Skip to content

Damage and Close Calls on the Waterfront During California Storms

The weather is tough all over California, with near misses and hard hits up and down the coast. The Santa Barbara Yacht Club has, so far, been spared the worst fate, while Chuck Hawley wasn’t so lucky, losing a family beachfront retreat on the Santa Cruz shoreline.

We spoke with Santa Barbara Yacht Club Commodore Dave Sadecki, who filled us in on the storm damage. A high tide and severe waves washed away the beach in front of the recently remodeled club and were rolling right up under the building, which sits on pilings overlooking the Santa Barbara Channel. The waves took out the electricity, plumbing and gas. It also took out half the parking lot and the beach where the beach cats used to sit. The club has evacuated the boatyard and is looking to add revetment (erosion protection) along the beach to prevent further damage.

Santa Barbara Yacht Club
The Santa Barbara Yacht Club was just far enough above the tide and wave surge.
© 2023 Dave Sadecki

It’s a stunning location for a yacht club that hosts many races right off the deck out front. However, proximity to the sea has its risks. Fortunately, the club was just high enough, and the tide and storm abated soon enough to prevent possibly worse damage.

SBYC Parking Lot damaged in California storms
The Santa Barbara parking lot was heavily damaged, though boats in the background escaped.
© 2023 Dave Sadecki
Santa Barbara Yacht Club
This is where the picnic chairs and tables usually sit. It looks calm, but it was a close call for the club.
© 2023 Dave Sadecki

Many Southern California sailors, and those cruising north and south, have enjoyed the hospitality of the Santa Barbara Yacht Club. In normal times, the beach chairs, volleyball court, race committees and outdoor bar are all active from SBYC’s idyllic location. Commodore Sadecki says they protected the first-floor windows with plywood to prevent more significant damage. The club is currently closed, but they’re planning repairs and, if all goes well, hope to reopen in a few weeks. They’re doing all they can to care for employees while the club awaits reopening.

SAnta Barbara Yacht Club
This is the beach before the waves arrived, washing right up under the clubhouse on the right in the photo above.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John
The beach cats lined West of SBYC
The beach in 2020. The beach cats and the beach itself, to the west of SBYC, have all been removed.
© 2023 Latitude 38 Media LLC / John

We also connected with Dennis Longaberger of Sunset Kidd Yachts, who said the boats in the harbor fared well in the last couple of storms, but the harbor entrance is almost closed due to sand drifting into it. Currently the harbor has only five feet of depth at high tide, with a very narrow channel. He joked, “Soon we’ll be calling it ‘Lake Santa Barbara.'”

Meanwhile, it was well-known Santa Cruz sailor Chuck Hawley who, unfortunately, made national news when his family’s Santa Cruz beach cabin was pushed up onto the beach road in front of the house. The New York Times captured the story as one of the many personal tragedies caused by the onslaught of winter storms. The cabin was lost forever when it had to be dismantled in order to clear the road for traffic. The home had been in the family since his parents built it by hand in 1957. It survived the storms of 1982, which washed away many other coastal homes, but the storms of 2023 appear to have been the last.

Hawley Cottage 1982
The Hawley cottage on Beach Road was fortunate to survive the major storm of 1982, in which many other homes were lost.
© 2023 Chuck Hawley
Hawley Cottage
It’s bad now and it’s been bad before. However, after this damage in 1982, the cabin was able to be repaired.
© 2023 Chuck Hawley

As everyone knows, the storms have been devastating, with still more to come. Hopefully the worst is over, but we need to keep an eye on the chafing gear, and keep the hatches battened down.


  1. Craig Brown 1 year ago

    I suggested a year and half ago that Yacht Clubs should join together to create a disaster pool to confront the increasingly likely damages from our changing climate after Pensacola YC was damaged. Yacht Clubs, because they are built on or near the water are an evident target, usually in a “flood zone”, and commercial insurance companies are either going to cease coverage or charge extreme rates. We need to band together to protect our investments and recognize the exposure

  2. Chuck Cunningham 1 year ago

    First to Chuck Hawley and Family, so sorry for the loss of a family homestead. Chuck and I enjoyed working together on many Safety at Sea seminars for Pacific Cup. Beginning in the 1950’s my family always enjoyed the Capitola beach area. Later moved to Aptos to raise my Family. So much history. Living on my Ketch in Santa Cruz Harbor on E dock was a life experience. Fresh Crab, Salmon, Albacore from across the dock from Frankie on the Gayle “R”. Like many Santa Cruz County residents and visitors, we have seen it all. The latest weather events are not unusual.

  3. Tony Bindel 1 year ago

    There’s no dock like “O” dock. Thanks Chuck

Leave a Comment

Sponsored Post
Our high-speed fixed wireless base stations and private Bay Area fiber ring offer the reliability, redundancy, and resiliency needed to keep you online, no matter where you call home!