A history of BHCC as presented by Past Commodore Roy Bowyer at the Season Opening on October 8, 2016
There are many threads that have woven the fabric of our club, however today I will only be able to cover parts of our history.
The club's journey has always been tied to the business development of the Halvorsen family who for many years were the custodians of this historic site.
In 1974 Harold Halvorsen who had run the Ryde business for 18 years having built many boats for the hire business and the navy, sold the Ryde site to the Department of Navy.
During this time Carl Halvorsen managed the hire business at Bobbin Head. Sixty-four hire boats were built including 25 and 36 footers that were built and serviced with a staff of around 120 people including Shipwrights, painters, engineers, slipway staff, maintenance personnel, office staff and hire boat attendants. The fleet of hire boats was believed to be the largest fleet of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
Friday afternoons at Bobbin Head were chaotic. Hire boats to clean, refuel and load up with excited skippers and guests. A hinged sloping wooden ramp held up by buoyance tanks was the precarious access to all boats lined up in front of the marina. Later this ramp would be covered by green canvass to hide rotting or missing planks, which may have concerned some people. This complete wharf assembly often sank and needed re-floating. A job undertaken by marina staff.
An old 100ft floating wooden chapel like structure in front of the marina together with a slipway where the hard stand now is, provided a workspace for maintenance of the hire boats during the week and for private boat owners to work on their boats at weekends. This created great camaraderie and plenty of BBQs. At this stage there were about 200 moorings around the bay at Bobbin Head and Halvorsen would charge to tow private boats in and out together with a $200/month mooring rental. This was the environment into which our club was born.
A club is born
During 1973, a small group of mates comprising Merv Marshall, Terry Druce, Vic Darby and Gordon Rowe would enjoy weekend cruises to America’s, Refuge Bays and Pittwater and the fun they had was noticed by other boaties of Bobbin Head who asked to join them. Merv Marshall was by trade a refrigeration engineer, a somewhat forceful confident personality who inspired confidence in others. This characteristic would become central to attracting skippers wanting to venture further in their boats.
This growing interest was the catalyst and Merv suggested that a club should be formed based at Bobbin Head and have a name. Later, club member Peter Jones designed a club Burgee and this design remains the current design.
The first official club meeting was at the Wattamulla Businessmen’s Club at West Ryde in 1974, which makes our club 42 years old. At that meeting a name was discussed and the Bobbin Head Sports Cruising Club became the official first name for the club. Merv was installed initially as Chairman and then as the first Commodore. Original membership was restricted to 25ft boats or longer capable of open water cruising. Nothing on a trailer please.
At an early stage Gwenda Sim got involved as volunteer club secretary and attended meetings held at Epping RSL, there being no accommodation for any club meetings at the marina. Merv made it apparent to Gwenda that as she was only crew, no opinion was permitted from non-members. Gwenda was not a person to take that sitting down and advised the committee where they could stick their minutes! Soon thereafter a motion was recorded that both the skipper and one crew member were to be recognised as club members and in that one action doubled the club membership.
In 1979 the club held its first Open Day.
Generating enthusiasm for events has always been a main task of the committee. This was becoming increasingly hard and interest in the club dwindled. In 1986 as the club’s original Commodore, Merv Marshall was starting to fade, he called together Gordon Rowe and John Sim for a chat on the marina and secured a promise that they accept responsibility to ensure that the club would continue. John took this obligation to heart and in 1987/88, when the club went into a lapsed period for some 18 months, John generated enough support from financial members to restart the club with his wife Gwenda again as secretary. At that stage the membership was 41 boats but only 21 were financial. John would ultimately serve as Commodore on three separate occasions. Both Gordon and John are today life members of this club.
In 1990 a plaque was dedicated to the memory of Merv Marshall and placed on the Mingara mooring which got its name from Merv’s boat. This plaque now hangs in the clubroom.
In 1991 at the AGM held at Beecroft Bowlers Club, the incoming Commodore, John Sim addressed questions regarding incorporation. A working committee was formed and on the 17th November it was announced that the application for incorporation was lodged. Up until now the three flag officers were the trustees of the club.
In earlier years, relationships with KMYC and RMYC developed with invites to their Open Days. Club cruises up the Colo River, to Wisemans Ferry, Pittwater, Refuge and America Bay were popular although the big event was the Festival of Waters held at Gosford. The club’s annual fishing event was a highly contested competition with a trophy being donated by Gordon Rowe to either the biggest fish or most outrageous story.
