Erith Yacht Club
The finest sailing water on the tidal Thames
Erith Yacht Club
Apr 20 2012
100TH ANNIVERSARY SOUVENIR REVIEW
‘Recently in my dealings with the lesser Lords of the Admiralty, I was asked if I had done any yachting on the East Coast and I proudly told my questioner that I had sailed from EYC.
At which, to the accompaniment of much thigh–slapping he replied. – “By Jove, I remember EYC, I called there one Saturday night, years ago, whilst sailing up to Twickenham. A most amazing bunch of people who might have been anything from peers to paupers, but they all seemed to have devoted their lives to beer and boats”-.
That’s the rub, he put the beer first!’
(Bob Roberts, in a letter to the EYC Bulletin, 1942)
Part 1: THE FIRST 75 YEARS…
We begin with an adaptation of the ‘75th Anniversary Souvenir’ account of the club from Birth to 1975, complete with photos of what, 25 years ago, were thought of as modern yachts, set against those of an even earlier period. How will those boats, and our current speed machines look to our successors during their 200th anniversary celebrations? Read on, dear member…
In the year 1900…
…following the transfer of the Royal Corinthian Yacht Club’s headquarters from Erith to Port Victoria, a number of interested residents of the Borough of Erith met to consider ways and means of carrying on the pursuit of pleasure sailing in the district. A minute of this meeting, held at the Conservative Club, Erith, on the 16 May 1900 records a resolution to the effect that a club be formed, to be known as the “Erith Sailing Club” (The title was altered to the present form in February of the following year).
Ample support was forthcoming and the present Erith Yacht Club embarked on a flourishing career which has now extended over ¾ of a century.
At a subsequent meeting on 6th June 1900, Mr A.I.Gaze was elected Commodore, with Mr F. A. Stone as Vice-Commodore and Mr W.A. de Merrall as Hon. Secretary.
It should be noted that this was not the first local yacht club to bear the town’s name. There existed for some time during the latter half of the 19th Century another Erith Yacht Club with headquarters on board a large converted schooner yacht, “Gypsy”, which had formerly competed in early America’s Cup races. This vessel had been moored near the old Erith Town pier, formerly used by the passenger steamboat services. The same pier, which later became a coaling jetty, still forms a part of Cory’s wharf (now Morrison’s Superstore)
Both the earlier Erith Club and the Corinthian Club were functioning before 1885, but the Erith Club had ceased to exist by 1900. Indeed its floating headquarters was acquired by Essex Yacht Club, who continued to use it at Southend from 1899 until it was broken up in about 1910.
The original flag of the present club was identical to that of the old Erith Yacht Club; a red burgee with a white shield bearing a red Maltese Cross. However, on it being learned that this device had in the meantime, been adopted by Henley Sailing Club, it was decided to change the ground colour of the burgee to blue. Later still, in June 1900, the device was altered to its present form of a white shield on a red ground and bearing a blue Geneva cross.
There is little doubt that organised yachting, of sorts, had been practised at or around Erith since early times. Indeed the very first yacht race of record was reputedly sailed past Erith. In 1660 the City of Amsterdam presented King Charles II with a small, fast sailing boat, built for racing, of the type which they called a “Jaghte”. So much did the King enjoy sailing it upon the Thames that he commissioned two larger versions in 1661 and raced them in a wagered match with the Duke of York over a course from Greenwich to Gravesend and back. The story has it that the King won. Perhaps more significant, both proved superior to the original Dutch vessel. An early example of the Brits’ skill at losing the odd battle but winning the war?
Evidence that the sport flourished at Erith, at least in the 19th Century, comes from a mention by the late George Augustus Sala of “Yachts and Yacht Owners at Erith” in an article published in 1852. Further evidence follows:
The Royal Corinthian Yacht Club moved to Erith and opened a new club house on June 12th 1879, remaining until 1898 when they moved again to new headquarters in Port Victoria, transferring later still to Burnham-on-Crouch where they remain to this day.
Finally the Erith Town Regatta in which the present club participates, was instituted in 1885 under the chairmanship of a Mr F Beadle, with Mr D Stone as Secretary (both men were active in the formation, in 1900 of the present Erith Yacht Club).
The main interest of the new yacht club was in racing. In fact, in its very first season, more than a dozen races were sailed round a circular course off the Town, starting and finishing at Ballast Wharf. The following year still more races were organised.
Indeed, in August 1900, a Mr Cookson was appointed Waterman and paid six shillings per day to lay down marker buoys on race days, and convey racing crews to their boats. On race days, also, the Ladies were graciously allowed in the clubhouse (see below)
The riverside premises at the end of Church Manorway, vacated by the Corinthians in 1898 and following a short tenancy by an organisation glorying in the title “Riverside Club”, were taken over by EYC in 1901. By 1902 full acquisition of the premises were in hand and moves were being made to acquire the tennis court! Additional moorings were laid and both cruising and racing programmes soon began to proliferate, along with social events afloat and ashore.
The club takes root
Blue Reefer jackets, worn with white ducks and cap with the club’s crest, were customary wear at this time. It should be added that the comparative absence of pollution below bridges made it possible to keep boats and sails much cleaner than today, as well as clothing!
Emancipation came no earlier at Erith than elsewhere. Ladies were admitted to membership for five shillings per annum. This bought them the right to fly the burgee and even to race, but not to enter the clubhouse except on race days and other days fixed by the committee. Needless to say, ladies had no voice in the running of the club!
By 1904 membership had grown to over 250 and many fine, handsome vessels occupied the moorings. The boat list at that time ran to over one hundred entries and included half a dozen or so large steam yachts and over twenty sailing boats of ten tons or more in addition to many smaller vessels.
Mr A I Gaze continued as Commodore until the end of 1905 and was succeeded by Mr T R Sales for a single year, whereupon Mr Gaze was back in office from 1907 until 1911. Mr Frank Beadle succeeded him in 1912 and remained in post until his death in 1919.
A branch headquarters was established in1907 at Kynoch’s Hotel on Canvey Island Essex. The location was adjacent to Holehaven, which remains a popular port of call for club members. Features of each yachting season were the “duck suppers” held either here or at the nearby “Lobster Smack” Inn, whose early visitors’ books bear many well-known Erith names. (These old books are still preserved and may be inspected on request). A second branch headquarters was opened in 1908 at the “Castle” Hotel, Ramsgate.
The following quote from Archie White, published in Tideways & Byways, Essex & Suffolk (Ian Henry 1977) gives a tantalising hint of jollier times in the Haven before WWI cast its enduring shadow:
“Before the age of oil and petrol, the Haven used to be more popular than with the yachtsmen of today. But it is still a favourite rendez-vous of the Merry Men of Erith in whose clubhouse beer is poured from quart bottles only – the pint being an unknown quantity…” !
