Yachting Promotes Family friendly Fun and Fellowship

For 50 years, the international Association of Shrine Yacht Clubs has celebrated a love of the sea.

Standing on the bow, breeze ruffling their hair, cruising into the harbor under the afternoon sun. It’s just another meeting for the members of the International Association of Shrine Yacht Clubs (IASYC).

yacht crew on vessel

This year marks 50 years since the boaters in several Shrine Yacht Clubs came together to form an association. Now the group centered around boating and maritime activities is also considered a model for family-oriented organizations in Shrinedom. Today, members of IASYC and their international officers are ambassadors of goodwill to Shriners and Masons affiliated with the boating, maritime, and beach community, and are located worldwide.

The International Association of Shrine Yacht Clubs is just like most other Shriners organizations, holding regular stated meetings, planning opportunities for fun and fellowship, and fundraising for Shriners Hospitals for Children.

The members have made a few tweaks to celebrate their love of all things boating, from calling their leadership “the Bridge” instead of the Divan to organizing inland parties they call “dry sails.” But their favorite thing to do is get out on the water.

Since its inception 50 years ago, the IASYC has grown internationally and expanded its presence on the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, the far western Pacific, the Mediterranean, all 50 states, Mexico, Canada, and other nautical and related places where nobles enjoy fraternal friendship, yachting, and helping the patients of Shriners Hospitals.

Shriner and wife Yacht Club members

“There are affiliated clubs which expand the IASYC international reach in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Turkey, Puerto Rico, Panama, Bolivia, and other locations in South and Central America,” said Illustrious Sir Luis Cisneros, International Commodore 2020-2021 and Past Potentate of Almas Shriners in Washington, D.C. “We are looking to start additional clubs in Mexico, the Philippines and Brazil this Shrine year.”

The group enjoys planning sails to ports inside and outside the United States, always looking for interesting destinations that would appeal to their members. While no sails have been possible during the pandemic, several travelers enjoyed a recent trip to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in the “Before Times.”

Illustrious Sir Gene Yee, International Fleet Captain and Past Potentate of Al Bahr Shriners in San Diego, California, said planning these trips can take months and Shriners from all over participate. Yee said that for the Toronto meeting, a dozen people brought their yachts from the Eastern United States and Canada, while several others flew into the city for the meetings.

Other favorite international destinations include two in  Mexico – the popular vacation destinations Los Cabos and Mazatlan. These areas have a special connection to the group, because they are part of the San Diego Al Bahr Shriners territory, illustrating the temple’s international reach.

The Association tries to plan yachting trips every half year, Yee said, with meetings, dinners and inland activities interspersed throughout the year. A recent midwinter (pre-COVID) “dry sail” was held in Las Vegas, Nevada, where members gathered at the Rio Las Vegas Hotel for fun and fellowship. “Since ‘rio’ means ‘river,’ we find water wherever we go,” Cisneros joked.

The group is dedicated to including as many people as possible, and members love introducing others to the joy of yachting. They also tend to love showing their boats to others, Yee confided with a smile. Nobles who don’t have their own boats are welcome in the group and join in the sails by riding with others.

"Our members are a genuinely diverse, experienced, international group of Shriners banding together to see the IASYC through this Golden Anniversary year, and into the next 50 years.”
llustrious Sir Luis Cisneros, International Commodore
Maine Yacht Club at Chowder Cafe

When they aren’t on the water, members find many ways to enjoy fun and fellowship, including meetings, dinners, fundraisers and family events. Like many others, they have stayed connected through the pandemic by using Zoom and other virtual tools. The group is dedicated to raising funds to support their philanthropy. Since the group is transportation oriented, Yee said, they often like to earmark their fundraising efforts to support the health care system’s transportation fund, although they support the hospitals’ general fund as well.

Members of IASYC worldwide credit the international leadership of Cisneros and other Shriners maritime visionaries, including Past International Commodores Illustrious Sirs Bob Omer, Ray Desrochers, Bill Davis, Lonnie Ramos and Bob Stanley, with helping their Association to grow and thrive worldwide.

Yee has been working with the IASYC’s efforts to expand the network of port captains and regional ambassadors worldwide for the next 50 years. “Shriners traveling to different ports will find willing and friendly port captains dispersed around the globe for fun, fellowship, and fraternity wherever they land,” Yee said. “The attractions of water and being close to it are magnets that coincide with that of Shrinedom. This creates additional opportunities also for Shriners to find unique opportunities to assist our favorite charity, the Shriners Hospitals for Children system.” Cisneros also sees a bright future for the organization.

International Bridge

The Bridge is a nautical term for the Association’s Divan. The current Bridge was installed on July 3, 2020, by Imperial Recorder Jim Cain in a virtual ceremony.

  • International Commodore: Illustrious Sir Luis Cisneros
  • International Vice Commodore: Illustrious Sir James Ruby
  • International Rear Commodore: Illustrious Sir Ronn Murphy
  • International Fleet Captain: Illustrious Sir Gene Yee
  • Secretary/Treasurer Illustrious: James Wertley
  • PIC, Membership Chairman: Illustrious Sir Ray Desrochers