In 1993 boat stickers were issued so boats could be identified as authorised to use club moorings along with the display of the club burgee.
Other early significant boating events included epic cruises like the 1994/95 bulletin report that Jomanda and Exotica would leave Sydney harbour to cruise to Morton Bay in Queensland and on another occasion, the hiring of a DC3 in May 1995, when Commodore Graham Moyle a great club supporter, organised an outback adventure weekend flying to Dubbo, the cost per person being $395.
Even boaties need culture and a land trip to the Henry Lawson’s Poetry Festival at Gulgong near Mudgee was considered essential. The 5 wineries and 4 coffee shops were a simple aside.
In later years, Robs Dinghy Cruise were a very popular event using one workboat lashed to 4 dinghies which transported club members up the creek for an evening cruise. That’s two dinghies for members and two for grog. We only returned with two dinghies still full.
In those early days funds were very sparse, Dignified Funerals, later Metcalf & Morris a company owned by then club member Graham Moyle would assist club funds by advertising in newsletters and sponsoring events, which would later lead to some interesting situations. An example being the 2001 Sail for Cancer when banners representing sponsorship were hung on the marina walls. We had the Marina Café advertising great meat pies, then our Sail For Cancer banner next to which was Metcalf and Morris – Funeral Directors. We hope no one ever connected them together.
The newsletter at that time was a single printed sheet, which developed into a folded booklet sometimes green, sometimes blue. It depended on what paper was available for free. It was only in the last few years when Past Commodore Ted Anderson took over the editorial task that the club’s newsletter sprang into life and became a monthly full colour booklet considered was one of the best club newsletters around.
The club’s early core culture seemed to be a simple love of boating and the camaraderie that went with it. There was however a developing interest in helping others including charity work and the club took part in Sail For Cancer events in support of the Leo & Jenny Leukaemia foundation. This generous spirit continued and as part of our fund raising activities in 2005 we also commenced raising funds for the Children’s ward at Hornsby Hospital. Parents staying over with sick kids needed chair/beds. We managed to raise $16K to purchase 10 chair/beds for the ward.
In the same year we again raised $7K for Cure Cancer. Making a total to date of $40k. Later this amount would seem small when the marketing skill of Past Commodore Ross Eichorn was engaged.
The club soon developed annual training for members initially for skippers. In later years we realised that we could assist our skipper even more with our Great First Mate program which was directed at assisting the crew to understand the skipper when he’s screaming his lungs out whilst berthing.
Halvorsen Marina Re-Development
In the 1991 newsletter, concern was being expressed the old Halvorsen Marina was to be re-developed and that the well loved slip would be replaced with a hardstand and crane. This was viewed as a great loss as the informal club of boaties who used the floating gable shed and slipway at weekends to do repairs and painting would be lost forever. There was not much awareness about paint and antifoul debris being washed into the water accumulating damage to fish and water quality. It was not until 1992/3 that an agreement was reached about the development.
In 1996 the club Bulletin notes that the AGM was held in the Bobbin Head Clubroom. This was a small room behind the dinghy storage shed. To approach the clubroom one had to negotiate a springy plank spanning the wharf to the door. No problem – we were skippers and used to uneven surfaces that moved. The crew were not so sure.
The proposed marina re-development indicated that everything under the then roof would need replacing but no tile could be moved or replaced. This was not entirely true although a Heritage Assessment identified the terracotta-tiled roof to be significant and should be retained exactly as is which created an expensive building nightmare for Halvorsen.
The old Halvorsen hinged wharf had to go reducing an OH&S nightmare, which was to be replaced with 6 marina arms. Club members were being prepared for the cost of a berth compared with that of the 200 moorings that were fast disappearing.
Halvorsen commenced the redevelopment, which progressed over 2 years. And although the redevelopment was not totally complete, in 2005/6 negotiations for the sale of the marina to Empire commenced. During one year of negotiations the hardstand was increased in size allowing access from the fairway between E & F arms and the “A” arm was delicately floated around to become “B” arm allowing the fairway between A & B to be wider.
The substantial change to the marina configuration was having an effect on club culture as the chaos of Friday evenings was being replaced with an orderly embarkation. Something we were not used to, or ready for.
Following the completion of construction and the sale to Empire Marinas in 2006, the new owners recognised the benefit of a marina based club and generously made the current clubroom available exclusively and at no cost, to our club, which allowed the club to have a home and regular place to meet.