War intervenes, part one.
The advent of the Great War of 1914-1918 necessarily brought a temporary halt to yachting activities. Many club members joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, but a nucleus of mainly older members kept the club alive during this period.
The Racing 20s
Sailing was resumed in 1919 but racing did not get started again until 1920. The traditional fixtures, however, were soon revived and the club rapidly re-established itself as a flourishing concern.
In 1923 the club added to its list a one-design fleet of 14ft dinghies. These were owned and manned by officers from the Royal Artillery garrison at Woolwich and their presence materially increased interest in racing at the club.
Mr J R Cruikshank meanwhile became Commodore in 1920 and held the post until his death in 1924. This sad event brought Mr Gaze once more out of retirement to take over for a year or more until Mr F J Hansen, Vice Consul for Denmark, was elected to the post in 1926. Mr Hansen remained in office until 1929, subsequently retiring from active participation in the club’s affairs. He was then honoured by the creation of the new office of President to which he was unanimously appointed in recognition of his services.
By 1929 the building of new wharves adjacent to the club’s premises had considerably restricted the available mooring space and had also created difficulties of approach in certain conditions of wind and tide. In the end these factors led to a decision to move ¾ mile down river to Anchor Bay and to acquire a new floating headquarters.
An old seagoing Thames barge, the Garson, built at Yarmouth in 1864, and later converted into a very spacious houseboat, was purchased and fitted out. Garson was built at Yarmouth in 1864 as a “boomie”, with a boom in place of the usual ‘sprit’. She was also cutter-rigged, making her more unusual. Both in this form and under a later ketch rig, she had some adventures including lifeboat asisstance off Aldeburgh, in 1920, and being sunk for a time off the IoW later before finally coming to Erith.
The following is an account by Jim Coles of the delivery of Garson to EYC, published fourteen years later in an “EYC Bulletin” of 1943 (see below-“war intervenes part 2”). Some may hear echoes of the spirit and style of this account in the present-day dealings of the club!:
“….They set out in a Westerly gale, without so much as a sweep on board and after blowing and bumping through Teddington Lock and anchoring, were taken in tow at the end of a string of barges.
It was snowing, so they lit the fire in the saloon and, as it smoked so badly, they erected the funnel Garson had in those days. Suddenly Hammersmith Bridge loomed ahead. Dollar Coles ran to dismantle the funnel, but Dollar reached the funnel just as the funnel reached the bridge. Dollar and the funnel together came down on Jimmy at the wheel.
After many vicissitudes they got her to Erith and went home for a meal.
When they came back, she was sunk.
“-She had six B----- P---- H----- (rude words connoting lavatories)” said Jimmy, “- and some B------- has made off with the pipework!”—
But she’d sunk inshore and at low water. so Jimmy bored a hole in her stern and let the water out.
Now,(ie.in 1943), she still does her best to sink at high water and on a recent occasion was only saved by the Commodore’s prompt action in plugging a bad leak with a shirt that some careless fellow had left lying about before going off to the war….”
At the time of the move a wooden causeway to the low water mark was constructed, as was a boardwalk across the saltings to the river wall. Later a lighting plant was also installed.
Another vessel, the swim-headed lighter, Orient, was also acquired and this was converted into a storage barge with locker accommodation and berthed in the middle creek. She later sank and broke up. It is impossible to tell how much irony was contained in a contemporary club minute recording that – “the committee decided that they could no longer charge locker fees”…!
The new location was a twofold improvement on the old, enabling an increased number of moorings as well as laying-up facilities in the adjacent saltings.
Frank Clarke, later MP for Dartford Division, followed Vice-Consul Hansen as Commodore in 1930 and remained in office until he died in 1938. He was succeeded, in 1939, by E.J Rigden, who might be justly seen as the club’s saviour…
War intervenes part two
Once again Drake’s Drum was heard at Erith and the RNVR claimed a large portion of the younger members. Once again, too, the burden of keeping things going fell to the older hands. Much of the credit for keeping the club alive goes to Cmdr. Rigden, who served through 1940 and 1941. In particular he was the founder and first editor of a series of monthly bulletins, (from which the above account was reproduced) which were sent to serving members all over the World. Cmdr Rigden died in 1941 and was succeeded by D.W Bell, but the Bulletin continued right up until the end of hostilities in 1945. (NB This brief account makes use of extracts from the Bulletin here and there, but cannot do full justice to these and other pieces of written history patiently researched by Fred and Ann Finck. Perhaps a book in due course…?)
During these years only minimum maintenance work was possible so that by 1944 it was becoming sadly apparent that Garson would soon need replacing. Fortunately, however, there was no shortage of suitable replacements and after some deliberation, an ex-Trinity House light-vessel was purchased, and brought on station in 1945. Renamed Garson II, she was massively constructed of teak on oak (so close-framed, in fact that – “you could barely get your hand between them”..!) and in perfect condition.* She was a true Thames boat, copper sheathed and fastened and constructed at Millwall, by messrs.Young & Co, in 1870.
L/V No 44, to give her proper title, was purchased for £140. She had an iron deckhouse and carried the first ever revolving lantern on her mast. Her first mooring was in Cardigan Bay, from December 1869. (Source: DB Hague & R Christie, “Ex Lighthouses etc…” Gomer Press, 1975) The price, incidentally, included delivery but it is worth noting that the Club’s bank balance prior to purchase stood at a princely £600!
1945 also saw members returning in increasing numbers from War Service in time to help transform the interior of the vessel into a very comfortable Headquarters, complete with Steward’s accommodation and Grand Piano.
*Garson II was sold on to Pitsea Sailing Club in the 80s and remained in service afloat for a number of years with them in Holehaven Creek. See below for an account of her passing.
The EYC Bulletin – the virtual yacht club
During the years of the second World War, perhaps the single element which did most to keep the Club together was the “EYC Bulletin”
This publication appears to have started in 1940. Due to wartime paper shortage, its circulation was restricted to members serving in the forces, or otherwise away from Erith due to hostilities.
Many members were posted overseas and their letters, published and thus re-circulated by the Bulletin, were largely what kept members in touch with each other’s doings. In a very real sense, during that period EYC was a virtual club, existing for very many members solely
through the pages of the Bulletin. We summarise here the main events by year:
Sailing curtailed for the duration
Indeed, almost as soon as the Bulletin was launched, a wartime ordnance banned moorings afloat. Boats were to be beached when not sailed and an official PLA permit was needed even to sail as far as Holehaven. The club was becoming more “virtual” every day! (Erith, with its creek moorings, did better than GYC, which was required, in 1941, to re-locate all its boats to the London Docks, or beach them – Hobson’s choice, given the bombing that was to come.
