Panama City Beach – Yacht Club Turns 76

PANAMA CITY BEACH – I did not know that Panama City Beach has a Yacht Club.  Here is an article from the News Herald.

Memories of longtime St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club members mostly pertain to regattas, commodore balls and Easter egg hunts, but those events were suspended for a time as World War II raged.

The U.S. Navy took over the yacht club, located on Bunkers Cove Road, for training operations. In the 1960s, when past commodore Doug Sale was swimming and snorkeling by the docks in front of the club, he said he came across .50-caliber shell casings.  Sale’s father, Thomas, was a founding club member, and Sale joined the junior yacht club as a youth. He said this week that during the last commodore’s ball, held on New Year’s Eve, “I was looking at the same flooring that was there in the 1950s.”

The club is seeking funds for some major improvements. The Panama City Commission on Tuesday approved a development agreement between the city and the yacht club allowing the club to make improvements, with certain conditions.  The city also approved an ordinance Tuesday which maintains the club’s status as an allowable, nonconforming zoning use so long as it is not enlarged.

The yacht club wants to modernize its facility by elevating it, mainly for flood-control purposes. The club management area, restaurant and bar on the first floor will move to the second, and the multi-purpose room will switch to the first floor. Porches will be added around both floors, and the multi-purpose room will be able to open up to the lawn during events. A new boat ramp also is in the works.  Additionally, the new yacht club will have a few more boat slips and an anti-siltation device positioned under the parking lot to improve water quality in St. Andrew Bay. A grant has paid for the device.

Yacht Club commodore Jim Cook said there is no price tag yet on the redevelopment, and work might not begin for a while, depending on economic conditions. The development agreement, however, is good for 20 years.

The approximately 300-member club celebrated its 75th anniversary last year. An honorary club commodore, Asa G. Candler, was founder of the Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, and he owned a summer home on Bunkers Cove Road. Candler donated the cup which is competed for in the annual Candler Regatta, at which St. Andrews Bay Yacht Club is host each year.

When Sale was in school, he said the junior yacht club was very active. On Saturdays, they raced in small fish class sloops, which have singular masts, and the winner would be crew member for the main club on Sundays when they raced. The club winner of those races represented the club at various regattas around the state.  Cook has been a yacht club member since 1977. He remembers ninth-grade dances being held there, and slot machines once were on the premises. The food, he said, is much-improved now that the club has its own chef.

Other history abounds inside the club.  One room on the first floor has hatch covers on the wall, which were disassembled in Panama City from the World War II-ear Liberty cargo ships.

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