For some, yacht clubs evoke images of stuffy, buttoned-up affairs with members dining on chicken dinners while using the word “yachting” flagrantly and frequently. On the 367 miles of Texas coastline and her inland lakes, however, the reality is that it is a much different affair. While Texas’ clubs are relative newcomers when compared with the deep history of clubs on the northern Gulf Coast, non-affiliated boat owners throughout the state should take another look at the services, amenities and the distinct personalities of their many clubs.

Houston Yacht Club (HYC) is the granddaddy of them all. Formed in 1897, HYC is unique in that it was created during the heyday of early yacht racing and played a consequential role in developing the city into a major port. The club also made great strides toward incorporating female sailing into the very male-dominated sport, which included sending the very first female to participate in the Gulf Yachting Association’s premier regatta—the Lipton Cup—a move that caused quite the stir in 1937.

Today, Texas’ bays from Galveston to Corpus Christi and down the Laguna Madre are lined with yacht clubs, each wielding its own personality. While location is a crucial element toward an interest in membership, it’s important to weigh what type of atmosphere best suits your boating needs and goals. Organizations such as Corpus Christi Yacht Club, Texas Corinthian Yacht Club and Seabrook Sailing Club join HYC with strong sailing and racing programs, including for juniors. If you have kids, junior sailing programs are ideal for teaching your children a lifelong love and respect for being on the water.

Many yacht clubs also host weekend cruising events. Large groups of boats travel together and raft up in the marinas of quaint towns along Texas’ charming and beautiful Gulf Coast or anchor off the barrier islands. Aransas Pass, Rockport and Bay Yacht Club in Corpus Christi, among others, have regularly scheduled cruises whether for power or sail.

All the clubs have different levels of amenities from full-service dining rooms to volunteer-run bars that simply open on the weekends. Many clubs have very few employees so they rely on members to volunteer their time, which leads to a high level of pride and ownership in their clubs.

The experience and camaraderie of being among fellow boat owners is the most important result from joining a yacht club. Taking into account the reciprocal rights at many clubs and benefits of discounts on transient slips throughout the Gulf Coast, membership at a yacht club can be very fulfilling socially and a means to get out on the water more often. Whether you are a powerboat owner, a sailor or simply looking to get into the boating lifestyle, Texas’ many yacht clubs wait for your arrival.

By Harlen Leslie, Southern Boating October 2014