It depends what you want from a club. Without naming any names, it has been my experience that there is a considerable difference between a “Sailing” club and a “Yacht” club. This is even more obvious if the prefix “Royal” becomes involved. Some “Yacht” clubs are a good bar and dining room with the occasional boat attached. Drop in on club nights and see how many old male duffers there are propping up the bar in blazers, either in sprit or in reality.
If you are actually interested in sailing, then trawl through the various clubs on the Solent and see how many actual sailing events they organise. Some are keen racing clubs, which can be seen from the pride of place given to newish looking cups. Some are good cruising clubs, organising many events both local and overseas.
Some clubs almost expect members to be experienced boat owners, others are quite happy to take new people on and to give them, through events organised by the club, the experience that they need to become more proficient sailors and skippers.
Some run RYA recognised courses, which is a nice reason to get out one night during the winter, do a few hours study followed by a chat at the bar. Some run a good series of lectures, which like the courses, is a pleasant way to spend an evening during the cold days of winter.
Remember, club secretaries are always nice people and always want new members, but you should try to get actual evidence as to the clubs activities before talking to them about joining. Develop “sticky fingers” for any free paperwork lying around, examine the notice boards for club events and sign up sheets and have a good hard look at the other club members; you will have to make friends with these people. Bring along a confident friend to ask the more searching questions and to give a second opinion. There is a good selection of clubs around the Solent and you should find a suitable one if you look carefully.
Happy hunting and good sailing,