Other restrictions were that unattended boats with engines were to be immobilised –magnetos
etc. removed- and were subject to spot checks by the Royal Naval Auxiliary.
With these restrictions in force and so many members on active service, the club organised a very effective rota whereby all those members’ boats on station were registered, bilges and moorings regularly inspected and signed for, throughout hostilities. Incidentally a touching tradition emerged during this time of toasting “absent friends” at 2100 hrs whenever the bar was manned (and the right kind of liquid available).
War strikes home
The first attack on an EYC member recorded in the Bulletin was in this year. The target was Bob Roberts, celebrated Thames Bargeman, whose barge Martinet was bombed by a Dornier. No injury was recorded to Roberts or the Barge. The Dornier, however, was shot down for its temerity!
Perhaps unconnected with the war (but these were troubled times), one Cyril Monk was deposited upside down in a ditch whilst passenger in a car. In the same year a partridge was shot in middle creek. It was consumed, not surprisingly, and not a feather remains to mark this rare incident –possibly the last of its kind!
Shortages (oh, and the meat ration)
The club had become a registered catering establishment in 1940 and thus could obtain its own provisions to be cooked and served (by Mrs Hughes, the steward, to members. However, in June 1941 disaster struck. Not only was the club’s meat ration stopped but, for a time it ran out of beer! Members were charged 1d (1/2p in current money, but nearer 15p in value) for a glass of cold water. This indignity only lasted a week, but must have been keenly felt. No further mention seems to have been made of the meat ration, though later events suggest it may have been re-instated.
Garson is called to the colours
In this year the club made a wise move, offering its facilities to the Navy League for the training of sea cadets. Garson I was henceforth to be known as Training Ship Garson.
The inaugural ceremony took place on a July Sunday. A brass band was in attendance as uniformed sea cadets and their officers mingled with proud parents and spectators in Sunday dress. When the time came to hoist the colours, however – disaster! No flagpole! The club’s pole had been dismantled at the outbreak of hostilities and the parts efficiently put somewhere so safe that none could find them.
EYC ingenuity to the rescue! Garson’s flagpole was torn down and lashed in place on the stump of the shore-based pole in double-quick time. Order and propriety restored, the Ensign was raised and saluted, arms were presented, the band played, photos were taken and Garson entered the War.
Fruits of war?
The most obvious benefit of the club’s new status as a Training Establishment was that permits were now issued for three yachts (one of them being Ethyra) to be moored afloat and sailed between Hammersmith Bridge and Holehaven. In addition, three members were appointed honorary officers in the Sea Cadets.
Nothing is without its price, however, and Honorary Captain Tritton was now required to read prayers daily to his doubtless attentive young charges.
The Lord is not mocked, so they say!
The war ground on and damage of various kind continued to mount. A potentially serious incident was narrowly averted when a trot of 12 lighters broke adrift at Barking (bomb damage to moorings?) and collected five more lighters before descending on Erith Reach. Ethyra, on the middle trot, was torn loose and carried away by the floating juggernaught. (Some, at least, must have been grateful that day for the National defence Act ban on moorings afloat!)
The collective wreck finally beached at Crayfordness and, almost unbelievably, Ethyra was found to be hardly damaged. This was only the first flash of EYC’s silver lining however. First the lighter company donated 60 fathoms of stainless steel studded link ground chain plus anchors, risers etc, then, 2-3 years later, their insurance coughed up a further £87 by way of compensation! (you could, it is said, buy a small house for £50 in those days!)
Bad news followed good, however. In this year the bulletin started to publish the names of members killed on active service as news trickled in of the major campaigns of that year.
In 1942 also the bulletin carried a sad letter from Bob Roberts concerning the losses of sailing barges and their crews to the many mines laid by both sides in the Estuary. The brave men that continued to carry vital goods around the coast with absolutely no defence against attack of any kind, may have had only Roberts to speak for their sacrifice as a group, the writer has seen no other.
On a lighter note, a member reported having landed a job at Woolwich arsenal – as a fire-watcher on top of a powder store! He may of course have found speaking difficult with his tongue so firmly stuck in his cheek!
And the saddest note of all – 1942 saw the club’s last bottle of Old Jamaica consumed. Jerry had a lot to answer for that year!
Whether by prescience or simple optimism, EYC members seemed able to see an end to things even in the darkest days before the invasion. An article from the Hon.Treasurer, for instance, expressed the hope of saving enough money to refurbish the moorings after the war by a number of measures.
It was hoped that the work could be done without raising subscriptions through:
“……..1. The economies forced upon us
2. Postponing all but essential repairs
3. The loyalty and generosity of our members, many of whom are in the armed
(His third point was especially optimistic given the pay of conscripts at that time, loyalty and generosity notwithstanding!)
Invasion year saw worries expressed about the state of TS Garson. Committee reports referred to the financial and practical of finding a replacement, though little hope visible for solving them at that stage.
Increasingly weekends on Garson were being spent “shovelling walls and ceilings from chairs and bunks as well as fixing the blackout, which usually got blown away during the previous week”. The culprits by now were the V1 flying bombs, Hitler’s latest contribution to European Unity. The article points out that some work-meets on Garson were organised, but members were mostly carrying out similar work on their own homes. Indeed, the Commodore was reported as missing for some weeks. When he eventually turned up, his excuse was that his front door and frame had ended up on the hatstand! (Post-war research reveals that our Government used counter-espionage skillfully to ensure that most V1s fell short of London’s heavily populated areas. Sadly it was towns in Kent and Surrey that bore the brunt of those shortfalls)
Confirmation that war and creativity do not mix arises in a complaint from the Bulletin’s editor that flying bombs were “not conducive to the editorial effort”!.
Another article referred to several Home-based members being signed up for Harbour duties under a Voluntary Government scheme for yachtsmen. A certain amount of tooth-sucking is discernible in the suggestion that these chaps were enjoying themselves at Government expense (– And why not? Most of us would now ask, though perhaps things were a little different during those years)
One slightly surprising revelation this year was that membership of the club, now standing at 75 full, 22 country, 4 juniors and 22 ladies, was well up on pre-war averages. A spectacular achievement for a club with three boats afloat, a clubship full of holes and most of its members out of the country on urgent business!
