Ahoy matey, it’s time for boating

Oak Harbor Yacht Club Commodore Rex Du Puis sports a reproduction British ‘fore-and-aft’ captains hat as he waits for the next boat to pass by during the opening day boat parade last weekend.  - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor Yacht Club Commodore Rex Du Puis sports a reproduction British ‘fore-and-aft’ captains hat as he waits for the next boat to pass by during the opening day boat parade last weekend.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Oak Harbor’s community glue — Dutch heritage, nautical history and the Navy — reaffirmed community pride last weekend in a multi-day celebration.

For the first time in many years the Oak Harbor Yacht Club celebrated opening day of the 2010 boating season in conjunction with another community mainstay, Holland Happening.

Former commodore and retired Navy Capt. Jack Anderson suggested the club move its opening day fete to coincide with Holland Happening. Unfortunately he’s since passed away, but his idea took hold.

The coordination of the two events is meant to leverage community involvement, said Rear Commodore Steppe Williford.

The boats and boaters got their day Sunday as the club celebrated its opening day with brunch overlooking Oak Harbor Bay, followed by an outdoor Shifty Sailors concert and National Anthem sung by Oak Harbor High School choir students Zach Boon, Austin Humphries, Zach Ayer and Choir Director Darren McCoy. The Buccaneers accentuated the blessing of the fleet by a cannon blast from their pirate boat parade float.

The opening day celebration is at least 20-consecutive years running, Williford said. The club often documents its events in scrapbooks, he said, adding the earliest mention of the annual fete is in a book dated 1980.

A rich sense of community and nautical history shined through in a two-bell memorial ceremony for deceased club members Myra Christensen, Dave Davis and former commodore Anderson. The ceremony has its origins with the Navy as a signal of the end of a routine day. Since then, it’s morphed into a marker for quiet reflection on fallen members.

The club originated as the Whidbey Deception Pass Boat Club in 1956. Twenty years later, a number of other boating clubs merged and the Oak Harbor Yacht Club emerged as the formal name. The group built the Yacht Club at its current location near the Oak Harbor Marina in 1983 on land leased from the city of Oak Harbor.

Following the bay-side formalities, club members made their way down the marina dock for the boat parade. A dozen vessels took part in the flotilla that passed by the Commodore’s Barge, a North Pacific 43 owned by Pat and Ellen Harman. Each boat received a salute from Commodore Rex Du Puis and wife Suzie, Vice Commodore Jim Byrne and wife Tina, Rear Commodore Williford and wife Mary and Chaplain Dan Link before heading back to the marina for an open boat dock party.

Boat ownership isn’t required for membership, although fun and socialization are an unwritten rule. The club offers family activities including monthly themed dinners, Wednesday evening chicken and steak barbecues, and Friday night burger potlucks. Formal events are offered for adults including the annual Commodore’s Ball in December and a New Year’s Eve party.

For more information about the Oak Harbor Yacht Club, their activities, or to apply for membership, call 675-1314 or visit

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