Melbourne Yacht Club invites seniors, others to join the sailing life



Helley Hansen is skippered by John Mollicone. Tim Healy is the tactician.

SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Melbourne Yacht Club

Dick Tillman, a member of the United States Sailing Team at the 1976 Summer Olympics, now 80, still sails as a member of the Melbourne Yacht Club (MYC). The only thing that kept him from sailing temporarily was a double knee replacement.

He said the Melbourne area’s waterways are perfect for him.

“I think of it as utopia,” Tillman said. “ I’ve sailed all around the world and I don’t think I’ve ever found anything nicer than our area. It’s protected, doesn’t get too rough, there are no tides or currents and the wind is almost always ideal.”

Of the races and activities put on by the MYC, Tillman said, “They are very relaxed races and afterward we all go into the club and enjoy a drink and some food and talk about what happened in the water.”

Prospective members of the MYC do not have to own a boat.

“Everybody is welcome to come and try it out,” Tillman said. “When a person comes down and they have an interest in sailing, someone will take them out on their boat.”

The MYC has children as young as 12 sailing with their families and learning in classes. Seniors range in age as old as Tillman, and the current membership boasts approximately 160 families.

Charlotte Parker, a longtime area resident, is the membership director of MYC and has been a member for the past 12 years.

“I’ve been here (Melbourne area) since I was 6 when there were dune buggies on the beach,” she said. “I see the biggest influx of new members joining the club of people who have moved to Florida who have retired, or relocated from someplace else. (I see) more people who don’t have children, or are exploring their bucket list after raising families.”

The sailing lifestyle can be addictive, according to Parker. She said a retired couple from Canada, who came to Florida, learned to sail, bought a 25-foot boat and then upgraded to a 40-foot boat. They now spend the winter on their boat in Florida and the summer in Canada.

Parker has a favorite club activity.

“One of my favorites is the seafood raft up, and that’s where the biggest boat throws out the big anchor, and the next-to-smallest boats get on,’’ Parker said. “We can have 30 boats rafted together hanging off one anchor. It takes place the first full moon in May and we have an evening of eating crab and shrimp and seafood dip at 6 p.m., with the sun setting and the moon coming up. We stay until 11 p.m.”

Parker said the club has many other activities.

“There’s all kinds of on-the-water activities, whether or not it’s a cruise to Marker 21, and an island party, picnic on the island,” she said. “Then, we have racing. We race every other Friday night in the summertime and then on alternate weekends. That’s what we call our wet boat Sundays, and that means instead of being on a bigger 25-foot boat, you’re on a dinghy. Like a sunfish or laser, or a 420. Small boats, you get wet when sailing on those.”Jerry Ross mans the helm of his boat Sleighride. Sailing with him are Robin Floyd and Tom Kjerulff. They sailed to a party near Marker 21. <i>  | Photo by SENIOR LIFE Courtesy of Melbourne Yacht Club <i/>

The club has a waiting list for boat slips, at $6 per foot. The club has a building, according to Parker, with the ability to have parties for 120 to 150 people.

Upstairs, “we call it our ballroom, with big tile floors, we do dancing,” she said. “We have our bar area which accommodates about 50 people or so. We’re very, very friendly. A close knit group of people.”

When asked what she enjoyed most about sailing, Parker said, “I enjoy being out in nature in the sun and wind. I also enjoy that it is a thinking person’s sport. You harness the energy from the wind and make it go without an engine.”

“We’re an open club — it’s not hard to get in,” Parker noted. “People come off the street, or find us through the web. It’s more a matter now of helping you find a sponsor to help acclimate you into the club to educate and get acquainted.

 

For people who’d like to join, go to melbourneyachtclub.com and to the find us page. For more information, call 321-768-9921.