History of the Willamette Sailing Club

Willamette Sailing Club began on March 9,1961, when the first meeting was conducted at Totem Pole Marina, 4444 S.W. Macadam. This was an outgrowth of sailing classes that Totem Pole Marina began in the winter of 1960. At that first meeting By-laws were accepted and officers were elected. There were thirty charter members including two Midshipmen. The original WSC roster of boats shows fifteen sailboats and three powerboats.

The Membership soon saw the need for clubhouse facilities, and much effort was directed to gain funds for this purpose. During 1962, money raised through rummage sales, raffle tickets, bonds and other activities. Plans were made during the winter of 1962-63 to have a float built for the erection of a clubhouse. The first event in the new clubhouse was a Halloween Party in October of 1963.The flood in December of 1964 caused anchor lines to part and the entire Totem Pole Marina/Moorage went down the Willamette River. It was rescued by tugs and maneuvered to Zidell’s. The club boats and facilities escaped with a minimum of damage. On January 2, 1965, the clubhouse was towed from Zidell’s to the Leach Towboat Company property for a thirty day period. Later in the year it was towed back to Totem Pole Marina.

A most significant move was in 1967 when the club moved to its present location. This move enabled WSC to generate a sustaining income from its own pull-out and dry moorage; made available room for parking and picnicking; and above all, has provided room for growth. In 1970, property adjacent to the club on the south was leased from the City of Portland. The area was leveled and fenced, thereby doubling the space available for dry storage and rigging of boats. In 1971 a bonding assessment enabled the club to purchase a dredge and begin operation of one of the most energetic projects to date. Mud and debris could now be removed from the harbor and moorage area as the club needs directed. In 1977 the City of Portland requested return of the south moorage lot which they used in the development of Willamette Park. The dredge was sold and the moorage lot remaining was improved and fenced.

In 1978, facilities were expanded when two pull-out floats were purchased. This created additional moorage for forty two boats. Early in the ’70s the membership realized that it would be a good idea to find some land to buy to assure the club a permanent location. A site committee was named and began the search. Many possible sites were researched by the committee and some offers tendered. The membership, however, was relieved when the owners of our present site agreed to sell. Negotiations were finalized in 1981. In 1983 the membership approved a Master Plan for future club development. This plan will influence and direct all site and facility improvements and major purchases as the club moves toward its ultimate completion. Two Master Plan improvements were completed in 1984; a fully operational sewer was installed to the satisfaction of the City of Portland, and the large walk on the south side of the clubhouse was reconstructed. Additionally, cooperative arrangements were completed with neighboring businesses to ease the parking stress during peak-use hours.

In the fall of 2008, WSC hired its first full-time club administrator. LauraLee Symes, a long-time member and avid sailor, took over member services, bookkeeping, and sailing school management, bringing these functions into one office and making the club much more efficient and responsive to members’ needs.

In 2009, the membership approved replacement of its old clubhouse. Construction of the new Sailing Center was completed at the end of 2018. The Ribbon Cutting Ceromony was hosted in April 2019. The new Sailing Center has and will continue to meet the demands of our growing sailing community.

Some Highlights of Our Past

1961 – Margaret and Billy Holley presented the Holley Cup Perpetual Trophy, to be awarded, annually, to the winner of a women’s series.

1964 – Introduction to Sailing Classes were started with Bob Groshart as the lead instructor. Typhoid shots were given to all participating sailors.

1967 – WSC moved to its present site. One of the advantages – unlimited parking!

1981 – Present site purchased.

1983 – Master Plan approved by membership, assuring a cohesive development of the property and facilities.

1987 – Phase One of the Master Plan was competitiveleted. This included the extension of the storm sewer line into the river, filling of the upper lot which gave us approximately one half acre additional usable space, new metal pilings were installed, all of which gave the basic look and shape for all future development.

1993 – Upper lot paving lanes completed. Fence reinstalled for maximum car parking. Ramp extension installed with pre-cast concrete sections.

1994 – Foundation work started on new upper change and storage building.

1996 – Pilings extended on south dock. Repairs to facilities made after flood. Continuing work on change room scheduled and dredging scheduled.

2006 – Dredging done again. Competitive high school sailing revived with teams from high schools around the Portland area meeting at WSC for coaching and regattas.

2008 – Planning revived for a new clubhouse. First full-time club administrator hired.

2009 – Membership approves building of a new clubhouse. Grace the Cat is “hired” to keep pests out of the boat house.

2014 – WSC’s first full-time Head Coach, Steve Williams, passed away. The Willamette River Youth Regatta is dedicated as the “Steve Williams Memorial Regatta” and his PFD is memorialized in the clubhouse.

2019 – WSC opens its new Sailing Facility!


    Willamette Sailing Club



    6336 S. Beaver Ave
    Portland, OR 97239


    PMB 122, 5331 S. Macadam Ave Ste 258
    Portland, OR 97239


    Business Office: 503-246-5345

    Programming: 503-730-SAIL


    Membership and Billing - Manager@WillametteSailingClub.com

    Programming - Director@WillametteSailingClub.com