Towards the end of 1944, with the end now, finally, in sight the Bulletin begins to take on a more optimistic character. Flyiing bomb activity is easing off and the committee is recorded as thinking more and more of moorings, less and less in terms of fire buckets and and war risks.
This is considered to be a “healthy sign for a yacht club”
More stories come in about damage to boats consigned to boatyards and municipal moorings during the worst of wartime. EYC considers itself very lucky indeed by comparison, despite all.
The mood of quiet pride and optimism is further booted with news of the MBE awarded to Alan Beckett, inventor of a patented anchor. His design was highly commended by the Admiralty and was used to secure the Mulberry Harbour sections during the Invasion. (presumably in place to this day on the sections still on view?)
More good news was that boats between Hammersmith Bridge and Dartford Creek may now be left afloat, not beached, though they were still to be immobilized. Permits were still to be required to move boats for any other reason than navigation for pleasure ( -bliss! but see below)
With the increased ability to think about important matters, such as sailing, came an increased awareness of the costs involved. By now it was clear that not only the moorings but Garson herself and Club equipment must all be written off and replaced in short order. Happily EYC had been able to increase its capital balances during wartime, but was going to need all of that and perhaps more, to re-establish itself.
Towards the end of the year, Jim Coles is reported to have surveyed L/V No 44and found it to be sound. The Club offered £140, but would not be able to take possession until the end of war in Europe when movement of boats will once again be allowed.
VE day was celebrated with a huge bonfire on the saltings. Paint blisters were raised on adjacent craft (worse might have happened with today’s GRP). With characteristic Erith cheek and entrepreneurial flair, much old chain was hurled into the fire with the proposal that it be resold, clean and annealed, to the Moorings Committee – “as new”!!
From then on, things could only get better – and they did.
The offer of £140 for L/V No 44 was accepted by Trinity House, and taken to include towage to Erith by THV Patrick..
T.S. Garson duly sailed to Middle Creek to make way for L/V 44 which, once on station was renamed Garson II.
As more and more members returned home from the War, the bar got rowdier and rowdier. Before long Traditional EYC airs could be heard on the sea wall – ribald and obscene as ever.
….Erith Yacht Club was at peace once more.
The Post War Years-Mains Power, Concrete and Dinghies.
In 1946 an electric cable was laid across the marsh, bringing mains power to the new ship. This work, presaging our most recent improvements, was largely paid for by the then Commodore, A McKenzie, who succeeded Cmdr Reid in that year.
The original wooden Causeway, which had served for fifteen years, was now beyond repair, partly due to neglect enforced by the war. In 1949 it was decided to replace it with a concrete structure to the club’s own design. The design, and the work, proved highly satisfactory. This was later replaced by a much stronger timber construction of railway sleepers. There were gaps between the sleepers and on more than one occasion help had to be summoned to extract a members leg before the incoming tide ! A notable innovation was fence wire stapled over the sleepers. For several years there was a very effective winch mechanism powered by a motorcycle engine and making use of railway lines for haulage. (Proof if needed of the inventiveness and industry of members then. Moreover that work was to initiate a tradition of ingenious self-help which would continue to the present and in so doing would radically transform the club and its facilities.)
A consequence of post-war shortages and economic stringency was a dearth of the sailing yachts of 5-10 tons, which had been the mainstay of pre-war cruising members. Any that could be found were prohibitively priced and it was now that some members turned to dinghy ownership and racing in a move that was to be enduringly popular. One of the legacies of this development was the establishment of what is now a unique fleet of Hamble Stars at Erith. Racing, both in dinghies and yachts has remained a popular activity throughout the club’s history.
The fifties saw a whole new class of small, affordable cruising yachts becoming available,. constructed from plywood, and later from fibreglass. Many members were thus enabled to resume yacht cruising, albeit on a more modest scale than hitherto.
Long distance cruising has always formed an important part of the club’s history. (see box) This tradition is reflected in some of the club races of long-standing, such as the passage races to and from Queenboro Harbour (the Hansen Cup etc), the subsequent race out to the Tongue Towers (the Tongue Trophy) and the annual race around the ovens buoy. (see box)
Sons of the sea
Erith has always included long distance cruising men in its membership, heroes all. Perhaps the most distinguished were W.E. Sinclair, A.W.Roberts and E.J.Rigden. (mentioned earlier) certainly the most recent was Brian Smart, whose obituary is published elsewhere in full.
Sinclair made sailing history with his little 4-tonner Joan, which he cruised to the Baltic, to the Canary Islands and to Iceland through the 20s . His adventures were published in Cruises of the ‘Joan’. (Arnold & Co. date?).
Roberts also published accounts of his cruises in his 27 foot Thelma, most notably to Panama and the Cocos Islands in 1931, in his book Rough and Tumble. (Samson Low & Co 1934). This book features a photograph of a carving in a rock on Cocos, by Roberts –“in accordance with tradition” - stating –“THELMA EYC LONDON 1931”.
< Thelma off Erith < 'Wave' contemporary Erith yacht
Cmdr Rigden, no less intrepid, made numerous single-handed trips to the Baltic and elsewhere in Meg II, a five-ton sloop, between 1925 and 1930.
Both Thelma and Joan came to dramatic ends. The former was wrecked when blown ashore from her Cocos anchorage in a gale, her anchor chain sawed through by coral. Joan was eventually dismasted and lost off Labrador on passage from Iceland to N.America, though her crew were thankfully saved.
Not content with their earlier adventures, Roberts and Sinclair jointly took a Brixham Trawler, Quartette, in 1935, to Fernando Po, Rio de Janiero and Trinidad.
This cruising tradition has continued until the present day, with regular trips to France, Belgium Holland the Channel Islands, Portugal and Spain almost commonplace
Among the more doughty performers in this regard was the little Hunter 19 Elan Rua II, which made frequent trips across the channel and North Sea, under Brian Elliston in literally all kinds of weather. In 1976, Alan Cooper took Lady of Kent, a Nicholson 30 built 1939 to Sweden via the Kiel Canal. In 1998 Ken Stevens and Philip Hearn, 69 and late 50s respectively, revived an older tradition by cruising the Baltic in Quintette, a Sadler 32. The following year, Richard Andrews sailed to Denmark in his Snapdragon 24. Alan Cooper took part in the 1983 Azores Race in a Cutlass 27, coming fourth in class, no handicapping. These names are but a few amongst the many who continue to follow the farther horizon in the wake of Sinclair et.al.
Meanwhile,the tradition of Long-distance sailing in a self-built-boat, was most recently upheld by Jim Freeman in Schulp whose maiden voyage this year took in Holland, Denmark and Germany en route to the Baltic, a journey of over 2000 miles.
