75th Anniversary




With a rich history dating back to 1945, Kelowna Yacht Club has a lot to celebrate. What started out as a passion for boating has grown into a community of dedicated members. From our humble beginnings in the CKOV radio station to the 2015 opening of our latest Clubhouse, we continue to thrive as Kelowna’s lakeside beacon.


To celebrate 75 years, each month for the year of 2020 a member will delve into our historic past and provide a glance into what makes the Club it is today.

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Wassail - Can Traditions change over the years?

Wassail – Can traditions change over the years?

Traditions are important, they help define us. Whether they are part of a particular culture, a club or a family unit, they make a difference for many reasons. We cherish and protect them.

Our Club has many traditions and for decades celebrating Wassail each January has been one of our most enduring and unique.

How unique is it? Well, each year we start the celebration with our Commodore explaining exactly what Wassail is and how it ties into our broader agricultural community.

Why do we feel it’s necessary to cover the background and meaning of Wassail? I for one had never heard of it until I attended my first Wassail celebration. I know I wasn’t alone in my lack of knowledge. It was interesting and kinda fun learning about something so ancient yet still relevant to the Okanagan with our rural roots and numerous apple orchards.

But can traditions change? Throughout our lives we hear different themes on the topic of change. Change is inevitable. Change is good. Change is difficult. The arguments for and against change are seemingly endless. Sometimes we plan “it” and sometimes, “it” just happens to us. But traditions are traditions and they don’t change, right?

For years Wassail was one of the first events a new Commodore and Board of Directors officiated over. In early January members are invited to the Club to share an evening of appetizers and drinks. Our Commodore explains the unique tradition of Wassail; a strange term to be sure for most of the newly initiated. The Wassail candle is lit and a toast offered to the new year. It’s has been an opportunity to introduce the new Board and have our members get to know them a bit better. It’s a formal tradition yet it is done in a warm and casual setting.

When we officially opened our new clubhouse house in October of 2014, the changes were beyond anything we had experienced in the past. Our old clubhouse had served us well but had been torn down before the new one was ready. We had organized tours of the new building but the vast majority of members hadn’t really had the opportunity to enjoy its many amenities.

For the first time in our history we actually owned our land and our building. It was, some might say, a transformative change. We lost a clubhouse where we had shared many fond memories for over sixty years, but we moved into one in which new memories would be forged.

In that same year something else changed. Something far less impactful perhaps, but important nevertheless. We moved our elections from December, when they had been held for decades, to February. The reasons for this particular change were largely administrative but also connected to the delays we experienced in the building of our new clubhouse. So… what’s the connection to Wassail?

As we gather to celebrate Wassail during our 75th Anniversary Year Celebration many realize that in these past few years a more subtle change has occurred. Wassail has become the last official event or tradition our Commodore and outgoing Board oversees. It has become an evening for the membership to say thank you and goodbye before our AGM and elections of a new Board takes place. A different perspective from which to view one of important traditions.

The tradition of Wassail continues and our Club moves forward. Embracing our future while we celebrate our past.

Looking forward to a yearlong celebration of our 75th. Anniversary!

Mike Terris

Past Commodore, 2014

Rich in history. Embracing the future.

Kelowna Yacht Club


Rich in history. Embracing the future.


It seems fitting that as we enter February 2020, our 75th Anniversary Year, we take a moment to reflect on our club motto.


I would argue that our motto, “Rich in history. Embracing the future.” does exactly what it is supposed to do. It captures the essence of who we are as a Club. Our values and our dreams. How we treasure our past and how we have always faced our future.


Our Club is intricately tied to the history of  Kelowna and boating on Lake Okanagan. Our purpose is described in our Charter and Constitution from 1945. We built the first boat ramp on the lake. Our moorage basin has changed and grown over the entire 75 years that we have been in this location. Our membership has grown with it.


