CYCT burgee

Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania

Photo of Quiet day in Quarantine Bay.



Erika Johnson

The telephone rang. “We’re going down The Channel for the weekend.” “See you there”, we replied. By some form of telepathy (this was before most of us had radios) we’d all arrive at the same anchorage. Ashore, while we relaxed and talked of cruising dreams our youngsters dashed around on the beach, swam or just generally “mucked around in boats”. From these simple beginnings the idea of a cruising club was born.

An article in The Mercury on 26 September 1974 foreshadowed the formation of the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania but it was not until 9 May 1975 that 50 interested people met at the home of Donald and Anne Sutherland. It was decided that the aims of the fledgling club were to “(a) encourage sailing and boat building by amateur boat builders; (b) establish a club house and provide a slipway, storage, building, parking, refueling and other facilities for members and the public ... (c) to organise cruising and racing of boats and classes of instruction...”

The founding member of the Club was Max Redmond and at the first AGM, held at the Kingston Hotel in November 1975, Donald Sutherland was elected Commodore. By this time there were nineteen financial members each paying a subscription of $5. Membership had doubled by the second AGM and by 1985, the Club’s tenth year, there were just over 100 family members.

From our early days we had close links with Sydney’s Coastal Cruising Club. Our emblem, the Albatross, was the suggestion of one of their members, Renée Mann. Together with husband, Carl (who was our first Treasurer), they had sailed south from the mainland to experience the delights of cruising in Tasmania. The wily bird was soon to be seen flying at members’ mastheads and also became the Club’s lifeline - the eagerly awaited newsletter bringing news, views and gossip to our letterboxes each month.

The Albatross ain’t like a Pelican
Whose beak can hold more than its belly can.
But like most good birds
With hard cash and sweet words
It can give you more fun than the telecan.

In the early years meetings were held at the Kingston High School then at the Kingston Sailing Club and later, the Derwent Sailing Squadron. Here we had the facilities of a bar, operated on an honorary basis by Mark and Chris Creese. However, the search for a permanent home for the Club continued. There was passing interest in Drew Point at Margate and the Power Jetty at Howden. Later we investigated a small block of land adjacent to the Safcol factory at Margate and Club member, John Wells, offered part of his lease at the new North West Bay Marina. Both of these options were also discarded.

The Club’s raison d’être was of course cruising. Rosebanks in Barnes Bay was the destination for the Club’s first programmed cruise on 16 November 1975. Here members gathered for a lunchtime barbecue and were entertained by a water diviner. Some members found they had a talent for divining but all that most of us found was our glass of wine! The Vice Commodore programmed cruises every two weeks with a day sail alternating with a weekend cruise to more distant anchorages. Racing round the buoys in North West Bay also played a part in early Club get togethers in conjunction with the Channel Sailing Club at Snug.

Cruises were memorable events. Exploring the Esperance River at Dover in 1978, five dinghies were reported tied abreast, coining the term “quinmaran”. Later that year young Stephen Newham followed the fleet up the Channel in the 8’6” Kilkie. A ‘first’ was achieved on a cruise to Pittwater in 1983 when Voyager and Neptune, with the help of Jeff Boyes on the radio, reached the Sorell causeway.

Some members sailed to that ‘big island’ up north or ‘went foreign’. Following a cruise to the Whitsundays during 1977, Ken Newham made and presented the Club with a cup made from an aluminium mast section as a trophy for “Cruise of the Year”. The first winner was George Jenkins in Wincanton for a cruise to Sydney. The smallest boat to win the award was the Frog Balmer’s 20 foot Voyager, following a carrot dangled behind Alkira’s stern to Port Davey! After Frog’s death in 1991 his favorite anchorage became officially known as Frogs Hollow.

However, life was not all beer and skittles. On Regatta Day 1979 Kampari, a 28 foot motor sailer owned by Robert and Margaret Loring, was blown ashore in Pot Bay. Unable to get her off, she broke up in gales over succeeding days. Club members rallied round and spent the following weekend salvaging what was left. “We are most grateful”, Robert and Margaret said, “for the kind help given by the efficient CYCT Salvage Team.”

Social activities were also popular. The Club’s first Annual Dinner was held on 16 July 1976 at the Lady Hamilton Room at the Mt Nelson Tavern. Other activities included a ‘Pig Swill’ in 1977, Ausmas parties and cooking demonstrations at the Fisheries Development Authority. Barbecues were also popular and there was a danger of the Club becoming known as the ‘Barbecue Club of Tasmania’! Films were borrowed at regular intervals from the Film Library and in the early 80s there was a flurry of interest in musicals with visits to the Theatre Royal and the Playhouse. Singing became so popular that the Rear Commodore of the day, Alan Johnson, produced a Club Song Book complete with shanties and other ditties

Communications between boats improved with the advent of 27mg marine radio. Most members joined the recently formed Margate Base where Len Bonnitcha recorded positions and passed on weather reports. Later the Club decided to install its own base station with ‘Albatross Base’ being installed at the home of George Bilson at Howden. It was later moved to Ken and Doris Newham’s home at Oyster Cove before finally being disbanded in 1985.