Perhaps the most distinguished long-distance cruising member of recent years, however, was Brian Smart, whose several Atlantic crossings in boats built by himself were but part of his record of cruising achievements. Brian died, barely into his sixties, in 1999. The inclusion of his obituary in this document will help to perpetuate the name of an extraordinary man and committed sailor
BRIAN SMART 1936 – 1999
.These four words summarise an extraordinarily full and eventful life, much of which was centred on boats and sailing. The oldest of three brothers whose parents had a shoe repair business in Barnehurst, he first appeared at Erith YC around 1950 with his father and brothers John and RoIf, and they soon became fully involved with Club life, helping to build the first club storage shed in the field at the end of Manor Road. Brian was apprenticed to Stones At CharIton as a pattern maker and he became very skilled at all forms of construction in wood. With Ron Chittenden they built a Hamble Star 'Shoestring' which Ron and Brian sailed: then came a second Star, sailed by John and RoIf. Ron Chittenden was then persuaded by Robbie (Michael Robinson) to buy a Star from the Hamble so Brian continued to sail 'Shoestring' with the late Ted Long. Their exploits included completing the Pin Mill Passage in what was I believe record time. In the late 1950's, several younger Club members were actively racing Firefly's and in No 208 Brian, crewed by Ann Postle (Finck) would happily follow the fleet around, enjoying the sailing as much as the racing. He was even known to turn aside from the racing line to sail across a wash for the sheer exhilaration of it. At this time he built a small cruiser named 'Shandy' to the plans of the well-known JOG racer 'Sopranino' and in her he sailed a season of JOG races and cruised to the Baltic, among other places. This at a time when the majority of club cruising was to the East Coast and rarely, as far as the French channel ports. Shandy was eventually sold and Brian, with much help from family and friends, and in the back garden and a neighbours back garden set about the construction of a 'Black Soo' design to be known as 'Four Square'. She was a 30ft van de Stadt design of hard chine plywood construction and drawing 6ft. Ideally suited to the East Coast!
With various members of this Club, Brian cruised and raced 'Four Square' extensively, including one Fastnet race, bouncing off a few sandbanks in the process, and one cruise in 1961 from Enth to the Channel Islands and Brittany started with a grounding for a tide on Foulness Sand, continued with a grounding in Morlaix River, an adventurous visit to L'Aber-Wrac'h and very nearly finished in a gale of wind in the Channel when George snapped and went overboard while 'Four Square' was planing at above the 16 knot limit on the speedo: 'George' was the self steering gear and Brian, Pet, Ann and Eileen lived to tell the tale (many times). Some of the 'adventures' can be put down to Brian's habitual lack of charts and willingness to put up with spartan living conditions: however, his boat was always well-found and he faced all problems with a calm resolve.
In the autumn of 1961 Brian, with Ted Long, made the first of several Atlantic crossings, making a landfall in the Caribbean. Ted left the boat and settled in Miami, while Brian made his way up the East Coast to New York where the boat was laid up. Brian settled in Detroit and found work as a pattern maker. In this well-paid but notoriously unreliable industry Brian was able to earn enough money to take extended holidays. During one of these in 1963 he, John and Ron Watts raced back to England alongside one of the RORC Trans-Atlantic races; 'alongside', because the boat was not big enough to qualify under the rules, despite being faster than many. Whilst the boat was back in Britain, Brian once again cruised far and wide, with family and friends before flying back to Detroit to earn more money. These cruises could be typically eventful, especially when sailing in strange waters with no large-scale charts:
The writer remembers looking at the chart for hazards before leaving the Helford River, bound for Falmouth, and being most surprised to hit a rock a few hundred yards offshore! No harm was done but a few people learned to take a supply of charts with them when embarking with Brian. Eventually in 1967 he set off westwards again, crewed as far as Brest by Club Members. His remaining crew jumped ship in the Canaries and Brian continued to the Caribbean with an American he found on the beach! This set the pattern to be followed many times in later years. This time the boat was laid up in San Francisco. The next phase of his wanderings, which are not too well documented, were perhaps his greatest achievement. With a variety of crews, picked and discarded as he went along, he sailed 'Four Square' in stages across the Pacific to Australia where she was eventually sold. Along the way the tendency of some of these crews to have the wrong papers, or even no papers, caused all sorts of 'little local difficulties', which Brian made very little fuss about.
By now well settled in Detroit in a house with a large basement underneath, Brian designed and built an enlarged and improved 'Four Square' named 'Encore'. She was 36ff, double chine with a more conventional keel geometry, and was built in 2 halves in the basement and assembled outside. With his skills, it was of course no problem for Brian to make the pattern for the keel and have it cast. 'Encore' duly appeared back in these waters in the late 1970's when he visited family, and friends at the Club, and cruised to Scandinavia.
Visits to these shores have continued in recent years, and all the while Brian seemed to be building boats, including a trailer-sailer which he sailed on the Great Lakes with his friend Marion, and his last effort a 37 x 11 footer of American design in which he planned to do some extended cruising. This project took a number of years to complete and John reports that she was beautifully and completely finished inside (unlike some previous efforts!), and a joy to sail. John tells that during a 2-week cruise with Brian on Lake Huron they made a passage of 105 miles in 18 hours in some comfort and without really trying. The car industry, along with many others has undergone massive changed, these including the use of computer-aided design to replace the need for "patterns". Hence Brian's skills were no longer needed and this seemed to enlarge the opportunity for cruising. Alas,this was not to be.
It is hard to credit that this lifetime of continuous activity and achievement has come to this early end; it makes us, his contemporaries feel very mortal. We will remember him with much admiration and affection and we extend our sincere sympathy to Mrs Smart, John and RoIf.
A Tradition of Racing
The first ever race at EYC was a round-the-cans affair, starting and finishing off Ballast Wharf and taking in Rainham Buoy and a buoy off Erith Pier. The winner of that, and subsequent races was Virago, an Erith-built boat of a new class of “small” fast boats termed the 5-ton class (Thames measurement). This class was quite famous in its day and Virago (b.1870), along with her sister boat Arrow (b,1874), built by Stone of Erith, were regarded as top performers within the class. Virago continued to win races until 1910 or so, and her name is inscribed on a number of club trophies.
This event was fully reported in the Erith Times, as were subsequent races. Since these reports contained details of times of each vessel at key waypoints, as well as the entire handicapping system, it must be assumed that keen yachtsmen were more common locally than is the case now! (and that the reporter was an EYC man!). During that first year more than a dozen races were run over that and similar courses, with even more in subsequent years.
