Deep in the Sonoran Desert is probably the oddest yacht club in the country. You can find it by taking US Route 10, which crosses the Colorado River between East Blythe, California and Ehrenberg, Arizona and drives eastward into the Sonoran Desert. The Sonoran, the hottest desert in North America, exclusive home to the saguaro cactus, is as dry as a Steven Wright standup routine. But if you press on, about 80 dusty miles from the state line and take Exit 17 for Highway 95, you will cruise into the Quartzsite Yacht Club, Quartzsite, Arizona.
Back in the 70s, a quirky Californian named Al Madden bought a local Q-town beer joint and renamed it the Quartzsite Yacht Club. He gave it the motto “Welcome aboard—long time no sea,” and appointed himself Commodore. But then the real fun started. To raise some extra cash, Commodore Madden began offering QYC memberships. For a modest one-time dues payment, new club members receive a tee-shirt, a membership card, certificate suitable for framing, and a burgee (or a cap).
But best of all, more than once has one of QYC’s 7,000+ members floated into what most of us would consider a more conventional yacht club, (i.e., one with navigable water), proffered their official QYC membership card, and requested the courtesy of reciprocal hospitality for voyaging vessels.
If you ever find yourself in this desert, with a horse with no name or otherwise, should the QYC looms in the distance, it’s no mirage. You’ll find it at the corner of West Main Street and Hi Jolly Lane (named after local hero Hajji “Hi Jolly” Ali, one of the U.S. Army’s first camel drivers, but that’s a story for another day).
They have a dozen rooms to let, aptly named the Mayflower, Santa Maria, African Queen, USS Constitution, Cutty Sark, Nautilus, Black Pearl, S.S. Minnow, Queen Mary, Stars and Stripes, the Captain’s Quarters, and A.J.’s Mai Tai.
However, since I am a member of a yacht club, I emailed them to ask, if I towed my sailboat from Maine, could I tie up to their parking lot and sleep onboard. Still waiting to hear back.