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Yacht Club of the Month: Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club

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Mocka Jumbies and Rum...

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For over 70 years, the Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club, in Ponce, Puerto Rico, has been a gathering place for sailors and sports fishermen alike.

“Seven men, including my uncle, Pedro Serralles, had the idea back in 1935 to build a club at this location,” says Michael Serralles, a long time club member, past commodore and avid power and sail boater. “The waters here are protected by a natural reef and it’s very near the natural harbor. Of course back then, this area was just a one-acre island, Isla de Gata, where the original clubhouse still stands. Members had to take a small ferry to get from the mainland to the Club.”

The clubhouse was completed in 1938, a date visitors will see on the bow of the boat-shaped guardhouse at the entrance. Over the following years, the Club’s land area expanded to 13 acres thanks to member, Tito Castro. Castro operated a construction company and had the idea to take removed rocks from roadway projects and fill in the shallows surrounding the island. A few years later, the Army Corp of Engineers constructed a breakwater to protect the area from the breaking waves of the Caribbean Sea. The combined efforts enabled a roadway to be built and easier access to the Club.

However, Club members took a backseat to the U.S. Navy during World War II. “We had five PT boats and submarines stationed here,” says long time club member, Ramon Gonzalez.

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After World War II, recreational boating activities moved to the fore and the Club membership grew from 100 individuals in 1946 to 900 families in 2006.

Today, Club facilities have been updated, enlarged and expanded to stay current with the times and members’ needs. The original two-story clubhouse, where boats were docked on the first level, is today the stately Restaurante El Comodoro. Club buildings and grounds also include an open-air bar and cafeteria, rest rooms and showers, two swimming pools, domino pavilion, and two-hole par-three golf course.

The marina has a boatyard, dry storage and 70-ton Travelift. It also boasts 250 slips with dockside water and electric, including 42 slips that are part of a dock extension project completed this past February. These slips can house vessels with a 12-foot draft, and the T-ending of the dock can accommodate a 100- to 120-foot megayacht. “Although this is a private facility, we have about 20 slips available to visitors by reservation. Visitors can stay for up to 3 months. After that, they have to apply to join the Club and Club membership requires residency in Puerto Rico,” Serralles explains.

Sailing and sports fishing events take place all year long.

On the sailing side, the Club hosts regattas every Sunday of the month, called Domingueras. “We stay inside the harbor if its blowing heavy or sail out to Caja de Muertos ( Coffin Island) seven miles out in the Caribbean Sea if its light,” says Serralles.

The Club’s largest annual sailing event is the Discover the Caribbean Series. This event takes place in October and November over three weekends. There is a feeder race, with party stop in Salinas, the first weekend, then sailing out of the Club the second two weekends. Big boats – racing, cruising and one-design, as well as dinghies – Lasers, Optimists, Sunfish and Snipes, and Hobie cats all participate.

Then on the sports fishing side, the Club hosts a dolphin tournament in April, marlin tournament in May and several smaller local tournaments, including those for kids, throughout the year.

For more information, contact: Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club, Isla de Gata, Playa de Ponce, Puerto Rico, 00734. Tel: 787-842-9003, Fax: 787-844-1300; Email: nautico@coquinet.com

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Carol M. Bareuther, RD, is a St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands based marine writer and registered dietitian.

So Caribbean you can almost taste the rum...

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