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Messing About with Boats at ESC

Orginated by Tony Lane

The Club was started in 1953, a number which we used as the combination on the gate lock. Early photographs show boats pulled up on the mud edge of the dam but when I joined, the existing concrete and rubber embankment was in place. I believe that this was constructed when a coffer-dam was made in order to modify the dam's slipway or perhaps raise the dam wall. My first contact with the Club occurred on a Saturday in 1994 when I overheard someone on the other side of the fence, speaking in a posh, RAF type accent as I walked past. It was Peter Carr, ex-Spitfire pilot and he was showing five children how to rig sails on some tiny boats. He agreed to include me in the class - six lessons plus boat and life-jacket hire for R150-00. The last lesson was how to right a capsized boat and get back sailing. Erstwhile pupils were encouraged to join the racing which took place on Sundays.

Most people pitched up with their boats on trailers or on roof-racks and were expected to be rigged before tea at about 10.15. Ron Caldercott would be motor-boating around the dam on Emma (our big rescue boat) and adjusting the positions of the buoys for the day's racing. Skipper's briefing (Not before 10.30) was called and everyone congregated on the veranda to hear details of the day's course.

trudy_jack_tony pic

Trudy French, Jack French (late) with Tony Lane at The Peter Carr Night Race (18 January 2010)

Some poor sailor, often Jack French or the day's Duty Officer, was persuaded to man the Bridge and once the flags had been organized, a warning hooter was sounded and we launched. After two or three races, everyone trooped into the clubhouse for a cooked meal ( my first committee job was to organize this - luckless wives or whoever were asked in turn to cater for about 30 people).

After lunch there was more racing and then, while everyone else was de-rigging, Ron and I entered the finish-times into Mike Sadler's program on the computer and printed out the handicap results for the notice board. Mike Sadler made O'9ers and the Club acquired our current fleet for next to nothing because of a SAS initiative to promote sailing.

ESC helped with the establishment of Southern Cross (the Wemer Pan club) and because of our relationship with them, we raced there on one Sunday of every season and they came to us on the following. The results were then combined in order to determine who won the Emma-Wemma. We also hosted the annual Emmarentia Small Boat Regatta and in turn, the Opie Masters with adults racing Optimists and later, O'9ers.

The Club payed a token R45-00 to the Council for the lease and it was understood that ESC had the "Water Rights" which meant that we could decide who did what and when on the dam. Canoeists were there but in smaller numbers and had not yet built their clubhouse. Once this was done, they offered to pave our parking area (they used the space more than we did anyway and then sometimes cut the lock on the gate to get in). I believe that the canoeists added some of their land to the area but the next thing we knew, they had used earth-moving equipment to extend the Parking Area outwards over our lawn - I heard someone say that they had made us an offer that we couldn't understand .

There was a big party in the year that Ron Caldecott, Jack French, Treasurer for 40 years, and Peter Carr turned 80. Jack said that it was cold enough to freeze the balls off a brass monkey (a perfectly polite nautical phrase). Another of Jack's sayings (he served as Navigator on a mine-sweeper during the war) was that he was just off to shed a tear for Nelson meaning that he had to make a pit-stop.

Peter Carr spent almost every day at the Club. Partly I suspect, to get away from his wife. He made boat-racks, dollies, security gates, lots of things that are still in use. He and Ron moved the Bar to its present position and panelled the walls. Members built the clubhouse before my time but I was there when the Work-shop went up - mainly as a result of Peter's urging but also because people got cross when they opened the clubhouse on a Sunday and found Peter's welding and paint jobs on the tables inside.

There were about eight break-ins over a year or two and Peter and others bricked up some windows in the bar, fitted burglar-bars and security gates. Interest in sailing was already waning when I joined, however over the last two years the club has shown promising growth even although Sailing world-wide has some challenges. One see that with the current developments and interest shown in Emmarentia Sailing Club that our sport will recover some of its lost popularity which is great, as there is a lot to be gained from messing about with boats.