December 30, 2012 - January 5, 2013: Issue 91

 The History of Small Yacht Cruising Club of Pittwater Inc.
By James Brigden a founding member

The club came from discussions aboard Fairley II at Mitchells Boat shed basing the concept on the Land Rover Owners Club - 4wd trips in company using our boats and the wonderful waterway of Broken Bay.

We had our first cruise on the October long weekend in 1975 meeting at Portuguese Beach and sailing in company to Smiths Creek, on to Bobbin Head (where Ted and Ineen Donnely joined us from the shore) and then down to Brooklyn – eventually ending up at Refuge Bay – finally home to Pittwater. The first members and boats were Satus II with Rose Nev Bernie and Gabriel Howard – a Hartley TS; Firebird – a top hat that only attended that once, Graeme & Lauris & Deb De Graaff in Trethane of Fowey – a 18’ tailer sailer, Moonshine – a Bluebird sailed by myself and a girlfriend at the time Jenny Blacker, and Ted and Chris Rhodes – with Destiny – a new triton 24.
Shortly after that weekend we were joined by John and Lyn Walsh, with a converted 18’ skiff, Maurie & Jean Jackson with the first Endeavour 26 Suveron, and another Triton 24 owned by Ray Russell. Then shortly after that bought a Mottle 33 hull & Deck and fitted it out naming the boat Panash. Not long after our first cruise we held the first meeting at the home of John Walsh at Killara and the club was away.  Often new members joined us as we sailed Broken Bay.

We had a cruise every second weekend and they were well attended. The club grew strongly in the early days and there was great enthusiasm and interest. A magazine was produced each month called the MainSheet with trip programs and trip reports – each trip having a trip leader. The flag was an orange flag with a black cross – though our second lot of flags were made in Hong Kong and were much more like yellow than orange.

Our first mooring was a tyre mooring made up by Maurie Jackson Ted Rhodes and myself which we placed close in at Towlers Bay. We had monthly meetings often with a guest speaker or a film (no videos in those days) held in members’ homes or occasionally halls. It was a great time – we had a lot of fun – sailing in cheap boats without spending much money and helping each other a lot. Whilst the cost of boats and boating may have increased it is good to know the club still enjoys much of what was envisioned back in 1974 – I do remember my first mooring in Salt Pan Cove cost $4 per annum and I think membership fees were $10 at that stage and the club made a profit. It was an interesting time because sailing was not a rich man’s sport. Oh it could be, however one could get afloat cheaply and family cruising was well within most people’s budget. A plywood boat was very cheap and if you were willing to maintain it yourself then you could have weekend adventures that enthralled all the family. I remember raft ups where all the kids got together on one of the boats and the adults on another (often at opposite ends of the raft) and fun was had by all. Early days of the club brought about a self-help group who cooperated to bring about safe sailing at low cost. I guess you can still buy boats cheaply – I saw a Triton 24 at auction the other day for $1200 and with some hard work and careful expenditure you could easily have a great family cruiser – MSB moorings have increased a lot as have all costs but low cost cruising is well within the reach of most if you have the inclination. The waterways are much busier and more regulated but within reach.  The club was very much designed to encourage inexperienced people to go sailing safely cheaply and get help and guidance from the more experienced members.

Early in the peace we had a race – from Portuguese beach. We all lined up on the shore – down to the dinghies – on board – raise sails and up anchor – around the torpedo targets(remember those grey barges in the centre of Pittwater) and back to the beach – anchored – sails furled and anchors holding – won if I remember right by John Walsh in the 18’ skiff with keel Lyngrason – again lots of fun and designed to improve one’s boating skills rather than speed of boat. I think it was the only race we ever held – however we did have Man overboard exercises and sailing in line and other navigation exercises – and pirates days for the kids (some quite big kids dressed up I do remember) and sailing treasure hunts.

We were able to voyage to some quite unusual places because these boats were small (initially the largest was Maurie’s 26’ Endeavour), so Berowra waters was a popular place to go on a long weekend. This allowed us to explore Bar island and similar places. One weekend we went to Spencer and were given a great welcome by the locals. We made a chart of Mullet Creek and were able to get in there opposite Wondabine station and the lovely sculptures if the tides were right. We also went to Danger Island and I remember racing around the island in a dory with all sorts of oared and paddled craft. There was a bay not far from Apple Tree bay on the opposite side of the river with a lovely stone dam – beautiful fresh clear water to swim in. Dragging dinghies into the Basin and rediscovering the old graves – if my memory serves a mother and child dated 1864. Trips to Lion Island and a walk to the top where an old flag pole exists. Winter rafts in the upper bays of Pittwater to save a cold trip around the Horn as people called West Head

We of course developed our favourites and traditions were formed such as the anniversary cruise to Smiths or Christmas at the top of Coal & Candle creek with very large rafts, New Year’s Eve at Towlers Bay and Easter in Pinta bay. I am sure there are others I have forgotten.

The club constantly grew and unfortunately so did the size of the boats and so places west of the Hawkesbury Bridge became inaccessible however it is lovely to know the club is still going strong and so many people love their cruising on the wonderful Broken Bay.


SYCC Today

The present club SYCC, is now an incorporated club and all members abide by the rules and constitution and all members have to have full comprehensive insurance this is a good thing to have. As all the newer boats are of a larger size than before ,the average size is around 32 ft and the larger yachts are  up to 42ft and also of a more expensive nature than the small timber boats of the past. The boats now have all the latest items onboard that make boating and coastal cruising all that more rewarding being able to have electronic charting onboard and GPS along with email and onboard entertainment systems that supply you with all the things that make your boat a place away from home to enjoy with the family and friends . SYCC has a fortnightly cruise events calendar and a cruise leader who’s  job is to write a trip report about the cruise so that the members who missed out on this one will look forward to the next event .Some of our members have travelled far and wide and have a great wealth of stories of their past travels to distant cruising grounds and this helps newer members to boating to gain a lot of facts about cruising in general and apply that information to their future travels .SYCC now has seven club moorings throughout Pittwater and the Cowan cruising ground and are  red tyre mooring with our club burgee,  which is orange with a black cross on it They are maintained to a high level for club members only .

For all other information about SYCC please see our web site

Derek Howie
Commodore SYCC

Copyright James Brigden and Small Yacht Cruising Club of Pittwater Inc., 2013. All Rights Reserved.