By Sharon Gittleman
While yachts and the city of Birmingham are a natural combination in many people’s minds, the Birmingham Yacht Club’s organizer didn’t lean on his hometown’s ritzy reputation when he chose the new LGBT community group’s name.
Seth Chafetz said he was searching for an appropriate appellation for the social club he helped found in 1999, when he ran into a friend.
“She had a rainbow flag on her front yard. A neighbor walked by, saw the flag and asked her if it was the flag of the Birmingham yacht club,” said Chafetz. “She just smiled graciously and said, ‘Yes, it is.'”
The LGBT neighborhood association’s unofficial symbol is the rainbow flag, he said.
While Birmingham was the group’s birthplace, LGBT people and gay-friendly folks from throughout metro-Detroit are invited to join the nearly 100-member group, he said.
“I thought it was a great idea that everyone in the community get to know each other. It makes the community stronger,” said Chafetz. “As we got started, people in Beverly Hills, even as far away as Rochester Hills and Dearborn have joined.”
Members enjoy pool parties, garden tours, road rallies and special trips to fun places, like the resort town of Saugatuck.
From 4-9 p.m. on Feb. 13, Yacht Club members will take to the dance floor and munch on appetizers at their Valentine’s Day party, held at Edison’s, located at 220 Merrill Street in Birmingham. Advance ticket purchases are required.
Events like the Valentine’s Day party have led many to get acquainted with men and women they never would encounter at typical weeknight hangouts, said Chafetz.
“You meet people you don’t meet going to bars,” he said. “People have met, dated and gotten married.”
Yacht Club President Mike Szczesniak is one of those lucky attendees.
“I met my partner at a Birmingham Yacht Club event,” he said. “I’ve heard of a lot of others.”
This year, the group will go on a number of outings, from picnics to a spring trip to the Michigan Opera Theatre, Szczesniak said.
“About 75 percent of our members show up to any one event,” he said.
Szczesniak said the average person on the Birmingham Yacht Club membership rolls is a professional man over age 35.
“We have female members,” he said. “We want to recruit more.”
Newcomers are always welcomed, said Szczesniak.
“You have less pressure at one of our Birmingham Yacht Club events than at a club setting,” he said.
While nearly every kind of conversation is encouraged, Szczesniak said at Yacht Club events, members are invited to give political and religious debates a rest.
While you won’t solve the world’s problems at the next club gathering, you will enrich your own life with plenty of good friends, said Szczesniak.
“I’ve gotten to know some really nice people,” he said.
By Sharon Gittleman