It is interesting to note that Ballast Wharf had been loaned to the club (by a Mr Parish-later a Rear Commodore of the club (enterprising chaps these Erith men. Always kept a senior post open to reward benefactors!) to enable spectators to watch the race. The frequent subsequent use of Ballast Wharf as start and finish point, tends to confirm the impression that local interest in this new thing called “Yacht Racing” was relatively high. It also reflects the strong link with the Town, through continued participation in the Town Regatta, which continues to the present day. Indeed, as already pointed out. the club owes its origins to the link with Erith Town Regatta via messrs. Beadle and Stone, who were active in both institutions.
One of the more extraordinary, and moving racing events in the clubs history must have been in September 1949 when the Greenhithe Race of that year was won by H.E. Kennard (Vice Commodore 1926-1931) in the graceful gaff-sloop Kelpie II. Kelpie II was built at Deptford by Kennard and his brother Alfred in 1902 and had made racing history in the Thames below bridges. At the time of his victory in 1949, Kennard was 80 years old, and still very much in command of his vessel and crew! He was president of the Club in that year and until his death in 1958.
Kelpie II was still being sailed by Kennard’s son David (Vice Commodore 1951-1957) in the 1990s and now lives at Pin Mill under the proud ownership of Country member Barry Page. (see box)
Many of the longer races in the Club’s calender date back to before the last war, with perhaps the Pin Mill Trophy, for the fastest round trip, being the longest established. One of the more recent is the Tongue Trophy, presented by (then) younger bloods in the 60s to reinvigorate the longer race as a regular event. Sadly, economic change in recent years has left few with the leisure to join in these three-to-four day events on a regular basis nowadays.
The tradition of dinghy-racing, boosted by post-war shortages, continued strongly during the 50s and 60s. Indeed many of the clubs prominent cruising men today joined as dinghy-sailing cadets and learned their skills at the daggerboard. Some may remember the annual trips organised by the late Michael Robinson MBE (died Christmas Eve 1999) to the Dutch canals with the ‘Star’ dinghy fleet. The boats would be sailed up to Butlers Wharf, where they would embark as deck cargo with the General Steam Navigation Company (no doubt an Erith man on the Board of Directors?) to Holland and return in like fashion after a fortnight.
Part 2: THE LAST 25 YEARS…
In many ways, perhaps because of its immediacy, the last quarter century seems more packed with event than the first three quarters.
In 1975 the Club celebrated its 75th birthday with a souvenir pamphlet detailing its history to date. Most of what precedes this has been culled from that document. As a final sign-off, the writers list the key events of 1975 as:
· A new electricity cable was laid and connected
· The Club was making a colour film of its activities
· The walkway had been re-planked for most of its length
· Garson II had been mostly re-planked and a new mast and gaff added
· The bar had been repainted
· Kelpie had left for her new Pin Mill home.
· Four boats, Lady of Kent, Elan Rua II , Parana and Deva had all sailed to Holland
· The Mayor of Bexley had visited the Club.
All basic homely Club stuff, you might feel, but think of the huge changes revealed by those brief notes!
· The walkway, and a boardwalk layout not dissimilar to “Egg & Bacon’s Yard” next door, have been replaced by hard standing and an access road
· Garson II, and her bar, have been replaced by MF Folgefonn (see below)
· Of the four boats mentioned sailing to Holland, none are now listed as “on station” (although doughty Elan Rua II is much loved and enjoying big city life upstream at Greenwich YC)
Whilst the Mayor of Bexley does visit from time to time and Kelpie remains afloat, little remains now to indicate how the Club looked and operated a mere 25 years ago. Even the electricity cable has been replaced with a much more powerful one, thanks to that spirit of self-help and ingenuity and a generous grant from the Sports Council.
The Club, and the world in which it exists, would be unrecognisable to a member who had left the planet in 1975 only to return in AD2000. In all aspects, physical, social, economic and technical change has swept through the club, sometimes, though not always, for the better.
What remains unchanged is a love of sailing and the river and that gritty self sufficiency. Will that see us safely into the new century? We will return to that theme later. For now, we will conclude this History by elaborating on those changes that have produced the Club as we know it today.
All Change at Erith
To our fictional space-travelling ex-member, the physical changes might be the easiest to explain, especially to the landscape and facilities now visible.
Today we winter our boats on hard standing, launch and recover* using our own tractor and (since last winter) the excellent electro-hydraulic winch, designed and fabricated by Ron Dott.
Launch and recovery is done via the concrete slipway built by members in the early 80s
Our moorings are regularly inspected by a skilled team of members, using a specialised barge, Masts can be removed using the club’s own mast crane and stored or worked on in one of two well-equipped workshops.
Boats can be lifted for more serious work on one of two heavy-duty gantries. Mobile heavy duty equipment for electric-arc welding and power-washing are available. Finally the weary sailor has a completely dry walk from his boat or workshop to the relative opulence afforded by Clubship Folgefonn, a converted Norwegian RoRo car ferry - a ship with a history all her own . Many who joined the club in the last twenty years or so will take these things for granted. But things were not always so…
In 1975 cars were left on Manor Road, movement about the site was via boardwalks. Beer for the bar was brought across in a two-wheeled handcart. Boats were laid up in one of several creeks that crisscrossed the saltmarshes. If a member wanted to haul a boat out he would have to find a commercial yard – and pay. Dinghy launch and recovery was by means of a wooden causeway, built by members from old dock piling and topped by a railway line (plus the motorcycle engine mentioned above). At the end of a muddy day,always spent in wellies, the weary sailor would slosh his way to the comforts (though a little cramped) of Clubship Garson. Things were improved a little, when the original two-plank width boardwalk from the seawall was replaced with six-foot wide barge hatchboards laid on railway sleepers. It became known, briefly as “the M1”!
Most, if not all of these improvements could only come about following a major breakthrough in the Club’s tenancy at Anchor Bay. Since 1929 the present plot had been leased, on short-term renewal, from Stoneham Estates. Between 1970 and 1973 the club became increasingly anxious about the landlord’s intentions for its and adjacent sites, with veiled allusions to commercial and marina developments appearing in correspondence of the time. The change in the landlord’s policy seems to have followed ownership of Stonehams being transferred from father to son.
The issue dragged on until about (1976?) when, quite suddenly, the land was offered to the Club to purchase. This was finally completed on Friday June 24th 1977 for a sum of £6500, towards which the Club received a 50% grant from the Sports Council.
At last the Club had the power to adapt its land to its own special needs and a programme of landfill was put in hand. A deal was struck with Erith Haulage to tip construction waste onto the land, initially to allow road access to the site, and some vehicle parking.
