Over the years, I have watched harbor users take their boats out for weekly Thursday afternoon cruises, gather for lunch, or just meet for coffee every day. Back in the '80s, I always wanted to join the guys on the Chris Craft 41 "Wild Turkey"; in the '90s, it was the Columbia 36 "La Dolce Vita"; and in the early '00s I watched the Hinckley 40 "Black Irish" sail by every Thursday afternoon. As time has passed, these groups have changed or sailed into the sunset.
So rather than just watch and wave, I thought I would stop by and sit down with one of the longest-lasting social gatherings on our harbor, the coffee klatch at the Newport Harbor Yacht Club. This group of harbor users has been around for more than 30 years, meeting from 7:30 to 9 a.m. every day of the week.
I headed down to the NHYC on a recent cold and windy weekday morning and timidly approached the group. They were sitting around a table, next to the fire, with a big thermos of coffee between them. They warmly greeted me and invited me to join them for a cup. I grabbed a cup and placed it at the wrong end of the thermos, then pressed down on the dispenser and sprayed coffee all over the table.
After my memorable introduction of myself, we settled down and the group agreed to answer a few of my questions. Of course, most of the group's conversation is harbor-related, and depending on who is attending on any particular day, the subject matter will vary from recent vacations to the increase of the tidelands permits. The weekend seems to bring the most members in, and the klatch has reached as many as 12 people attending at one time. One member explained, "It's a place and time to share thoughts and continue friendships."
While looking from the NHYC bar out onto the harbor, I asked if anyone recalled any one particular moment. "About 20 years ago, we heard this terrible racket approaching and look up to see a 737 with one of its engines on fire," a member said. "A bird had flown into the engine on takeoff. I am not sure why we all rushed outside to look at the plane, but it circled back around and landed safely."
It wasn't able to get much information from the group regarding blunders at the dock or mishaps in the harbor, not because I had just spilled hot coffee on all of them, but because old salts hold to the tradition of "what is said onboard stays onboard."
The key I learned here is to take part in the traditions of the harbor and pass them along to your kids and grandchildren. I am glad I took the time to stop by. Look for your club's past traditions or just start your own. It's a great way to use the harbor.
Speaking of traditions, I will be attending the Race Education Seminar held at Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club from 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 27. This seminar will review the new rules of sailing for 2013-2016. Local Harbor 20 sailor Peter Haynes will be the instructor. I think this is the fifth year or more that Peter has done this. I've put a lot of time and money into my boat and don't want to lose a race because the rules have changed. The seminar is open to everyone; for details, contact Peter at email@example.com.
LEN BOSE is an experienced boater, yacht broker and boating columnist.