Merced Life

Enjoying the Lake Yosemite Sailing Club

Twenty-six years ago, when my husband Matt and I were still newlyweds, we launched our Santana 21 at Lake Yosemite for a day of cruising on the water. We intended to put the boat back on the trailer after we had finished sailing, but just as we were coming up to the ramp, a man flagged us down.

“You guys from around here?” he asked.

When we confirmed that we were, he told us that we could put our boat in a slip if we wanted, and he also mentioned that he was a member of Lake Yosemite Sailing Association, a local non-profit sailing club which had started in the mid-1960s.

“Oh yeah,” I told him. “I used to know a guy who belonged to your club in the 1980s.”

Our new friend was familiar with the sailor who had once belonged to LYSA, and we began a long conversation which ended with our Santana in a slip and our promise to attend the next meeting of LYSA.

We’ve been attending meetings ever since. In the 26 years following our first encounter with the club, LYSA acquired a lease for the cottage by the docks to use as a clubhouse (some readers may remember John Lenker, a local educator who also served as LYSA commodore and headed up efforts to lease the clubhouse), extended the docks several times, and provided many opportunities for members of the Merced community to experience sailing. The latter accomplishment has taken various forms, including a day of sailing for kids with special needs and a junior sailing program which offers scholarships based on financial need to local youth.

The LYSA junior sail camp program, through cooperation with Court Appointed Special Advocates, has provided scholarships to kids in foster care. Sail camp has also been able to sponsor young sailors recommended by the Boys and Girls Club of Merced. Every summer, through these scholarships, as many as 15 kids with financial and family challenges are able to spend a week — sometimes more — having fun on sailboats at Lake Yosemite. They learn water safety, parts of a sailboat, rigging, and basic sailing skills. Some sailors who repeat sail camp — and many do over the course of multiple years — can become junior counselors, volunteers who teach the newer sailors. And, once a junior counselor turns 19, she or he can become a lead counselor, a paid position entailing more responsibility and an advanced knowledge of sailing.

Some of these scholarships are donated by local businesses. Merced Honda, for instance, has been a scholarship donor for the past thirteen years. Other scholarships are funded by individuals. Mariposa County District Attorney Tom Cooke has donated for several years, as have LYSA members. Some club members, such as Peggy Larson of TransCounty Title, sponsor specific kids for sail camp. But scholarships also depend on other sources of income, such as proceeds from our annual LYSA Open House & Shrimp Feed on Saturday, June 23 at the LYSA clubhouse.

LYSA has been putting on this event for thirteen years. From 2:00 to about 5:00, we offer free sailboat rides to anyone who signs up. Participants don’t need to buy a shrimp feed ticket—they can just show up for the sailing. After sailing, there is a no-host cocktail and social hour with live music, followed by the shrimp feed, raffle, and more music. Express will play jazz for the first part of the evening, and then switch to blues, rock ‘n’ roll, and country after dinner.

Tickets for the shrimp feed are $25, or $180 for a table of eight. That includes all-you-can-eat chilled shrimp, rigatoni, sourdough bread, and salad.

One of the best parts of the open house, for me, is relaxing after dinner with a glass of wine and watching the sun set over the lake. But it’s also fun to do a little dancing on the patio or take an evening sail after you’ve eaten all the shrimp and rigatoni you can hold.

I hope some readers of this column will put LYSA on their calendars for June 23. And remember, your ticket will benefit Merced youth, a cause we can all get behind.

Brigitte Bowers is a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced.