For more than four years, the home of this “disorganization,” known as Outstretched Palms, remained in San Diego. This was a period of fun, fellowship, and dedicated volunteerism by all, including the children. Each month, the handwritten letters were typed and abundant artwork was created in preparation for Bulletin Night. The compilation, binding, addressing, and posting took place amidst much socializing and the tasting of wine. During this period the membership grew to nearly 70 Commodores, a chart exchange was operating with as many as 2000 charts, and life was a ball in the “ole boat house.”
As the San Diego “liver-aboarders” sailed away, the workload became too much for those left behind, and the Association found willing folk near Los Angeles (Jun 56). The new home of SSCA, known as Upstretched Oilwells, continued for another three and a half years until Dec 1959. During this time the membership grew only slightly to 72 Commodores, 33 of whom were out cruising.
As more and more members sailed away, this operation suffered the same fate, and SSCA moved back to San Diego where it remained for a bit over four years, until Apr 64. Then it was back to Los Angeles for almost three years until Dec 1966, returning to the Silver Gate Yacht Club on Shelter Island, San Diego for seven years until Nov 1973, then to Los Angeles (Venice) for one and a half years.
From 1967 to 1973, Commodores Babe and Larry Baldwin, FAITH, led the effort to print the Bulletin each month. Commodores John and Mary Lavery, SITISI, paid for a professional typist and printer. In 1974, when the Baldwins wanted to pass the Bulletin job on to someone new, Dave and Betty Wittwer volunteered to take Home Base to Marina del Rey.
Changing Membership Requirements
Membership requirements were modified in the early years in an attempt to handle new situations. Ownership and residence aboard one’s own vessel, plus acceptance by the members, was deemed no longer sufficient. An early provision was added that the prospective member had to have the intention of cruising (Mar 53). Then we find the need for the membership to be terminated upon moving ashore (Feb 54); an introductory letter was needed from a sponsoring Commodore (Jun 54); sponsor must know the persons well (Nov 55); sponsor must have been a member for a year (Nov 55); the applicant’s names must be published in the Bulletin for three months (Nov 55); a desire to limit the membership to 100* (Aug 54, Jan 57); a liveaboard requirement of six months (Sep 57); a letter of introduction from the applicant, an increase in the liveaboard requirement from six months to a year, and the sponsor requirement raised from one to two sponsors (Feb 71).
These changes were made to maintain the traditions and standards of the founders and early members, namely that SSCA was a “disorganization” of dedicated liveaboard sailors. Limiting the size of the membership was deemed necessary so that volunteers would be able to handle the work of managing the Association and publishing the Bulletin.
*A membership includes all the recipients of a single issue of the Bulletin.
Coping with Problems
During these early years several complaints were made repeatedly in the Bulletins. These included a shortage of letters; the expense of returned Bulletins due to the failure to provide address changes; late membership payments; a shortage of typists; a heavy workload for the editors; members moving ashore and not notifying the editors; problems coordinating the sponsor letters with applicant letters; marina restrictions for the editors; no space for chart storage; and tight finances.
Many of these problems were overcome by moving the operation from time to time and by tightening the requirements for membership (see above), by discontinuing the chart exchange (Jul 60), and allowing Ex-Commodores to continue to receive the Bulletin (Apr 64). Compared to their financial difficulties, however, these were minor irritants inherent in a growing volunteer organization.
Regarding finances, the philosophy was to do everything possible to minimize the cost of membership by relying on volunteers as much as possible. But from time to time there were volunteer shortages. Whenever there was a shortage of funds, a hat was passed to keep things going. There are many references to member donations in the Bulletins. For many years this worked well and the main cost was postage. Eventually the reproduction equipment wore out, however, and, faced with a major expense, they resorted to commercial printing (Jan 67). This cut down on their storage needs and lessened dependence on volunteers, but added a significant fixed expense largely beyond their control.
Despite these problems, members were extremely proud of their “disorganization,” and took steps to maintain it as such. For example, the artwork in the Bulletins through 1967 often displayed DISORGANIZATION as the name on the stern of a boat. They knew that “it will always be imminently in peril of breaking up and coming apart at the seams until the day that it is organized. But then it will no longer be the original SSCA” (Sep 54).
Funding by Subscribers: A Major Change
The new financial situation caused by the decision to print the Bulletin commercially was resolved by “extending the privilege of subscribing to the Bulletin to anyone interested in our activities” (Jan 67). The response to this initiative was so great that joy prevailed at Home Base. Subscribers who volunteered as helpers to the Editors were a welcome bonus of this change (Dec 67). However, considering the strong feelings about an organization open only to “liver-aboarders dedicated to cruising,” this was a major change for SSCA.
Several times SSCA almost folded, but volunteers were always found and the Association continued to thrive. Extending the Bulletin to subscribers greatly eased the tight finances. Commercial printing led to a much more readable Bulletin. Complaints were generally few, SSCA had a positive worldwide reputation, and everyone seemed content with the operation. For nearly 23 years, SSCA had been a major influence in the cruising community.