All was well until one morning in July 2012, a large boom echoed throughout the bay. Smoke could be seen from all marina arms. Thankfully no one was hurt however in a matter of minutes half the marina structure was burnt to the ground and the club was once more displaced. Quick thinking together with business friends being leant on and the marina was rebuilt and operational by November that same year during which time displaced trades were provided with floating workshops to continue servicing marina clients.
Prior to 2002 accident victims were being awarded ridiculous court pay-outs in many cases, for being personally irresponsible. This caused public liability premiums to sore placing many community at risk. Many closed and our club was facing possible insolvency as a result. We needed public liability insurance and innovative thinking was required. In 2003 when our first lady Commodore, Gwenda Sim took office – this was a daunting problem.
In 2004 the International Lions President was visiting Sydney and John Sim, a Lions Past District Governor, proposed that we become a Special Interest Lions Club as we aligned with their objectives of charity work and teaching boat skills. This would provide the global insurance coverage offered to all Lions Clubs. Our insurance premium nightmare would disappear.
In 2003/4 the club now down to 36 members was chartered as a “Special Interest Lions Club” to help deal with mounting operational costs at a time of low membership and disruption during the redevelopment of the marina. We were now the Bobbin Head Sports Cruising Lions Club”. Name number 2. This bought us time to readjust our finances whilst contributing to the spirit of charitable community work. It was a culture shock as Lions from other clubs would visit and wonder what we were, being the only Lions club in the world being presided over by a Commodore. It was a mildly strained period however we needed to survive and this was a good strategy.
In 2005 the club changed its name to Bobbin Head Cruising Lions Club – Name number 3.
In 2006 the Bobbin Head Cruising Lions Club was mentioned in the NSW Legislative Assembly Hansard regarding our outstanding fund raising contribution to Hornsby Hospital.
As part of the Lion’s community ethos we held a “Day to Remember” where we took 14 disadvantaged young people and their carers for a day cruise. The Lions Clubs of Sydney North West contributed with supplying lunch for everybody. By resolution however, in 2007 the club reverted to being a normal boating club again with a name change to Bobbin Head Cruising Club – name number 4.
The club continued to support Cure Cancer Australia and Sail for Cancer annual donation started to increase to $7-8K. Members were becoming more generous with individual members like Phil Riley donating the total cost of food and then offering to cook for 120 people. In the early days we would however have to ask for food and auction donations, from outsiders such as shopkeepers at Hornsby Shopping Centre. I would go with John Sim and study his mastery skills of begging. I became proficient and quickly knew when to pounce on the unsuspecting butcher for 100 sausages. Back in those days it was doing-it-tough that helped bond the club members.
These were also the days when special event BBQ lunches were held over at the Pavilion. This meant that all chairs, food, drink, event banners and BBQ stuff, needed to be taken over and then returned after the event. In 2010 we abandoned the Pavilion and later we would enjoy the generosity of Empire Marina and hold main events in this great shed.
In the last few years and under the influence of master fundraiser Past Commodore Ross Eichorn, Sail for Cancer reached new highs with generous donations of beautiful hand made patchwork quilts donated by Alison Bowyer as well as a crafted wooden hall table by myself. A stunning donation of a hand made scaled model of a Grand Banks was donated by Gordon Rowe and just in these items alone over $10,000 was raised through auctions.
In 2013 we benefited from our World Champion Axe man and Guest of Honour, Dave Foster OAM, donating two of his personnel axes after a demonstration, which raised $11,000. One of the axes was then donated back to the club and is hanging in the clubroom. For the record this club has now exceeded $250,000 in donations to Cure Cancer.
Some of the Notable Members
I would like to mention some members who generously exceeded what was expected of them, some here today and some past on. Please excuse me, as I will not be able to mention all who should be included.
Some of the members who have contributed so much in our history include:
Club Secretary & Past Commodore Gwenda Sim - spanning 20 years of minute taking
Past Commodore John Sim - 3 times Commodore and club saviour
Club Secretary Carol Anderson – 10 years of minute taking and controlling us lot
Past Commodore Graham Moyle - 20 years club membership and generous sponsor
Past Commodore Ted Anderson – fabulous job as Sydney’s best club editor for many years
Past Commodore Ross Eichorn – master fundraiser and sponsor intimidator
In conclusion, this club has a core of enthusiastic members who are and have been keen to get involved with helping others whilst having fun on boats. The club has benefited from so many members who have simply gone above and beyond and been so important to this clubs journey so far. I’m sure this will continue into the future.