As members and guests walk in the door of our still “new” Clubhouse the spectacular staircase that dominates our lobby may well shape their first impression.  But, they are immediately drawn to the history wall.  The historical photos and artifacts from our building site capture their attention and curiosity. Without exception, they take a few minutes to absorb it and enjoy some of our rich history.


As families exit the top of our spiral staircase into the second level atrium they anticipate the magnificent view of the moorage basin, the City Promenade and Stuart Park. But as they look around they are greeted by more than just a view. The history of our club is once again on full display. How many of us have stopped for a few minutes and checked out the photos of Life Members and Past Commodores who are honoured in the atrium? How long before you found yourself admiring the historical photo of our first clubhouse, then taking a moment to reflect on our motto proudly displayed on the wall just outside the Members Lounge?


Much care was taken to bring our history with us as we faced the challenge of building and moving to our new Clubhouse. Trophies and memorabilia were carefully stored, awaiting their new home. Curtis’ Corner in our current atrium made the journey from old to new. Many will recall that old Clubhouse had a fish tank that kept young children and young at heart members entertained at every visit. Ensuring that bit of history moved with us to a prominent place in the new Clubhouse didn’t just happen. It was seen as a “must happen” by the volunteers who helped design the interior in the new building.


Volunteers spent hours lifting the paving stones from the City Promenade in front of our old club then used them in our new muster station entrance and around the outside of our new building. Each brick carefully stacked and moved as though they represented small piece of our changing history.


Yes we have a rich history, some of it is hidden in archives or carefully preserved in club records. For example, did you know we once named our docks after Past Commodores? No “ABC’s” for our docks back in those days. Or, that we had several “covered stalls or boat houses” where our Youth Program and disabled sailing now takes place? Did you know we once had a “Pensioners Dock” in the middle of our moorage basin where Kelowna’s seniors could moor a boat. Would it surprise you to find out we have 30 thousand photos of our history on our club computer system?


That our first clubhouse was an old radio station, scheduled to be demolished, is a well-documented part of our history.  We bought it from the City and moved it to our former location in 1951. In 1965 we built a new clubhouse on that site and through many major renovations over the decades it grew to over 8000 square feet. Our new clubhouse? Its 24,000 square feet and has nicest view of the lake one can imagine. We’ve come a long way in seventy-five years.


Celebrating our 75th Anniversary will be a yearlong series of events and ceremonies. Embrace the year the way our club has always embraced the future. Looking forward to its challenges and enjoying the journey!


Mike Terris,

Past Commodore, 2014



(To those history buffs amongst the membership… Our motto, “Rich in history. Embracing the future.”, was developed in 2014 by our Communications Committee, led by Board Director Ken Smith. Ken credits a member of the committee Ingrid Dilschneider with coming up with the initial wording.)

Sailing at KYC

As we continue with our series of articles to celebrate our 75th Anniversary, this one focuses on our sailing fleet. Our diversity of membership is something we take great pride in. But we have a lot of good-natured fun promoting the supposed competition between power boaters and sailors. However, can’t we all just agree on one thing? Sailors are different… We hope you enjoy the article.

The icy winds of February blow cold, but the warmer winds of March begin to gently rock awake the sailboats in our moorage basin. Spring is here!

While most power boaters enjoy the Okanagan’s warm summer months, sailors are cut from a slightly different cloth. If they could, they’d sail year round. Waiting patiently for the wind. Silently drifting in Lake Okanagan’s gentle currents. It doesn’t matter to our sailors. The magic comes from the lake.  The hours and the rush of the world pass them by.

Sailing is such an integral part of membership at the Kelowna Yacht Club. Our location at the mid point of Lake Okanagan is perfect for catching the wind or following the current.

Like powerboats, sailboats come in all sorts of models and sizes. They are generally much more affordable than their counterparts, both to purchase and operate. They are the ideal vessel for a family to begin enjoying our lake.

