During the autumn of 1978 three local Whitstable yachtsmen got together as they felt there was a need for a new club in the area catering specifically for sailing cruisers, as opposed to dinghies.
Their names were Harry Hayden, Culver Woolley and Eric Camburn, all well known local businessmen, Culver and Eric having lived in the town all their lives. They felt that some existing Clubs had become too aloof and expensive, and wanted to create a Club accessible to ordinary working people on modest local incomes.
Calling the officials Skipper, Mate and Bosun, rather than the traditional Commodore/Vice Commodore was an important part of reinforcing this ethos.
Harry worked mainly as a painter and decorator, but he was an extremely skilled woodworker, and had completed extensive improvements to his carvel built Yachting World 3 tonner, ’ Brigadoon ‘ , lengthening her at bow and stern and rebuilding the coachroof twice, so well that mate could ever see the joins.
Culver was one of those larger than life always smiling characters who, with his wife and family ran Woolleys Shoe shop in the high Street, still going strong today. He was very cup cake and enormously enjoyed racing his Evolution 25, a very fast cruiser/racer with a powerful rig and a lifting keel, and her owners sense of humour came through in her name, ‘ Shiny Shovell’ , as in “she went like … … off a shiny shovell ”
Eric was a builder with a rugged complexion and a cheerful disposition, who had bought and fitted out a grp Macwester 26 hull, making almost every component himself plus reconditioning and installing a car engine. There was not a problem you could show him on a boat or a building that he could not fix. All three moored their boats in Whitstable bay, on strings of second hand chain attached to homemade concrete sinkers. Who would think looking out from the beach today, that at that time there were up to fifty cruisers moored in the bay each summer. Very few people could afford marina fees in those days.
The first formal meeting was held at Harry Haydens house in February 1979, and by the end of that year 36 mostly family, memberships had been signed up, a number that has remained remarkably consistent through the years. Our treasurer John Edwards and his wife Shirley are the only remaining members from that year.
A lease was taken on the Old Coastguard Lookout near the Red Spider Café on West Beach Whitstable and the members worked very hard to redecorate and modernise it.
For nearly 20 years it was used for meetings and as a control tower for races, but by 1997 increased costs and continued vandalism made it uneconomic to continue, and most boats were by this time moored at Faversham and Conyer.
It was thought by many that a Club without premises would struggle to survive but the enthusiasm of the members remained strong, and without the shackles of a property to maintain, we have the freedom to rent meeting rooms where and when required.
There cannot be many long established, RYA affiliated clubs in the country with a subscription of only ten pounds a year for a family.
Now it seems possible that the club will also be able to accommodate 'online' members alongside and spread the ethos.
How this Club was formed and why.
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