Classic Boat Magazine, UK: Master Mariner Regatta Article

Birth of the Boatman's Protective Association

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Today’s Master Mariners Benevolent Association (MMBA), originally called the Boatman's Protective Association, was a collective of maritime tradesmen. Originally cited as a San Francisco yacht club with origins from 1867, its main purposes were to foster participation in yachting, plus preserve well-designed, properly constructed and well-maintained classic and traditional sailing craft. To explain the “benevolent” aspect, the organization also took up the task of providing aid to widows and families of brethren lost overboard from merchant vessels that plied the San Francisco Bay and offshore waters. As anticipated, at that time employers extended no financial compensation to survivors.

To fund this charity, a primary event for MMBA was its Independence Day race (July 4). Open to vessels from various local maritime companies, this was quite the event. The spectacle evoked sizable excitement, with bets placed and onlookers lining the waterfront and surrounding hills. Declared a race of sailors, rumor has it that outcomes were not always accepted with gentlemanly manners; punches were sometimes thrown, objects flung at one another and there were even unexpected bay water dunkings. 

While the MMBA no longer hosts an Independence Day race, it does organize the Master Mariner Regatta on Memorial Day weekend (held traditionally at the end of May). Often the first major race of the season, owners make ready their vessels and crews. It’s a day of San Francisco’s old wooden sailing vessels with a Barbary Coast flavor. On the water can be seen rough workboat, aside simple small leisure craft, aside schooner—all sailing within view of Golden Gate, the city front and Alcatraz Island; each very much similar to what could be seen the time the MMBA was founded in the late 1860s. On view: 20-foot and under oyster boats; square, flat and wide hay scows that transported bales of feed and passengers from the Delta region; lumber schooners moving redwood, oak and Douglas Fir from the north; potato and dairy boats transporting goods from coastal Bodega Bay.

This article appears in the December 2019 edition of Classic Boat (UK). Purchase a copy: https://www.chelseamagazines.com/shop/classic-boat/

The author is working on a longer version of this article which will appear in 2019.