As an adjunct to the main aim of cruising, classes in related subjects were at the forefront of the Club’s activities. During the first year Jamie Robb conducted classes in both coastal and celestial navigation and a few years later Ed Trowbridge showed members how to make sails. Diesel maintenance sessions followed with the added advantage of having practical sessions held on board our own boats.

The Club started its second decade by moving into its own home. Barry Hibbard had mentioned a derelict National Trust registered cottage in Battery Point. The Club was able to negotiate a lease of the Mariners Cottage for a peppercorn rental of 50 man-hours of work a year and our first meeting in our new home was held on 6 May 1986. However, the cottage proved so popular that we soon outgrew its tiny rooms. Alternate venues were canvassed. In the meantime 85 members attended a meeting on MV Icebird and early in 1990 a meeting was held on board Incat’s Hoverspeed Great Britain. At meetings at the Sandy Bay Sailing Club members complained about the cold. Finally in 1993, after much soul-searching, Graeme von Bibra moved “that the CYCT take up residence at the Regatta Pavilion” where meetings have been held ever since.

Despite sometimes adverse weather, cruises continued to be well attended. Sleet and snow were reported at Cygnet in June 1992. Here, Floss, the dog on board Camira found her water bowl was frozen solid! However, by August we were all basking in warm sunshine at Legacy Beach and ex-Sydneysider John Hamilton was heard to remark, “They’d never believe us if we told them what winter was like down here!” Mid-week cruises were introduced, with some retired members making use of the better weather which seemed to coincide with the start of the working week!

Marion Narrows, one of Tasmania’s barred entrances, has a bad reputation. In 1990 the ketch Neptune, with Mark Creese on board, broached on a rogue wave and turned over, throwing Mark into the water. However, the sturdy vessel gradually righted herself and, being much lower in the water, Mark was able to climb back on board. She was a sorry sight - both masts were broken and the rigging hung in festoons over the deck. It was a credit to her builder, Bert Morris, that Neptune, then 55 years old, was strongly built and following repairs she was able to continue her tradition of cruising to Port Davey. Some years later Peter and Leonie Brooks’ Marie Francis was also nearly wrecked at The Narrows, hitting rocks while negotiating the entrance.

Along with membership, costs have risen over the years. By 1986, subscriptions had risen to $25. However in 1992, Treasurer Brian Cullen was grumbling about the high cost of producing Albatross and it was decided to increase the annual subscription to $35 with the addition of a $20 joining fee. Membership numbers continued to increase and by 1995 there were 127 members until an insurance deal offered by the Oyster Cove Marina had numbers escalating to 147. At last count, in September 1999, numbers had settled back to 137.

Speakers at the monthly meetings have kept members enthralled with cruising stories or practical demonstrations. As an adjunct to these activities, the Club has collected together nautical books and videos to form a library and a chart bank is being developed. Members’ favourite recipes have also been collated into a book.

Office bearers are restricted by a three-year rule and there is sometimes a shortage of willing helpers. However, Leo Foley excelled himself when he joined the Club in July 1989 and was elected the Club’s Rear Commodore three months later! Chris Creese has performed sterling service as our honorary barman for over 15 years, much appreciated at sometimes dry meetings.

Even if they were not on the Committee, Ken and Doris Newham seemed to be somewhere in the background. In recognition for their unstinting efforts, they were awarded Life Membership of the Club in 1991. Two years later Erika Johnson, long-standing Secretary, Editor and general factotum, was also awarded Life Membership for, as the Albatross reported, “her dedication to cruising, which is the aim of the Club.” Derek Farrar, our third Life Member cruised for many years single-handed in Tudor Rose II and worked selflessly in many aspects of the Club. His wit and hints are much appreciated in Albatross. We were all shocked to hear that Derek had suffered the ultimate cruising disaster when Tudor Rose stuck a submerged object and sank off the Queensland coast in 1997. Derek took to the liferaft and after spending many hours drifting shorewards was rescued by the crew of a freighter. Not to be deterred, back in Tasmania, Derek was soon on the water again in his new boat, Mermerus.

One of the biggest projects the Club has undertaken was the publication in 1988, in conjunction with the Department of Lands Parks & Wildlife, of the D’Entrecasteaux Waterways Cruising Guide. This involved many Club members and many months of work on the part of compiler, Martin Seymour. The book has now become a standard work for cruising the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and an updated version is due to come out this year.