Somehow, things got a little out of hand and the fill programme just seemed to grow and grow. It is not clear at which point the Local Authority actually intervened but by that time we had our road, our car park and enough dry land for all our boats, dinghies and workshops! The question of whether and how much damage was done to the local ecology has continued within the club, not all members having approved of developments. However what can be said is that our premises by no means disgrace our surroundings; that plenty of saltmarsh survives to house various species of fauna and that we compare well with our neighbours in our continuing husbandry of the area.
More recently, EYC became cast in a rather more favourable light apropos the environment when the remains of a prehistoric forest were discovered on our foreshore. What had always seemed rather odd lumps of clay or mud between the tidelines turned out to be a rare example of preserved whole trees. Scientists were able to confirm the hitherto densely-wooded nature of the marshes in prehistoric times. Sweetest of all though, is that all this is only available for study because our moorings had shielded them from the wash of large steamers for most of the 20th century!
Two events took place in the late 70s which heralded possibly the most productive and creative period in the Club’s history.
In 1978 a terrible storm lifted boats from the adjacent boatyard and hurled them over the flooded EYC saltings. These and large baulks of timber thrown ashore by wind and water caused enormous damage to EYC land and property (EYC moorings, incidentally, held fast throughout!)
On Boxing Day 1980 Poor old Garson II nearly sank at her moorings. Frantic work ensued to secure her before the next High Water. Disaster was averted, but the committee reluctantly decided that the time had come to replace her, very soon. In the same year, plans were made to fill the saltings.
There then ensued a programme of work, which saw major changes practically every year for 15 years. Virtually every piece of it was carried out and financed by members and by 1995 the club was transformed. Dry, accessible by car and with yard space and deep moorings for every boat that needed them, EYC was now the envy of clubs up and down river as well as some on the coast.
In June 1980. Work began on the fill and Ken Stevens erected the sturdy gates made by him that still guard the premises today. That Autumn Folgefonn was offered to the Club for approx £12000 ( a big drop from the original £20 000 asking price!) but not persued in view of the other major commitments undertake
In Spring of 1981 the club had its first ever crane-lift, with boats now cradled on the new fill.
In Autumn of the same year, after having been first snapped up then almost as quickly put back on the market by a large company, Folgefonn was at last the property of EYC. One of the first RoRo car ferries ever built, she had plied the Norwegian Ffiords before WWII and had become part of Norwegian history even serving briefly under the Nazis, albeit under duress! She had helped to open up the country to transport and commerce and is respected in Norway as a part of their history.
Folgefonn arrived at midday Saturday 26 September 1981, to a fanfare of ships’ sirens and car horns. Garson II, was moved to a temporary berth in bottom creek. (She was seen off at two in the morning in Spring of 1982. Many tears were shed at the passing of the old ship. She was sold to Pitsea SC for £1800 in that year. Her 1869 purchase price was £140.)
September 1982 saw a “riotous” ship-warming party attended by visitors from various Yacht Clubs. (The writer thinks he may have been there, as a guest from GYC, but really doesn’t remember!)
By Spring, 1983 the access roadway had been filled and a new bar / galley fitted out in the clubship’s lower saloon. The green shed had been erected and a light tower erected.
Spring, 1984 saw fresh-water brought onto the site for the first time, thanks to a Government funded job-creation scheme. Up to then water had been brought in by bowser. Ice-cubes were now sighted in the bar, and members worried about being to recognise each other now that washing was feasible!
In the same year work commenced on the new concrete causeway, chipping and painting Folgefonn was put in hand and the pressure washer and one of the tractors were purchased. Members also started designing and building mobile yard cradles.
By Spring, 1985, in addition to a permanent mains water supply, the club now had a 12’ wide concrete causeway to LW, a second dinghy shed and a fully chipped and painted clubship. Flushing toilets were installed aboard the clubship and the remains of the old wooden causeway taken up from the river bed.
The same year saw “Thistle Do”, the moorings barge designed and built by Dudley Davies, launched. She was built using sections of a lighter, carefully selected scrap and a diesel generator salvaged from Folgefonn. She was constructed, by Dudley and his volunteers, during a foul winter, standing in ice-cold water (or on top of it when frozen!). Thistle Do’s predecessor was a steel lifeboat, equipped with a yacht winch for lifting the mooring chain. (The winch was hand-operated by two crew and the whole issue was rowed around the trots!!)
In May 1986, during a special work day, a new electrical supply cable was laid in a trench dug by a small digger brought along specially for the purpose by a member. (Some consternation was felt when it caught fire whilst being filled with petrol!)
Disaster also struck Thistle Do, which sank during severe weather just before Easter. She was raised, using another lighter as a “camel” and a small tug over Easter weekend. Dudley supervised the operation, so it should come as no surprise that it was bedevilled by hail and snow throughout!
By winter of that year some new moorings had been laid. Further trots had been made up ashore for later laying. Gas cookers had also been installed in Folgefonn’s lower saloon.
In Spring, 1987 Thistle Do was relaunched with a redesigned bow and with a steel gantry in place of her original derrick mast. This facilitated mooring maintenance whilst making her less vulnerable to capsize. Moorings work was now able to resume fully.
June 5th 1988 was Folgefonn’s 50th birtthday, which was celebrated in classic Erith style on the 4th and rather more formally on the day itself, in the presece of the Mayor.
In the early Summer of 1989 during a series of work-evenings, Folgefonn got a fibreglass covering to her foredeck and a bulkhead to deck level, flush with the bridge front. Meanwhile, major refurbishment of what was to become the top bar was nearing completion, with a splendid new bar-front and counters. (John Edmonds, the then commodore, carried out all this work.) G Campbell also donated a wind-speed machine and D Watson painted a gilt Commodores’ board. By the time these were fitted, the bar was reckoned by many an expert to be “the best bar on the river”. Visits certainly increased from this time at all events!
A party was held in April 1990 to celebrate completion of a set of truly “hurricane proof”
moorings. Since then, with the aid of Thistle Do and moorings parties composed of dedicated Spartans, the moorings have been kept to a level of maintenance equal or superior to that of any club, including some using professional help.
May 1991 saw the east launch-and–recovery slip was completed and middle creek diverted to pass around its end.
In January 1992, the mast crane, designed and built By Dudley Davies and Ron Dott, was completed and erected.
In March 1994 the new tractor shed was completed as well as a new landing stage along the clubship’s starboard side.
Finally, in March 1995 the new electric and water supply was in operation and a cesspit had been dug in, both made possible by a Sports and Arts Council grant.
