“Aloha from the RI Convention”
by Ted Streuli
I bet you don’t know about Rotary’s yacht club. I know I didn’t, but I dropped into the virtual exhibit hall at the virtual Rotary International Convention, which was not held in Hawaii unless that’s where you happened to be sitting with your laptop. I was, however, wearing an aloha shirt and sipping a mai tai just to make sure I was in the right frame of mind.
The exhibit hall, which is open until July 31, is full of virtual booths and online videos that present the same information one supposes would have been presented in person in Hawaii. Wandering the exhibit hall in person I certainly would have been wearing this shirt and drinking something bearing an paper umbrella, so it’s only fitting.
The exhibit hall, more formally the House of Friendship, is chock full of Rotary Action Groups, Club and District Projects, Rotary resources and lots and lots of fellowship groups. The fellowship groups got my interest first because, well, I’m wandering the virtual exhibit hall in a bird of paradise print aloha shirt and carrying a mai tai in a hurricane glass so I’m not thinking too hard about the big, serious projects. I’m saving that for later; there are so many booths it’s a two-tripper anyway.
I am a longtime shutterbug and the photography group piqued my interest initially. Alas, the booth was empty. But I quickly found virtual attendants at booths dedicated to nearly every conceivable interest: Quilters and fiber artists (not for me), Surfers (tempting, considering our virtual location), Skiing (despite our virtual location), Old and Rare Books, Lawyers, Golfing, Hiking, Police Officers, Military Veterans, Motorcycling and Metalheads. Interesting, but still not my cup of tea. Scuba diving had potential, but I passed by Italian Culture, Flying, Go (the game), the wine enthusiasts, the yoga enthusiasts, the gourmet cooks and the stamp collectors.
And then I found my people: The International Yachting Fellowship of Rotarians, the IYFR. There were videos, brochures and a link to the IYFR website. I was eager to get there, but I took a moment to refill the mai tai and don a lei and a beachcomber hat. I was really, really in the spirit by then.
The IYFR is divided into three areas that might be generally described as Europe, Australia and the Americas. The Americas group has fleets on the Great Lakes and both coasts but, sadly, none in Oklahoma. Not even Texas. Fortunately, there is a World eFleet for those of us who don’t have a club nearby. I promptly filled out the membership application and emailed it off to Commodore Robert Walton. I told him what sort of boat I sail and where I sail it, which club and district I belong to, and provided my Rotary member number, which I had to look up, because no one except Megan Law knows their Rotary number by heart. You can quiz her on Tuesday. I am now anxiously awaiting news of my acceptance so I can send my $30 annual dues payment.
That will open a new group of Rotarians I can get to know who all share my love of boats. Perhaps one day I’ll get to sail with a fellow IYFR member off the coast of Croatia or Argentina or Sydney, and maybe one of them will ring me up one day while visiting Oklahoma and we’ll go for a sunset sail on Lake Thunderbird.
Even if that doesn’t happen, I’ll still have access to the IFYR’s chandlery. I can buy the IFYR burgee to fly from my backstay, a genuine IFYR patch for my navy blazer and, best of all, the hat. I really hope there’s a hat.
I may be the first Club 29 member to join the IFYR, but if there are a couple others in this club with boats who’d like to get together and form the mid-continent’s first fleet, give me a shout. You’ll find me on the virtual lanai. I’ll be the guy embarrassing his wife with a bird of paradise aloha shirt, a lei, a beachcomber hat and one more mai tai, complete with little paper umbrella.