During 1998, while returning from Port Davey, Kalimna intercepted a Mayday call - the British yacht, Talis II, was wrecked on Maatsuyker Island. Later the Club rallied around Doreen and Peter Cheek, assisting them to make extensive repairs on the Kettering slip. Peter gave an emotional talk at the Club where he outlined the events which led up to the disaster. Two years later, Kalimna was once more involved in rescuing a vessel in distress. Together with Bird of Dawning they offered assistance to a fishing boat which was foundering. Both boats had to stem a strong tide to tow the vessel through the Dunalley Canal to the slip.

In keeping with its aims, the Club and its members have continued to organise community activities and classes. Garbos cruises, held on a regular basis, go some way to keeping our waterways and shores clean. However, the body of a dead cow at the last collection proved too large to remove and was decidedly too old for the barbecue!

In 1987 the Club became accredited to conduct the AYF’s Introductory and Inshore courses. Some years later, lectures about anchorages in D’Entrecasteaux Channel and the East Coast were conducted by Leo Foley and Ian Turnbull in conjunction with Adult Education. These days, with the added emphasis on safety at sea, classes in basic navigation have been conducted by Stephen Newham and a St Johns First Aid Course was followed up with a talk on First Aid at Sea by Dr Alan Grice. In conjunction with Tasmar Radio, classes in radio procedure were held enabling a large number of Club members qualify for their Radio Operators Certificate.

Fancy dress was popular in the late 90s. Somewhat reminiscent of a fruity melodrama, entertainment at the Club’s Christmas function in 1996 was a mock wedding with Milton Cunningham as ‘the bride’, Audrey Madden, ‘the groom’ and Brian Links in his second childhood tucked in a pram. The fancy dress theme was followed the following year with an Old Salts and Sea Fairies dinner and in 1998 a spit roast brought out the Mad Hatters.

Cruises have continued to be popular and full of interest. During Easter 1999 14 boats full of bunnies enjoyed superb east coast weather and later at the Foxy Lady Scavenger Hunt a limerick competition brought forth some ‘interesting’ ditties. On the June long weekend 24 boats made the rendezvous at Cygnet. Later 90 members enjoyed a dinner up in the town and the following morning (some still holding their heads from the night before!), 62 rowed ashore to share a champagne breakfast with the Cygnet Sailing Club.

Club boats continued to sail far and wide. It was often difficult to choose a winner for the Cruise of the Year Award. Aerendir cruised to New Zealand and the Pacific, Alkira sailed round Tasmania in company with Solong and Camira cruised to New Guinea’s Louisiade Archipeligo. Currently, we are enjoying the adventures of Mulberry as Bill Wright and his daughter Wendy struggle to reach New Zealand.

The popularity of boating has brought with it inevitable conflicts. Fish farms and moorings have encroached into our anchorages. In addition we now have a plethora of new regulations curbing our freedom of the seas. Members of the Club have fought for but won few concessions.

The Club came of age in 1996 and celebrated its 21st birthday with a cruise to Quarantine Bay. Events included rowing races and model boat trials in which two original Club ‘kids’ Chris and Nick Creese put their boats through their paces. A mystery tour and dinner at Stonyfield capped off the year’s celebrations. There was another birthday that year - Ken and Doris Newham’s Alkira also celebrated her 21st!

Many members have come and gone over the years but three originals remain. Erika Johnson, John Mitchell & John Peate have been members since the Club’s inception. In another first, Neptune, that stately lady of grandmotherly years, is the only vessel which has been continuously on the Club register. However, a link in the chain was broken when our founding Commodore, Donald Sutherland, died in 1995. In his memory the Club holds an annual Donald Sutherland Memorial Cruise, the first of which was won by Margaret and Gordon Gowland’s Bird of Dawning.

As the Club has aged, so too have its members. Parents are now grandparents and our original ‘kids’ - Chris Creese, Nick Creese, Stephen Newham and Karen May (Bain), have grown up. The CYCT is now into its third generation. Lucy and Thomas Bain are already old hands at cruising to Port Davey and at the tender age of two months, baby Joshua Creese recently had his first trip on Neptune up river to New Norfolk.

One definition of the word ‘sailing’ is “the fine art of getting wet and becoming ill while slowly going nowhere at great expense”. Despite these inconveniences, CYCT members continue to flock to meetings, cruises and social functions. Albert Ross is set to soar to even greater heights and visit many more places.

Show the Flag

The Albatross is seen to fly in many lovely places;
He welcomes you to friendly boats perhaps to meet new faces.
But when the hot winds from the North blew smoke and ash to sea,
I saw our bird was nestling where’d I’d rather like to be.
The day was really very hot - her bathing costume she’d forgot,
So with a toggle and some string the bird took care of everything.
Although her shapely back was bare and just seen through long golden hair,
Our bird’s white wings embraced her front we thought it quite a cunning stunt.
But if you try it - don’t forget a burgee shrinks when it gets wet!

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