Deep in the Sonoran Desert, close to the Arizona/California border just off of I-10 is where you’ll find a little town called Quartzsite. You might be left scratching your head after hearing that this town actually has its own, officially recognized, yacht club even though the closest body of water is several hundred miles away. Yes, that’s right– it’s official. And, guess what? I’m actually a card carrying member.
I had read about the Quartzsite Yacht Club in Weird Arizona, a book in the ongoing series of books by Mark Sceurman and Mark Moran which highlights some of the more quirky aspects of the United States– the same book series we’re spotlighting this month here at Witching Hour. Up until I read that book, I’d never heard of the Quartzsite Yacht Club and I’ve lived in Arizona for nearly all my life. Upon reading the story, I immediately decided that, on my next road-trip to California, I would join the Quartzsite Yacht Club. That goal was made a reality in October 2010.
I still remember the excitement as we exited the freeway in Quartzsite. This was not the first time I’d stopped here– I actually like to gas up in Quartzsite because it’s the last town you can stop and buy the cheap Arizona gas before crossing state lines and paying about a dollar-fifty more per gallon. This time was different, though because of the long anticipated thrill of joining a yacht club.
We found the place and my husband pulled into the parking lot, which is the same lot for another attraction from the book– the Last Camp of Hi Jolly. (And even though we were RIGHT THERE… I didn’t go see that because my husband wanted to get back on the road. Grrrr.) It was shortly after 10 am and the Quartzsite Yacht Club had just opened. We walked in and the place was nearly empty. The air smelled of oranges. A friendly voice called out to us to pick a seat anywhere. The weather was nice, so we selected a table outside and perused the menus. We ate a tasty lunch of fish and chips— best I’ve had in a long time. When we told our waitress that we also wanted to join the Yacht Club, she bubbled with excitement and told us tales of how she’s used her membership to get entry via reciprocity to other yacht clubs in the country.
Membership only costs $25 a person, and you get a lot for the price. My husband and I both got tee-shirts. We also got to choose either a burgee (a flag) or a hat. Plus, we got membership packets which included membership cards, information about the club as well as certificates we could frame and hang on the wall at home. It was so awesome!
As we pulled away from the Yacht Club, I couldn’t help but smile… for a couple 100 miles… as I took a quick snapshot of our membership cards and sent them to family and friends.
I’ll bet you’re wondering how a restaurant in the desert got its own Yacht Club. The Quartzsite Yacht Club story begins in the 1970’s when a man named Al Madden bought an old beer bar in Quartzsite. Madden, armed with his sense of humor, decided to change the name of the establishment from “The JIGSAW” to “The Yacht Club”. He even came up with a catchy motto— Long time no sea! To start his business, Madden began to sell yacht club memberships to qualified visitors (in those days, it cost $10 to qualify). Soon Madden was a Commodore of his own fleet.
In 1995, the original Yacht Club was destroyed in an electrical fire. Al rebuilt the place, but passed away shortly after it reopened. Though, his legacy survives. In fact, Al Madden’s legacy is chronicled in a book called Weird Arizona.
If you’re interested in joining the Quartzsite Yacht Club, I recommend it. Even if you never use the membership to get into another club that does reciprocity, you still can enjoy the swag.
Quartzsite Yacht Club Homepage: http://www.quartzsiteyachtclub.com/
Weird Arizona Source:
Treat, Wesley. “Weird Arizona: Your Travel Guide to Arizona’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets”. Ed. Sceurman, Mark and Moran, Mark. New York: SSterling Publishing Co., Inc., 2007, pp 130-132.