watch from Land’s End
6 p.m. Race debrief, P Float (time depends on actual race finish)
11 a.m. Skippers’ meeting, P Float; anyone interested in crewing is welcome
1:30 p.m. Race start, watch from Land’s End
6 p.m. Awards banquet, open to the public, order from menu, Land’s End Quarterdeck
Upcoming HYC activities:
July 5: July 4th race
July 19: Jakolof Bay
Aug. 2: Converse Cup
Aug. 16: Founders Cup
Aug. 30: Kachemak Cup
Sept. 13: Fireweed Cup
“We try to encourage anybody to come out and join us for any cruising and-or racing. You don’t even need a boat to participate or be a member of the yacht club.”
Carlin Rauch, HYC commodore
For more information, visit homeryachtclub.org and Facebook