How The WYC Uses The Waterfront

In the past 10 years, we have supported up to 350 active members per year, with an activity level of up to 7,600 member uses per year. We have been experiencing exponential growth since late 2021, having taught hundreds of students to sail, trained 30 new instructors, and undertaken several large fleet repairs. Members have volunteered thousands of hours preparing the club for a future of success, and in 2023, WYC had over 230 members, and we are on track to reach our historical numbers with over 150 people attending our Spring 2024 Open House.

In the spirit of creating an active waterfront, we maintain 3 rescue boats (Boston Whalers). These are equipped with outboard motors and are used for rescuing boaters, for accessing the outer dock, and by instructors to teach sailing classes and host supervised sailing. These boats need to be moored in the water and remain quickly accessible for safety purposes.

Sailing dinghies are small boats sailed by 1-3 people. The lifeblood of our club, our dinghy fleet is where students begin learning to sail. It also gives experienced sailors a chance to hone their skills. WYC offers novice lessons each quarter and the lessons are constrained by the size of the fleet. The classes are nearly always full with a waitlist. 

The club has 25 dinghies that are currently stored on and launched from the dinghy dock (docks A and B). This dock is 20-feet wide, low and close to the water, with rubber bumper rails and recessed tie-down rings that make it easier and safer to launch, dock, board, and haul up boats than a regular dock–especially for lightweight sailors. The specific design of this dock, combined with the boat ramp and land storage, is important for equity, making sailing accessible to as many people as possible. This accounts for about 1,500 student uses of dinghies per year.

The club has 10 additional dinghy-class sailboats, stored on land, that account for about 150 student uses per year, and 21 sailboards (windsurfers), stored in the ASUW Shell House or at Sail Sand Point, accounting for 700 student uses per year. These vessels are used for more advanced sailing classes, instructor training, and self-checkouts. 

The club has 6 keelboats and 5 daysailers which are stored on the keelboat dock, (docks C, D, E, and F). Keelboats, larger in size and weight than dinghies, are used for quarter-long keelboat classes, multi-night trips, self-checkouts, and taking 400 first year students sailing each year during Dawg Daze. In total, this accounts for about 3,000 engagements per year, including multi-day events, per year. For example, we had 75 students attend our Fall 2023 Snooze ‘n’ cCruise event, where all our keelboats sail to Blake iIsland for an overnight camping trip,. This event which runs three times per year. We also participate in Seattle-wide racing events with other yacht clubs weekly in the summer and winter, which typically includes 1-3 keelboats or daysailers with 5-8 crew members each. 

The club needs locked storage for the following categories of equipment:

  • Safety gear (life jackets, harnesses, horns)
  • Wetsuits and drysuits
  • Sails (dacron & nylon)
  • Foils, and tillers, and other rigging
  • Batteries for keelboats and rescue boats
  • Fuel and motors (gasoline, small outboards)
  • Overnight supplies (camping gear, cushions, cooking equipment)
  • Miscellaneous (dollies, ropes, tools, maintenance equipment and supplies)

We currently store equipment in a sail locker attached to the WAC, the ASUW Shell House, in a garage bay space, and in on-dock lockers. We used to have locker room access and dedicated space for doing repairs and other maintenance. 

Overall, with our fleet of dinghies, keelboats, daysailers, we get about 5,000 student engagements a year.

In light of recent and ongoing access and space changes outlined in the attached document, we believe it would be helpful to reference 2015 in contrast to 2019 to illustrate more typical and expected participation patterns.

Notably, student sailing engagements have been significantly reduced while the student leadership works to manage these changes and the general instability of our waterfront access. Despite these impacts, we are enthusiastic about continuing our rapid growth trajectory with additional support from UW.

Participations Per Year
Activity TypeYear 2015Year 2019
Dinghies2,4531,337
Catamarans456252
Bravos339201
One Person595308
Two Person1,013548
Performance5028
Sailboards11350
Daysailer1,878978
Keelboat1,482990
Maintenance/Repair1,040600
Dawg Daze450225
Total7,4164,180

Given the interconnectedness of the waterfront site, its associated docks, facilities, and grounds, the ASUW Shell House, and the Waterfront Activities Center, we present our current use of the entire site together with information about our spaces prior to facility closures, restricted access, and COVID. We aim to give context for the potential interdependent impacts arising from recent and ongoing changes at the site, the proposed East Campus Docks project, and future waterfront projects. 

Dinghy Dock

Docks A and B, together colloquially known as the dinghy dock, were designed for launching and storing sailing dinghies. Its 20-foot width, low freeboard (several inches), rubber bumper rails, recessed soft tie-down rings, and orientation with the prevailing southerly and northerly winds make it much easier, safer, and more equitable to rig, launch, dock, board, and haul up boats than a typical dock, all while providing room for boat storage and a waterfront pathway. Its design also facilitates the efficient departure and arrival of large groups of dinghies, decreasing waiting times and increasing valuable time on the water. In 2017, Dock A was repurposed, resulting in a 20% dinghy fleet reduction, all Hobie Bravos being stored in the moat just West of the dinghy dock, and large catamarans moving to the keelboat dock.

Our current footprint for the dinghy dock:

  •         8 x beginner dinghies (Hobie Bravos)       12’ x 5’ each
  •         7 x single person dinghies (Lasers)            14’ x 5’ each           
  •         6 x two person dinghies (FJs)                    14’ x 6’ each
  •        4 x catamarans (Hobie 16)                         17’ x 8’ each

Representing 40% of our total boat usage and hosting all of our small boat lessons, the dinghy dock’s importance cannot be understated. The proposed dock plan calls for the removal of the entire dinghy dock with no suitable replacement or alternative location. This is an enormous concern for WYC as it would drastically hinder our ability to provide lessons and sailing opportunities to students. The repurposing of Dock A has already measurably reduced dinghy sailing activity. Its removal would result in the further loss of dinghy capacity and impair the critical first step in a new sailor’s journey on campus.

