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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Longtime Residents Remember Malibu Yacht Club Activities with Affection

BY BEVERLY GOSNELL

In the late 1940s an entrepreneur who advertised himself as Commodore Edward Turner sought backers to participate in financing the building of a yacht harbor designed by Cliff May at the site of the Malibu Lagoon.
Conversely, the founders of the Malibu Yacht Club (MYC) had no use for a grand marina.
The Sabot sailors, who incorporated in 1948, were satisfied to store their small boats inside a chain link fence on the sand east of the Malibu Pier between the new Casa Malibu Motel and the beer bar called “The Cottage.” Are there still some souvenir beer mugs from “The Cottage” out there?
The tiny, rustic clubhouse, built by members, included showers, toilets, a kitchen and a bar.
The small MYC was admitted to the Southern California Yachting Association a year later and was then able to compete in other yacht club races. It was also invited to join the North American Yacht Racing Union, and the Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs.
At the time, the Malibu Catamaran Club - affectionately called the “Cat Club” by locals-was sailing multi-hull boats off the beach, and soon joined with the Malibu Yacht Club.
One of the new members, a Topanga Canyon carpenter, Warren Seaman, remembering outriggers he had seen in Hawaii during WW II, designed a variation and named it the Malibu Outrigger. Seaman served as commodore of the MYC three times.
As they grew, his sons Roy and Gary learned and helped their father build many boats.
They continued working in the sailing and surfing business world. Roy took his custom designed Tornado to the final tryouts for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Now a grandfather, he is still an avid Malibu surfer.
In time, many members built their own Malibu Outrigger canoes from Seaman’s plans. Those early crafts were light, constructed with plywood, very fast, and could be launched through the surf.
Their unique construction drew so much sailing world interest that a six-page spread touting it appeared in the June 1950 Popular Mechanics Magazine. The Malibu Yacht Club was prominently mentioned as its home base.
Another article, in a 1963 Sports Illustrated Magazine with Sandy Kofax on the cover, included a picture of the Malibu Outrigger and the connection to the MYC.
Membership grew to approximately 100, but was limited because of space to store the boats within the fence on the sand.
The club sailed every weekend from February to March each year. Spring and summer involved racing, which meant trailering the boats to Balboa, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Lake Havasu, etc.
Entire families participated. Wives crewed for husbands (handling the ropes, watching the position of competing boats, and quickly throwing their weight where needed— sometimes out over the water—for smooth maneuvers). The children played on the beach, and then crewed for their dads when they were old enough. In its more than 20 years of activity, lasting friendships began for those sail-andsurf-world teenagers.
The Norm and Jinx Marchment family joined early. She crewed for him in races as far away as Australia.
In 1966 he was chosen commodore to represent the MYC in the sailing community. He says that anyone who did not walk fast enough in the opposite direction was named commodore.
Alice and John Abel and their children Paula and John participated from 1955. Abel was treasurer on the board of directors, then commodore in 1961.
William Buck led the club in 1960 and 1964. He, his wife Ethel, son Bill, and daughter Trudy enjoyed many years as members since 1954. Bill Jr. built his own 12-foot outrigger when he was only 15 years old. Trudy married widower Norm Marchment many years later.
Trudy reminisced about the great parties, too. After a day of racing members often headed to the Buck home for a spaghetti dinner, but the annual authentic Hawaiian luau was the most eagerly awaited.
The men dug a deep pit in the sand where an entire pig was roasted all day. There was poi, Mai Tais and sodas, exotic fruits and abundant roast pork. Sometimes Polynesian and Samoan dancers entertained.
“We danced, sang, and played games, guitars and bongos,” she says.
Many celebrities of the day dropped by the MYC’s beach space on weekends, including Keenan Wynn and his motorcycle, William Windom, Steve McQueen, Gardener MacKay, Robert Fortier (he built his own 18-foot and 26-foot Malibu Outriggers), Dyan Canon, Chad Evert and Warren Miller.
The club moved in the early 1960s to a still-empty beach space across from PC Greens Market (some old-timers believe it was the site of the Malibu Potteries).
The new location featured a grand 55-foot flagpole made by Norm Marchment from part of a Canadian mine sweeper that he and Matt Kivlin—a MYC member and well-known surfer—brought there from a Wilmington marine salvage yard. Sadly, the flagpole disappeared when the club had to move for the last time—to the Trancas-Broad Beach area.
Thanks to John Abel, Trudy Buck-Marchment and Norm Marchment for details of “the heyday” of the MYC.
Although the days of 60 boats racing beyond the surf on weekends at the Malibu and Paradise Cove piers have passed, that robust and creative era stands on its own in Malibu’s unique history.

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