The Catalina Island Yacht Club is one of the oldest and most unique yacht clubs in Southern California, with a history rich in the lore and tradition of the Island.
In 1893, the Banning brothers, original owners of the Island, formed the first yacht club on the Island, the Catalina Yacht Club, primarily for the use of Islanders like themselves. For reasons unknown, the Club failed, and it was a decade later, in 1903, that boating residents of the Island attempted another organizing effort; this time founding the Sophia Yacht Club on the approximate site of the present Club. SYC’s purpose was to provide a dinghy landing and gathering point for boat owners, and the Club was apparently quite active until the great fire of 1915, which razed the town and its bayside facilities.
Fortunately, the Sophia Yacht Club pilings were spared, and for several years, the area was used as a temporary mooring site for boat repairs and as a primitive dinghy landing. Then, in 1924, Tuna Club members Art Sanger and James Jump, yielding to the imploring of their wives, decided that the Island needed a social club to complement the Tuna Club’s emphasis on sport and trophy fishing. They turned up thirty yachtsmen willing to pay the $100 initiation fee and dues, plus $400 on a promissory note, for improved marital relations with their hitherto neglected wives. Hollywood legends became frequent members of the Club. These included James Cagney, Johnny Weismuller, Darryl F. Zanuck, Walter Huston, Tom Mix, world famous violinist Jascha Heifetz and many more.
Catalina Island Yacht Club has plaques to recognize Hollywood Stars that were Members of the Club. In addition to names above Ed McMahon, Steve Skinner, & Milton “Shorty” Rogers were Members. Ed was most famous as Johnny Carson’s side kick and announcer on The Tonight Show. Steve produced 1,000 hits including the ABC News. Shorty was one of the principal creators of West Coast Jazz. George Schlatter is a current Member and also a longtime producer in Hollywood, one of his many major hits was “Laugh In”.
On August 24, 1924, the Catalina Island Yacht Club held its first Opening Day in its newly completed clubhouse, under the leadership of Commodore Jump. The Club has operated continuously ever since, except for a brief period during the war years of 1942-45, when it was occupied by the Merchant Marine and used as a training facility. The Club was returned to its Membership in late 1945. The Club presently numbers approximately 180 Members, many of whom own moorings in Avalon Harbor. There is an active year-round social calendar, with emphasis on the Cruising Season from Memorial Day to Labor Day. The Club is a member in good standing of the Southern California Yachting Association, and the Southern California Cruiser Association.
Catalina Island Yacht Club Foundation, Auxiliary, and Billfish Tournament donates over $50K per year to local Avalon charities. The Billfish Tournament held in September has donated over $135,000 to local charities of Avalon over the past 12 years.
The Catalina Island Yacht Club brings boaters to a historic clubhouse located in a world-renowned destination. Our mission is to provide our yachting members a comfortable and attractive facility where they and their families can relax, socialize and nurture friendships. We pursue our mission through the effort and generosity of our members and by our dedication to the preservation and enhancement of our unique home in Avalon. We will always be a friend and advocate of Avalon and a protector of Catalina Island.