Moving Forward: Morro Bay Yacht Club

Morro Bay Yacht Club and sailboats

Written by Judy Salamacha

June 17, 2021

The Morro Bay Yacht Club will hold its annual Marine Swap Meet on June 26 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Maritime Museum.

A Thank You from Judy: Morro Bay happenings are happening! My first clue was music bouncing inland from the Morro Bay Yacht Club. From my overlook I saw people in sports jackets on the deck and sailing crafts in various stages of preparation. MBYC’s annual Opening Day festivities mark the 2021 sailing season is officially happening! Thanks to all who have vaccinated.

Morro Bay Yacht Club’s Commodore is Dr. Chris Surfleet, a Cal Poly professor and sailing enthusiast. He was introduced to the club that he now leads only a few years ago when he signed his son up for summer sailing lessons. And while Joel is now focused on college life at Cuesta before earning his Cal Poly engineering degree, Dad is loving his acquired sailing habit.

“Many of our members prefer the social interaction of our club activities, but I’m here for the sailing. We were never restricted from water sports (during 2020.) We just couldn’t have organized activities or people meeting in the building.”

Operating dockside, MBYC, a private club, has had a lease agreement with the City of Morro Bay since 1964 providing host arrangements for transient yachts. These visitors are invited to use club moorings, docks, and have access to clubhouse bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities. “There were more transients in 2020 than typical,” said Surfleet. People were out cruising on their own – going around the world or visiting Pacific Coast seaports.”

The agreement also encourages public access to water safety and recreational activities on the bay. “We offer summer youth sailing lessons teaching the basics of sailing for members and nonmembers. Classes will start soon. Sign-ups have been active since classes were not allowed in 2020.” Sign up at

Not required in the lease, but offered anyway, Dr. Surfleet added, “Students taking the sailing lessons and transients are invited to Friday evening socials and Wednesday Hamburger Nights.” He suggested providing the extra hospitality is likely, “…why we are well known as a friendly yacht club.”

Since the beginning MBYC has always been involved in the community. During the 1950s it actively participated in the formation of the Harbor District, Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla and Chamber of Commerce. More recently, it is a MB Maritime Museum (MBMM) charter member, contributed to its historical displays and members have actively helped restore one of the featured fishing boats newly on public display.

Originally an exclusively produced event of MBYC to support scholarships for the MB Youth Sailing Foundation, the upcoming Marine Swap Meet, June 26, 8 a.m.-1p.m. is now a three-way collaboration adding MBMM and Friends of the Harbor Department. It will be held at the Maritime Museum. More local vendors selling marine related trinkets, equipment and even boats now participate and interested buyers have increased. Vendor sign up is at

In 2021 Bonnie Jones, MBMM’s board member, reported, “The Yacht Club’s Youth Sailing will have a booth and whatever they make goes to their program, and because they help set up and clean up, they don’t pay for the booth. This year the three of us agreed that the profits from selling the booth spaces will go to the Harbor Department for their new harbor patrol boat instead of splitting the proceeds three ways.” Fund-raising is currently over 53% of goal. To make a donation, go to

Commodore Surfleet’s ‘Welcome Message,’MBYC’s comprehensive history, schedule of activities, and membership information, are available on the website.

However, MBYC has a storied history worth retelling. When MBYC was first created in 1956 “…time was spent helping to improve harbor and boating conditions…” Members also formed sailing regattas, power boat races and seasonal parties on the sand spit. Summer sailing classes were held in conjunction with the recreation department and visiting yachts were welcomed.

In 1960 a used houseboat purchased for $500 became the clubhouse. Members moved it to five locations — the favorite and last being near the south boat ramp. Alas, March 28, 1964 the tsunami from the Great Alaskan Earthquake sank it and temporarily shuttered operations. The City of Morro Bay incorporated that year and determined waterfront property would not be privately owned. This triggered a lease offer on a small waterfront home at the club’s current location, 541 Embarcadero, owned by Morro Bay businessman, Charles Berkemeyer. MBYC purchased it in 1966. By 1971 when the City granted a permanent lease, major improvements to the clubhouse, docks and grounds as well as the acquired boat yard across the street had been done by the all-volunteer membership.

By 1979 the volunteers designed and built a new clubhouse, which stands today. Updated improvements were done during 2020. Besides upwards of 200 members, MBYC serves visiting transients, Coast Guard Auxiliary meetings, Junior Yacht Club, Morro Bay Youth Sailing Foundation, and Cal Poly Sailors.

Covid-19 managed to postpone their largest event of the year, the Rock Regatta. Youth sailors come from all over California with their coaches and their parents to enjoy living our Morro Bay lifestyle for a weekend. Check the website for bay and ocean weekend sailing races.

Membership consideration is for those “who own or plan to buy a boat…Boat size ranges from kayaks to ocean cruisers, and just about everything in between.” Commodore Surfleet invites potential members to check out the group. “We’re looking for people who want to be involved in sailing or boating. All operations are done by volunteers, which creates a sense of ownership.”

Potential members are invited to visit during a Friday evening social or ask a member to host them during a summertime Wednesday evening Hamburger Night, now in full swing. Indeed, the Morro Bay Yacht Club is moving forward.

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