Arts & Culture

Travel Diaries: Sailing with the Edmonton Yacht Club

Because being landlocked is no excuse when it comes to sailing

Edmonton and sailing aren’t exactly two words you would normally associate together, so it may come as a surprise to you that Edmonton has been home to a vibrant sailing community going as far back as 1923. There are several sailing clubs on Wabamun Lake alone, including the Edmonton Yacht Club

This summer I had the opportunity to go to Wabamun Lake and speak with members of the Edmonton Yacht Club (EYC) about what keeps this small knit community of around 100 sailors coming back year after year.  

Photographer: Alexander Cheung

The Edmonton Yacht Club is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run sailing club committed to promoting the sport of sailing in Alberta. The club is nestled in the small summer village of Seba Beach on the westernmost side of Wabamun Lake, about an hour west of Edmonton.

Seba Beach is a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of Edmonton, and is dotted with homes ranging from multi-million dollar mansions to quaint, handily maintained cabins. It also has a general store and an ice cream shop (doubling as a mini golf course) adding to the village’s lakeside charm. The yacht club itself is in an unassuming green two-storey building that would be easy to drive past if you weren’t looking out for it.

The Edmonton Yacht Club isn’t as large as some of the sailing clubs on the west coast of British Columbia, however, it is a full service sailing club. The club can moor up to 50 boats in the summer months, with the largest ones approaching a length of nearly 30 feet. 

I learned the EYC is more of a cruiser club, which means many of the boats on the lake are designed to cross oceans. They have big sails that keep the boats upright in stormy conditions, and heavy keels that are essentially a small car attached under every cruiser so that they don’t capsize in rough seas. 

Cruiser on Wabamun Lake
Supplied by Edmonton Yacht Club

You might be wondering why someone would own a boat that could sail across the Atlantic ocean on a lake as tiny as Wabamun Lake. One answer is sailing’s magical and captivating atmosphere. By relying on the wind, your sails, the water, and your skill as a sailor, the world becomes your oyster — even if that world is only 82 square-kilometers.

Edmonton Yacht Club members
Supplied by Edmonton Yacht Club

What really keeps the Edmonton Yacht Club alive is the people who are part of it. Sailing is a team sport, and that’s thoroughly reflected in the yacht club’s structure. As a volunteer-run organization, members are expected to give back, and those opportunities are what forge the strong bonds between members. 

Every summer — save this one, due to the COVID-19 pandemic — the Edmonton Yacht Club hosts many large events where upwards of 300 people pack onto the club’s front lawn to enjoy food and music. In July, the club usually holds a day of beach volleyball which is an extremely popular event during the Seba Regatta weekend. The club also holds races with other clubs like the Sunshine Bay Yacht Club during the summer racing season. 

Edmonton Yacht Club beach volleyball
Supplied by Edmonton Yacht Club

Another draw of the club is its facilities. It can be expensive to own a piece of property on the lake, but by joining the EYC, members get access to the club’s docks, clubhouse, bar, change rooms and most importantly, the overnight cabins that are on the property. 

The lakeside cottages allow you to stay on the lake overnight and enjoy all that Wabamun lake has to offer. It might be the best darn deal for lakeside property in all of Alberta! These cottages and the clubhouse are also where many relationships develop. Not everyone is going to be your friend, but sailing brings people together in ways that cannot always be immediately understood.

Photographer: Alexander Cheung

Alberta may not border an ocean, but that doesn’t stop the Edmonton Yacht Club’s members from enjoying Wabamun Lake. The sense of community and the ability to stay on the lake during the best parts of our summers are what keep people coming back year after year, in addition to the sailing.

As long as the sun keeps shining and the wind keeps blowing, sailors from Edmonton will flock to Wabamun Lake as they have for the last century, and hopefully, into the next one as well. 

Alexander Cheung

Alex is a writer and photographer with the Gateway. He is a senior contributor and specializes in tech and travel.

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