One way to track North Central Washington’s boating industry is to follow the wake of the Boating Club of Wenatchee.
Through more than five decades of water activities, the nonprofit group has tacked full circle from its sailboat origins on the Columbia River to encompass utility fishing boats, mid-sized yachts and, later, super-sleek ski boats. Now, it’s slowly returning to gentler times with a growing number of members owning sail and pontoon boats geared for family fun.
“It’s a generational cycle that depends on our members’ ages, their kids and grandkids, their stations in life and many other factors,” said Steve Hanson, the club’s commodore or chief officer. He’s been a member of the club for 33 years and served four times as commodore.
“Watching the trends come and go — well, it’s fun,” he said. “If you love boats, this is the place to be.”
The 75-member club (yes, there’s a waiting list) got its start 55 years ago with a Bureau of Reclamation charter to establish a social and boating organization on the rising waters of Lake Entiat behind Rocky Reach Dam.
Since then, said Hanson, hundreds of boating enthusiasts have grabbed annual memberships to enjoy the club’s 46-slip marina, 45 RV campsites, boat launch and clubhouse amenities that include a playground, swimming dock, barbecue and bonfire areas. A large public room provides a fireplace, sofas, dance floor, kitchen and dining area for social gatherings that include the annual Commodore’s Ball in May, Fourth of July cookouts and other events.
Maintenance of the facility is all done by volunteers from membership rolls, said club member Greg Cackler, who last month joined with Hanson to fix the group’s entry gate. “We mow, we paint, we hammer — we get this gate working again,” he laughed.
Recently, the club spent more than $25,000 in dock and marina upgrades, with most materials — including decking and floats — bought locally, said Cackler. Members take their boat trailers and RVs to local dealers for ongoing maintenance. And new boats, new RVs and
“I don’t often think of what we do in economic terms,” said Hanson. “But when you look at it more closely, yes, we do contribute a lot to the recreational economy around here.”
He mused, “Heck, when fuel is $4 a gallon, we’ve got to be contributing to somebody’s economy.”
In recent years, the club’s membership has also leaned towards more family-oriented activities, said Hanson.
“We got more members with kids who bring more activity to the place,” he said. “It’s the ongoing evolution of the club — and maybe the evolution of boating here, too — that a new generation brings new ideas and new energy.”