Centre for Maritime Education and Waterwise 1988 – 1994
Roger Craddock, a friend and classmate of mine from Kings High School (Dunedin early 1960s) and Conway Stewart (still a good friend), were looking for an obedient crewman for an X Class that they had built while at school. I was keen to take on the role! *Roger went on to win the the World Flying 15 Champs in 1994.
It was the start of my life-long love of sailing. In our first season we came second in the Otago Sanders Cup trials and I learned a lot from my two highly skilled mates over the next few sailing seasons at the Vauxhall Yacht Club.
In the late 60s, I built my own Wagstaff Moth, then swapped it for an IA before finding a passion for catamarans and for offshore sailing.
While teaching in Motueka in the 1970s I built a 47’ Wharram cat which I sailed to Auckland
( 1976), where I got the chance to do offshore racing – to Lautoka and to New Caledonia, and delivery trips, Noumea – Auckland and to Sydney, skippering a Davidson 55, an entrant in the 1986 Sydney-Hobart Race. “Ariki Nui” was moored for years in Little Shoal Bay.
Joining the Northcote and Birkenhead Yacht Club in 1988
Living now in Birkenhead, working at Northcote College, a friend of Roger Fenton and a teaching colleague of Des Rouse, it was no surprise when I decided to join the club and renew my love of small-boat sailing.
All these years later, I remember:
…….the club had recently moved a huge shed onto the BIrkenhead Wharf as a clubhouse and that it needed a lot of work.
…….the warm welcome I got from club members, Keith Salmon, Phil Coveny, Peter Atkinson, Evan Chugg, Laurie Evans, Roger Fenton, Des Rouse, Tony Barker….
,,,,,,,,that membership numbers were in need of a boost.
……racing a varnished Heron which I later bought and still own!!
Developing a Plan for Growing the Club.
How could we grow the numbers?
How could we raise money to upgrade the clubhouse?
How could we bring in other maritime-related activities so that the facilities could be used much more often than on a Sunday afternoon for club racing?
These were the questions that were the basis of many discussions. Here are some of the factors that helped us to deciding the answers.
1.I had just taken on the role at Northcote College as Director of Adult Education which involved running day, night and weekend classes for adults. You had lots of freedom as to what you offered and the locals were keen to attend. Having attended Boatmaster and Offshore Sailing classes at Coastguard in Okahu Bay, I was encouraged to offer similar classes in our programme.
2.The New Zealand Yachting Federation has recently appointed a young Englishman to train coaches, using the UK system of teaching. The coach, James, was excellent. I remember Des Rouse and I doing a course at Okahu Bay and qualifying as official sailing coaches.
3. The Federation was promoting a Waterwise programme through primary and intermediate schools. Students, in school time would learn water safety skills, kayaking and sailing.
4. The local branch of Young Mariners was looking for a base for their activities.
A Financial Boost from the Birkenhead Council
Having put together a plan, Roger Fenton, Peter Atkinson and I attended a meeting of the Birkenhead City Council and did a presentation in which we emphasised the benefits of water safety education, wide community involvement and maximum use of a community facility. We got a most enthusiastic reception! The Mayor, Ann Hartley, applauded our plan and got the Council to agree to a financial grant of $40,000. We were, of course, delighted.
Much of the money went on renovating the clubhouse: the ground floor was concreted, toilets were installed, two separate storage rooms were created. Upstairs, a kitchen was built and stairs were built to replace the rickety steps from the lower to the upper level.
We also bought furniture and a whiteboard for the classes.
Finally we purchased new patrol boats. I remember a large Novurania and two smaller inflatables.
Centre for Maritime Education
We decided to organise the expanded range of club activities under the umbrella title of CME as follows.
A. Adult Classes
In the evening, and in weekends, we ran boating classes: Safe Boating, Boatmaster Coastal, Introduction to Offshore Sailing, GPS Navigation, Marine Radio. We also ran Adult Learn to Sail classes using the new Optimist dinghies which we could now afford to buy. When the number of instructors grew, we often ran Adult Learn to Sail in two person boats, Sunbursts and Herons where the instructor would be in the boat with the learners. It was a very successful technique.
All these classes were popular, usually full. The clients liked the facility, the parking, the location and the fact that the classes were Coastguard and NZYF approved.
B. Youth Training Courses
With the strong support of the New Zealand Yachting Federation, and using the advertising booklets and newspaper ads of the Community Ed programme, we established holiday and Sunday morning classes for young sailors, using the newly purchased fibreglass Opti’s and for the more advanced sailors, a range of craft, Starlings, Opti’s and Sunbursts. I ran the beginners classes with the help of parents and Des was in charge of the second year sailors.
The classes were popular and always full with around 20 in the beginners class. Some came from Waterwise, others through the advertising.
My focus was to keep the numbers right up and to get kids through their first season. For youngsters, beginning to sail can be a lonely and even off-putting experience. We focussed on building skills, of course, but always tried hard to keep their interest high.
I was privileged to be invited in 1989 to join a team of coaches and young sailors to participate in a regatta in Fukuoka, Japan, involving young yachties from New Zealand, Japan and China.
C. Young Mariners
This group hired out the clubhouse once a week and were pleased to be able to benefit from the updated patrol boats and from the building’s facilities – kitchen, toilets, etc.
With the encouragement of the NZYF, I approached the principals of local schools to gauge their interest in creating a Waterwise programme based at the NBYC.
All the schools I invited to join accepted the challenge to train staff and parents and to send groups of students down for one morning or afternoon a week in Summer to do the programme.
From memory, the schools involved were: Northcote Intermediate; Northcote Primary; Birkenhead Primary; St Mary’s; Chelsea Primary; Birkdale North Primary; Sunnybrae Primary.
We formed a working committee and began to train the teachers and parents as coaches.
I became a Waterwise instructor then the local Waterwise Examiner and spent many Saturdays introducing groups of parents and staff to the delights of this boating life.
The programme became very successful and, personally, I loved the chance to help make so many young people safe and confident on the water. I also loved the contact with so many teachers and parents from the local area.
Waterwise is still a strong programme today after many years and is now spread throughout several locations around Auckland.
Benefits of the CME
- The facilities were used, especially in Summer, three nights, each weekday and all day on Saturday and Sunday
- Each group paid their way and the income allowed the NBYC to improve their equipment and facilities
- The wide scope of the various programmes meant that we could apply more successfully for funding.
- The improved facilities meant that we could rent out the clubrooms to the public on Saturday evenings and so create more income.
- The NBYC programme, usually on Sunday afternoons, was enhanced by the improved facilities and the upgraded patrol boats.
Leaving the NBYC – 1994
In late 1993, I was appointed to a senior position at Kristin, an independent school at Albany, a position involving much evening and weekend work. I knew I could not do justice to this job and to the NBYC to the extent that I had in the last six years. So I decided to cut ties with the club.
Especially since I left full-time work a few years ago, I have indulged my passion for sailing offshore, with trips to Rarotonga, Bundaberg, Tonga, several to Fiji and New Caledonia and a year in my own boat, sailing the Tasman and spending six months cruising the East Coast. With a few charters in Greece, Croatia and in Northern Queensland. Seeing fabulous places, meeting so many sailing people, enjoying exciting adventures – the sailing life is wonderful.
The Northcote and Birkenhead Yacht Club Today.
I have followed closely its progress and have been delighted to see the wonderful work by many, but especially Graham Thow and Des Rouse in further upgrading the clubhouse and in developing the programmes. The club is in a strong and vibrant position and I have so much enjoyed my renewed contact with it in the past couple of years, working with old friends, Graham, Des, Keith Salmon and Peter Atkinson to name a few.