You don’t know how to sail? We have that covered. The Club’s Sailing Coordinator, Sarah Mooney, reports that 844 participants completed our programs last year.  Sarah describes the program as incredibly valuable, “…it promotes a lifelong passion in the sport and our school fosters leadership and confidence in our students.” Our programs start for participants as young as four (4) years old and strive to build our sailors up in a safe and fun environment! Our highly qualified CANSail certified instructors work with every skill level, from beginners to our elite level Youth Racing Team. Our sailors learn everything from how to tie knots and reading cloud patterns to racing their own boats.

The Club also continues to offer various programs for adults too. Many of our current sailors have gone through the Learn to Sail programs at the Club over the years. For those looking to enhance the basics, the Club also offers Basic Cruising Standards which is a complete sailing course where sailors have learned all about the terms and definitions, gear and equipment, safety, Canadian regulations, weather, duties of being a skipper or crew, seamanship, maneuvering under power, handling under sail making fast and snugging down and more. Just chat with some of the sailors who have taken this course over the years and hear where they have chartered sailboats abroad or crewed while away on holiday. This program is a steppingstone to an enhanced world of sailing as well as a life-skill. It’s also available right at the Club.

For many years, the Club has also offered tours on the lake for people not wanting to take the helm. For those who have participated, lucky you.

If you are interested in our current sailing programs, check out our website under ‘On the Lake’ as registration for all programs are currently open.

Don’t think for a moment that sailing is all about drifting aimlessly on a quiet afternoon. While a sailboat isn’t “driven”, a lot of our members certainly are. One only needs to check out the fun filled but ultra competitive nature of our Club’s racing programs. Open Racing, Women’s Racing and Regattas operate from March until October. The skippers and their crews are as creative and passionate about racing as they are about naming their boats. Don’t believe me? Try these names on – Holy Doodle; Wy Wurrie; Animal Cracker; and, Always Somethin’, to name just a few.

After the races, the crews find their way back to the Member Lounge to participate in the three B’s sailors love best– Beer, Burgers and Bragging. They are a fun group who work hard and play hard. Attend one of our Regatta celebrations and see for yourself. KYC Life Member and super competitive sailor, John Sharples, says, “I believe that over the years the sailing fleet has contributed to the spirit and growth of KYC.”

The Kelowna Yacht Club has a long history of excellence in supporting or organizing outstanding Regattas on the lake. In 2015 we sponsored the RE/MAX Sail Canada Women’s Keelboat Championships. In 2016 we sponsored the Land Rover Kelowna Melges 24 Canadian National Championships and in 2017, the RE/Max Mobility Cup. Each year we host several local Regattas that have participants from other Okanagan Lake Yacht Clubs as well as Clubs from the coast and several US States.

Speaking of history…in 1990, after 44 years of male Commodores, Sonja MacCrimmon became our first female Commodore. Sonja joined the club with her husband Brian in 1972. Both were avid sailors. Did you know that in 1974, she and fellow KYC sailor Glen Wood won the Canadian San Juan 21 sailing championships? Eva Aylward, our current Commodore, is the Club’s 5th female Commodore and is also a sailor at the Club.

Graduates from our Youth Racing Team include Curtis Blewett, who has sailed in prestigious America’s Cup, the Whitbread Round the World Race, the Louis Vuitton Cup and many other world class sailing competitions. Check out the display on the second level atrium of our clubhouse the next time you’re in to learn a bit more about Curtis.

Our Club promotes safe boating practices and teaches adults and kids how to sail. It is a major part of who we are and how we contribute to the community. We partner with the Disabled Sailing Association to offer a unique sailing opportunity for those who need assistance. Literally thousands of Kelowna’s youth have learned the skills and discovered the joys of sailing through the lessons we deliver.

Some of our longer-term members bought their first sailboat when they joined the Kelowna Yacht Club. They saw their children graduate from our Youth Programs and join our racing team. They continue with the Club as adult members and still enjoy sailing today. A family tradition, within a club tradition.

Over the next 25 years, when we are celebrating 100 years as a Club, we will, without doubt, still be enjoying sailing and promoting safe boating on this beautiful lake.

75th Anniversary Committee