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A Brief History of the Club

Hoo Ness Yacht Club

The club burgee depicting a Thames sailing barge is a constant reminder of the club's origins and early history. After the Second World War, when the sailing barge trade was declining, Geoffrey Dutson began converting barges into houseboats in Whitewall Creek. This activity subsequently moved to Hoo and various people who had an interest in the barges gathered there. A building which now forms our bar area was built sometime in the 1940's under the control of Tony Lapthorne and became the sailing barge owners' clubhouse.

An association of friends who were interested in boats was formed in 1948. Their activities were initially based on the land now used as our remote western tender park adjacent the Wilsonian Sailing Club and a few swinging moorings. As the number of boats in the area increased, an artificial harbour was formed using redundant concrete lighters, and boats for working, living aboard and pleasure sailing gathered there. This was in the area currently occupied by the Port Werburgh houseboat business. Together with the adjacent caravan park the area became known as Hoo Marina and was one of the first such establishments in the country.

A club known as the Marina Yacht Club was formed in 1956 with Harold Pinnell as Commodore and it acquired a lease on the building which today forms our club's bar area. It then looked like the old picture displayed in the clubhouse showing the sailing barges lining the shore. The painted faces of the brick piers forming the veranda, which can be seen in the picture, are still visible within the main body of the present-day clubhouse.

The opportunity arose to buy the freehold of the building, and the adjacent land, from the local landowner Walter Brice, and at an historic EGM, held in 1967 in the Black Prince public house, a motion was passed to that effect. The necessary monies were raised and the purchase was completed in in 1968. To mark the change of direction the name of the club was changed to Hoo Ness Yacht Club.

In the1960's the emphasis of sailing at the club changed to dinghies and a substantial and active fleet developed. The standard of sailing was high and between 1968 and 1972 the club had five National and International champions amongst its members. These activities lead to the founding of the prestigious "Hoo Freezer" winter regatta. This was started in 1971 by Bill Steele and was run for over forty years until changing circumstances brought about its demise. The scale of the event can be judged from the limit on entries, which was 120. At that early stage there were no keel boats laid-up on the grass and there was plenty of room to host the event.

Club members began to acquire keel boats and moorings were laid in the river to accommodate them. Their installation was financed by means of a debenture scheme. At the peak there were 150 moorings. By 1983 the finances of the club were such that on the advice of George Raine, the then Hon. Treasurer, it was possible to repay all loans and debentures and deliver the club free of debt.

In 1981 the club obtained a licence to protect and develop the foreshore. This resulted in the gabion retaining wall being built and the land behind it being reclaimed. In later years this licence was extended in two further stages to allow the construction of Bower's Quay and finally the eastern tender park which was built under the guidance of Ian Beech. Alongside these various developments the jetties, slipways and scrubbing docks were constructed to provide the extensive range of yachting facilities which are now available to members.

In the late 1980's the new Hoo Marina was constructed to the east of the club. This was done by joining Ford Marsh Island to the mainland and excavating a basin. This started the process of silting-up which has been going-on ever since. The construction of the marina required the diversion of the club's dinghy slip westwards which is why it has a dogleg in it now. Hoo Marina had a chequered career and several different owners. Eventually both it and most of the surrounding area came to be under the control of Residential Marine. The large houseboat complex, known as Port Werburgh, was built in front of the club as that business acquired the necessary mud leases. After years of negotiation the club succeeded in acquiring a lease for the only remaining area of mud. This was the triangle between our dinghy and main slipways. This acquisition from the Port Authority was needed to protect the club's facilities and retain access to the water and was completed in 2015.

Over the years the clubhouse has gradually changed. In earlier times, before the access road behind the club was built, our clubhouse was joined to another building which provided a social club for the residents of the adjacent caravan and park home. This was variously known as the Swamp or the Schooner Club. For many years the bar served both clubs until, in about 1983, the bars were separated at the insistence of the licensing authorities. The social club building was subsequently demolished to make way for the access road leading to Port Werburgh. Our clubhouse has been progressively extended over the years to provide the extensive facilities available today.

As the years progressed the number of boats being laid-up ashore gradually increased. The boats were originally brought ashore on trailers which were generally built by members and based on van and lorry axles. When the Royal Engineers YC boatyard closed, Barry Gardiner facilitated the club acquiring their boat hoist and tractor which greatly increased our capacity to launch and recover boats. The main boat hardstanding area was improved in two stages. The first was completed in late 2014 employing a contractor and the second phase was completed by a team of members in 2018. The numbers of boats ashore over the winter in recent times have exceeded 80.

Wear and tear over the years required various facilities to be rebuilt. The jetty out to the scrubbing docks was rebuilt under the direction of Richard Jessup and a project to rebuild the scrubbing dock was completed in 2014 under the direction of Barry Gardiner. In 2019 a team of members under the leadership of Richard Jessup carried out the widening of the main slipway.

Late In 2019 the opportunity arose to buy the freehold of the areas of foreshore and mud that the club rented from Peel Ports, the Port Authority. In the event the only alternative to completing the purchase was for the club to become a tenant of Residential Marine. The General Committee decided that it was in the best interests of the club to purchase the freehold of these additional areas and an appeal to members was launched to raise the greater part of the purchase price. About 50 members responded and the appeal was substantially over-subscribed. Following the necessary redistribution and return of excess funds, debentures were issued to the members involved in the scheme with repayment periods of 3, 5 or 10 years.

At the time of writing the club was closed due to the Covid-19 virus pandemic.

Martin Richards -13th June 2020 - Ref:- Revised HNYC History.docx

Date Published 27th Jun 2011