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Stan Yeates' Story

Centaur racing Centaur sails
Sailing Barge Centaur, photos from The Thames Sailing Barge Trust.

The late Stan Yeates was one of the last surviving sailing barge skippers and was a Trustee of the club. He died in 2007 and until the last few years of his life he took club members for trips on the saling barge Centaur every year. He became involved with the activities at Hoo Ness in 1952 and recalls that Peter Love came along 3 years later. Other important people in those early times were John Mason, John Day and Dennis Dowley.

At this time the river still had many signs of the aftermath of the Second World War and Stangate Creek was full of cocooned corvettes, frigates and minesweepers. There were also many redundant concrete lighters littering the foreshore; many can still be seen around the Medway area. As they are generally closed lighters they are thought to be old fuel carriers.

The land around Hoo Ness had been brickfields in earlier times. This land was purchased in 1947 by the Whitewall Barge, Yacht and Boat Company to carry on their barge-to-houseboat conversion business which they had moved down from Whitewall Creek. They set out the concrete lighters to form the artificial harbour, or marina, and started the adjacent caravan park.

At this time the dredged marina had not been built and the tide still ran strongly past what are now the clubhouse grounds and between Ford Marsh Island and the old brick company wharf (present crane lift area). This left a clean scoured bottom for barges to lie alongside as indicated in the old picture which used to be above the fireplace in the present-day club building.

Boats that Stan remembers included Mr. Walter Brice's substantial fleet of about 20 Thames sailing barges. These were employed in carrying brick clay for the adjacent brick works or engaged on the "rubbish run". This consisted of carrying rubbish from London to be dumped at Hoo and, where possible, burned in the brickfield furnaces. This practice had been going on since Victorian times and accounts for the large number of old bottles which used to be found in the area.

Other boats that Stan recalls were a schooner called Greta, a Dragon, Tony Lapthorn's barge Alice May and Geoffrey Burge's Barge called Tomer II.

This was a sprit rigged vessel with a clipper bow and was a purpose-built yacht. Judge Blagdon was also there with a barge called Ventnor.

Arthur Bennett had The Henry. Stuart Cross also had a barge. (Query: club steward in 1952 - Arthur Bennett? Also what was the status of Dorothy Wright?).

Stan recalls that Geoffrey Dutson was the principal influence in the early activities at Hoo. He, together with Charles Burge, formed a company called the Marina Club (Medway) Ltd which purchased the Whitewall Barge, Yacht and Boat Company in 1952 when that company ran into difficulties. Boating activities continued and mainly consisted of playing around with barges based on the old barge repair area.

The combination of the caravan park and the adjacent boating activities became one of the first locations of this kind to use the term "Marina".

Marina Club (Medway) Ltd changed its name to Marina Services (Medway) Ltd in 1953. In 1956 a sailing club was formed. This club purchased a lease of the land now owned by Hoo Ness Yacht Club from Medway Services (Medway) Ltd and was called the Marina Yacht Club.

Walter Brice purchased the majority of shares in Marina Services (Medway) Ltd in 1963 and in 1968 the Club purchased the freehold of the land from him. The club marked this significant event by changing its name to Hoo Ness Yacht Club.

Martin Richards
27th November 2000 (updated by Webmaster March 2009)

For more information on the Centaur and the Thames Sailing Barge Trust, click here.

Date Published 27th Jun 2011