Founded in 1957, the Gig Harbor Yacht Club has had female commodores, but has never had an all-female group of bridge officers.
Commodore Bobbie Higgins, Vice Commodore Debbie Lee and Rear Commodore Chris Neely make up the bridge for the year, ending in June 2016. The three women are all very active in the club. They’re also all sailboaters.
The women got involved in the club because it has such a tight-knit, welcoming and just plain fun community of people. It’s a common interest in boating that brought them to the club, but it’s a sense of community that keeps them coming back and investing time in leadership roles.
“I’m so proud of this town,” Neely said. “I think that the yacht club is a real asset to the maritime feel the city wants to promote.”
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The bridge is the face of the yacht club. The group leads club meetings and also sit on the club’s board. The three-person setup acts as a chain. Lee will move into Higgins place and so will Neely, eventually. That means the club is set up with female leadership for the next several years. Bridge members are voted on by the club every year.
That’s not something that often happens at area yacht clubs. After all, there have been no females on the Tacoma Yacht Club bridge. Last year the Seattle Yacht Club added a female member to the bridge.
It’s not new to the Gig Harbor Yacht Club, which had Commodore Yolanda Essig in 2011. Higgins is the third female commodore in the club’s history. The first-ever commodore of the yacht club was Walt Williamson in 1959.
Neely said she eagerly got involved in the club because it felt so open and warm. All of the members welcomed her and her husband into the fold after moving to town about five years ago. It’s a common misconception that yacht clubs can be very exclusive, but the three leadership women say in Gig Harbor, that’s not the case.
“We’re not a stuffy yacht club,” Neely said. “There’s so much for everybody and its so welcoming.”
Higgins agrees, saying its a great way to meet other boaters and to form an environment of camaraderie.
“(It’s) a very open, friendly club with lots of activities,” she said.
Lee said the club is run by volunteers, which takes a lot of man- and woman-power to handle all of the club’s events and activities. Notable events are summer cruises, the Commodore’s Ball and Christmastime Lighted Boat Parade.
Those interested in the yacht club don’t need a boat to join, just an interest. More information is available at the club’s website, gigharboryc.com. Interested future members can also attend a monthly dinner meeting on the second Wednesday of each month September through June and apply.
The yacht club is located at 8209 Stinson Ave., Gig Harbor.