Work meets continue to be well attended, but so far no match has been found for that remarkable period of productivity… So far… The wise view is that the club is simply drawing breath, ready for the next series of challenges, ideas and dreams to be realised.
Anyone under the age of, say, 30 might be forgiven for assuming electronics had been with us from the dawn of mankind. From the first transistor radio in the 60s, electronic devices have proliferated to the point where nothing we do, seemingly is untouched by them. This was never truer than for yachting, yet here again it was not always thus.
Even just 25 years ago VHF was regarded as an expensive luxury and the majority of small boats did not carry them. The same was true, to a slightly lesser extent, of echo-sounders and electronic logs. in fact, it was the period between 1975 and 1980 which saw an exponential growth in the personal computer industry and with a collapse in prices for many of the components that had made navigational instruments dear.
By 1980 if one did not have an 80 channel VHF, echo-sounder and electronic log it was because one chose not to. Within a few more years, possession of a GPS was likewise a matter of choice rather than wealth and we now see the prices of other sophisticated instruments, even radar, tumbling rapidly.
All this means that the mysteries of navigation are within the reach of the humblest mariner and completes a transformation that, in the 60s, if not the mid 70s, would scarcely have seemed possible.
Navigation has always been and continues to be more about skill than technology. Before the availability of cheap electronics, those skills represented hard-won training and, in the Royal and Merchant Navies, where they were most often gained, they also represented status.
By tradition at sea, it was not considered safe to allow other ranks access to navigational matters. Passing such information to seamen was a disciplinary matter. As also was it for a seaman to venture opinions on the matter. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel became notorious for hanging a man who (correctly) predicted a navigational disaster leading to the loss of his ship, the 90-gun Association and three others of a fleet of twenty-one off the Scillies on the Gilston Rock 22nd Oct 1707. Fourteen hundred men were lost. Sir Cloudesley Shovel took to his barge , together with his treasure chest and pet greyhound only to be wrecked a second time at Porth Hellick, on St Mary’s. Many years later an island woman claimed on her deathbed that she had found the Rear-Admiral lying exhausted on the beach, and that she had murdered him for the sake of two rings on his fingers. Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel who lived at May Place, Crayford, during the 18th century, has a memorial in St.Paulinus Church. Sir Cloudesley Shovel was the cabin boy of Sir John Narborough
The 1707 incident , so close to the shipping centres on England, catapulted the longditude question into the forefront of national affairs. This precipitated the Longditude act of 1714, in which Parliament promised a prize of £20,000 for a solution to the longditude problem. This gave rise to the Harrison clocks which can be seen in the Greenwhich Maritime Museum, and who won the Longditude prize after appealing to the King.
This tradition of secrecy permeated clubs like Erith for many years. Many owners had themselves served at sea and were reluctant to pass on skills and information that, to them, were “not meant for the lower deck”. Older members report that, until comparatively recently, it was quite difficult for “mere crew” to get answers to the age-old question of “where the hell are we?” Change, however, was inevitable. Today, with abundant, user-friendly equipment, it would be a foolish, even negligent skipper who failed to instruct his crew in all possible aspects of their use. Moreover many Erith men, ex officers or not, have by now benefited from the many means of learning navigation that have burgeoned since the 70s.It is a “black art” no longer.
We are an older Club than we were in the 70s. No figure are available, but so much is clear from the number of current 50-somethings who joined as cadets then, compared to the present rarity of younger members. Through the unstinting efforts of George Reynolds MBE, and a host of senior members, the club persists in bringing in a vital trickle of new cadets, but probably not enough to secure our future alone. In this we differ little from most clubs and friendly societies. We also share the question – Why don’t the young want to join anything any more? To a very real extent the future of Clubs like ours depends on an answer to that.
Lastly we are poorer, either in time, in wealth or both. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the same processes that brought electronics prices down have been at work across all manufacturing. Consequently boat ownership is now within reach of people who could not have dreamed of it 25 years ago. This is wholly good and may ensure a steady trickle of new members, if not especially young ones, for many years to come.
Time poverty is a less attractive feature and relates to major economic changes that have swept the globe over the last 25 – 30 years. In retrospect, the 70s seem a golden period when one might work hard for a portion of the week and have leisure to follow a hobby like sailing for the remaining time. In high season this would have meant days off and long weekends to take part in major events – or to organise them.
Now that, in effect we, our employers or our clients, compete for every penny we make in a global arena, leisure has become a scarcer luxury for anyone in employment. In common again with clubs and friendly societies around the country, we see fewer people participating in events, as well as those with time or energy to help run the Club. The burden is increasingly falling on retired members or those with their own businesses and a lot of energy!
Where is this taking us? One encouraging development is that over the next decade many of the “baby boomers” amongst us will themselves be taking retirement so that, for a period anyway, there may be a sizeable pool of able and experienced hands willing to take office. Whether we will be fit enough to do the racing and cruising is another question, however, so this becomes another issue for debate at the start of our second Century!
THE FUTURE: BRIGHT OR MURKY?
The last few years have seen a revival of hopes and plans for a Club ashore. This reflects a desire going back many years for the relative permanence and low-maintenance of such a facility. (If you have any doubts about the need or value of this, join the valiant few who regularly turn up to chip, paint and maintain your Clubship.)
Very recently indeed, our present commodore, John Edmonds, has commissioned architects to produce some feasibiltiy studies for a shore-based clubhouse. The proposed scheme looks close to providing most if not all of the facilities currently available aboard Folgefonn. Even the magnificent view of sunsets looks possible, with rather more verandah than shown. The building is planned to project partly over the North bank, close to the Clubship’s current position, to minimise use of scarce yard space.
Since 1997 we have had mains water and full three-phase electrical power, along with a large cesspit. This has enabled a temporary shower/toilet block to be sited ashore, pending more permanent arrangements. All this has relied on the great skill and voluntary work of individual members. Our dream of a club ashore will put those resources to the test as never before.
How realistic is that dream?
Clearly the two biggest shortages will be in money and members’ time. The club has little enough of the former and, as discussed earlier, members in work are not particularly blessed with the latter. Since the resources involved in building a new clubhouse will dwarf anything done before, something new to us will be needed if we are to make progress.
Whether we will achieve the objective in the foreseeable future depends entirely on the determination of members and their committee to find a way. It is difficult to believe, however, that the old spirit of self-help, competence and determination has gone very far away.
Whatever Erith Yacht Club members have wanted in the past, they have generally achieved, purchased or made for themselves.
Who will say that they will not do so again, and again in the future, once they have decided what it is that they really want?
List of Commodores
1900 - 05 A.I.Gaze