I was a member of the Up River Yacht Club at Hullbridge, on the River Crouch, and also of the Marconi Sailing Club on the River Blackwater. Being a member of a club can be advantageous, particularly when it comes to paying for moorings and winter lay-up. Clubs have useful facilities such as changing rooms, showers, toilets, a bar, a lounge and even a dining room. Depending on the size of a club, it will have a slipway, and maybe a jetty or a pontoon. There will be secure storage for tenders and dinghies, and there may visitors’ moorings.
Most sailing clubs organise racing and cruising events, and if crews are required, usually willing hands can be found. Novices always want to gain experience.
At the heart of a club there’s the social hub, usually centred on the bar where members come together. Those who enjoy organising events will always be in demand, and there are never enough helpers for maintaining a club’s premises. Helpers are required for the annual regatta, both ashore and afloat to work rescue craft, and operate race control. At the end of the season there’s the AGM, and the annual dinner and dance when prizes are given and speeches made.
Well, I’m not a member of the Belton Way Small Craft Club at Leigh-on-Sea, but from casual observation, it is obvious that the members are a laidback crew who enjoy close company in their tiny shack, known as, ‘The Green Hut’. There’s hardly a time that I’ve passed by and not seen someone there and the flag of St George proudly flying at the flagstaff. What a great vantage point they have overlooking the top end of Leigh Creek. From their balcony while sipping tea and smoking fags they can view happenings towards Two Tree Island Nature Reserve, Benfleet Creek, Canvey Island and beyond to the Thames. For them, there’s never a dull moment: perhaps the flooding or ebbing tide, wading birds, a yacht being scrubbed on the slipway, passing cloud shadows, sparkling reflections, a distant spritsail of a Thames barge, or the local yacht, ‘Nancy Grey’.
Not for them the Royal this or the Royal that, the Blue Ensign defaced; not for them a posh entrance hall with silver trophies displayed in glass fronted cabinets; not for them a club tie and jacket; but for them a mud stained floor, a creaking door and paint spattered jeans; for them deep friendship founded on comradeship from the past, the telling of tales, imagined adventures and a pure love of things nautical, all manner of boats; sailing, fishing, mucking about and glorying in the mud, a snooze, a carton of fresh cockles and copious mugs of darkly brewed tea.
Belton Way Small Craft Club
Leigh-on-Sea Bank Holiday Amble Part 2 (With a photo of the ‘Nancy Grey’)
Up River Yacht Club
Marconi Sailing Club