On September 21, 1906, thirty-two enthusiastic men with an average age of 25 years, met on the ark Bugaboo moored along the shore of San Leandro Bay on the east end of the Island of Alameda on San Francisco Bay. These were the charter members of the Aeolian Yacht Club. In the two weeks following this meeting, the charter membership expanded to 52. At the next meeting, a burgee and the name Aeolian Yacht Club were agreed upon. The Aeolian was named in honor of the Greek god Aeolus, keeper of the winds.
The first social event, a clam bake on Bay Farm Island, was set for September 30, nine days after the first meeting. With an initiation fee of $5 and dues of $1 per month (or $10 per year, if paid in advance), along with theater parties, enough money was raised to buy a small parcel of land at the present site of the club and have piles driven and capped.
During the last half of 1907 and the early part of 1908, the club members built a clubhouse. The first meeting in the uncompleted building was on March 6, 1908. Before the second floor was added, the building burned down in early November, 1908. With $1,000 in insurance money, they contracted to have the first floor rebuilt, and by April of 1909, they were using it for meetings. The second story was added by club members during 1909, and this is the basic modern-day Aeolian clubhouse.
Since the beginning, Aeolian members have been active in all forms of yachting around San Francisco Bay. Under the leadership of the first commodore, Larry Knight, and subsequent commodores Carl Strom and Louis Ward, the club joined the Pacific Inter Club Yachting Association in 1907. In 1910, an Aeolian yacht, the Molilou, skippered by commodore Louis Ward, entered the Transpac Race. In 1923, Larry Knight, still one of the club’s most active members, published the first Northern California Yachting Year Book, which has been published annually since 1923. The Claude H. Benham Trophy, awarded annually for yacht club participation in the Opening Day parade, was established in honor of the Commodore of Aeolian Yacht Club in 1929.
The clubhouse itself sat between the mouth of a salt marsh stream and the original Bay Farm Island Bridge, and was accessible from dry land by a boardwalk. Over the decades, the marsh around the club was covered in landfill, while the membership continued to moor their vessels in the channel and cove, reached by tenders. In the 1960s and '70s, the marina began to take shape through volunteer efforts, constructing floating docks anchored by pilings, supported by new workshops and storage buildings ashore. At one point, the club even had its own floating dry dock which enabled members to perform repairs on the bottom of their vessels right at their homeport. Meanwhile, Alameda's East End neighborhoods and modern roads (as they appear today) closed in over the original property lines with additional landfill. But the club continued to have an eclectic mix of power yachts, fishing boats, sailboats and utility craft that remains characteristic of the club's blue collar pragmatism today.
The Aeolian yacht club has approximately 200 members and has an active gathering at its back deck nearly every day, meals in the clubhouse, cruise outs, cruise ins, work parties, and other activities.