Rescue Boats

Prior to 2017’s repurposing of Dock A, our rescue boats were stored in three dedicated slips on the South end of the dinghy dock. They have since been stored on the keelboat dock.

Our current Rescue Boat footprint

  •         3 x Boston Whalers                         16’ x 6’ each

The rescue boats are essential for supporting all lessons, and quick access to Union Bay is necessary in emergencies for WYC, the Seattle Fire Department, and Seattle Harbor Patrol. Prior to shop space and land storage reduction, we kept an additional whaler on land or in the shop in a maintenance rotation, minimizing downtime and maximizing lesson capacity. 

Boat Ramp and Land Storage

The boat ramp, in conjunction with outdoor land storage, has provided an integral extension to our small boat sailing lessons and opportunities. The ramp’s gentle slope into the water in proximity to the specially designed dinghy dock allows sailors to tie off and rig in a more equitable and beginner-friendly way, all while remaining dry. Beyond improving equitable access and expanding fleet capacity and variety, the boat ramp was also the primary means to transfer dinghies and rescue boats from the water to the shop space for maintenance and repair.

Our current outdoor land storage:

  •          3 x single person dinghies (Lasers)            14’ x 5’ each           
  •          2 x two person dinghies (FJs)                    14’ x 6’ each
  •          4 x performance dinghies                           17’ x 6’ each
  •          3 x road trailers                                           18’ x 8’ each

 Boat ramp use has been largely restricted or outright banned since 2018, which also coincided with the reduction of two thirds of our land stored dinghies. The use of land storage and dollies reduces needed storage space on the docks, allows boats to be hauled out for maintenance, and allows the use of a winch and wheels for sailors who struggle with launching from a dock. As written, the current plans do not replace the boat ramp or provide suitable means for beach launching with a dolly. This would prevent frequent use of land stored dinghies and preemptively cap waterfront capacity.

Keelboat Dock

Docks C, D, E, and F, known as the keelboat dock, are currently used for mooring large daysailers and keelboats which have to be stored in the water due to their weight. Additionally, after the aforementioned space changes, 3 rescue boats and some larger dinghies and catamarans have been stored here. Orientation with the prevailing southerly and northerly winds makes docking and departing easier and safer. The keelboat fleet also has a Swan 441 moored on the outer dock due to its 8 foot draft.

Our current Keelboat Dock footprint:

  • 3 x  Beginner keelboats                              27’ each, 4’ draft
  • 2 x Cruising keelboats                                30’ each, 5.5’ draft
  • 6 x daysailers/small keelboats                    19’-22’ each, 3.5’ draft
  • 3 x large catamarans                                  16’-21’ x 12’ each

 The keelboat dock represents 50% of our total usage. The current plans call for a removal of Dock E and Dock F, which would result in a reduction of roughly half our current keelboat dock fleet. 

Waterfront Building Use

In direct support of waterfront usage, WYC accesses and occupies several different shared and exclusive spaces. The Sail Locker is a conditioned space for all actively used sails, life jackets, battery chargers, float plan tracking and miscellaneous boat parts. The shellhouse contains all wetsuits, windsurfing gear, overnight gear, and keelboat gear. In the garage bays, we store all tools, spare parts, spare sails, and repair materials. The space is actively used for workshops, classes, sewing projects, minor maintenance, and part repair.

Our current Waterfront Building footprint and space designation

  •         Sail Locker              280 sq ft                            Exclusive
  •         Shellhouse Storage Bay      500 sq ft                    Exclusive
  •         Gas Shed           ~ 40/100 sq ft                    Shared
  •         WAC Garage Bays       ~800/3700 sq ft       Shared
  •         WAC Boat Repair Shop                                      No Access
  •         WAC Locker Rooms and Showers                                  No Access

In the past 10 years, the club and the waterfront have seen significant changes in space access, space allocation, and space classification. Our access to shared spaces has been reduced from 3,300 hours per year to 416 hours per year. 630 square feet of exclusive WYC sail repair, material storage, and teaching space, in addition to roughly 700 square feet of dedicated shop tool and materials storage were relocated to the WAC Garage bays. At the same time, the shared WAC boat repair shop was reduced from 2,600 square feet to 700 square feet. Following COVID, the remainder of the shop was converted to storage. Locker rooms were closed in 2022 and have since been converted to general storage. In July of 2024, WYC and other student clubs are to vacate the ASUW Shell House. No input from WYC has been solicited on the renovation plans for this space.

Although the proposed, publicly available designs may have a similar footprint, they suggest significant changes to the primary function that the Waterfront Activity Center, associated facilities, and docks were intended to serve. These changes will be detrimental to the historic educational and recreational use of the land, waterfront, and facilities. Furthermore, these changes and their implementation suggest a serious and existential threat to our student-run  sailing community at the UW, and without proper mitigation these developments will permanently and negatively alter the character of the waterfront.

Conclusion

We reiterate that WYC is an important student stakeholder in this project and future waterfront projects, yet we have not been involved in any part of the planning and design process. We hope this document provides an introduction to critical context and sets us up for future collaboration in this project and beyond.

  1. We are calling on the university, specifically student life led by Denzil Suite, to take the WYC’s concerns seriously and preserve the legacy of student sailing on campus.

  2. We call the City of Seattle to have a public hearing for Project 3041177-LU so that the people’s concerns can be fully heard and considered.

  3. We thank students and community members for their positive responses to our efforts and ask them to continue to engage to maximize pressure.

  4. We also ask for anyone with experience/capacity willing to help the WYC with this campaign to email contact@washingtonyachtclub.org.

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