Whangarei Cruising Club was established in 1921.
The clubhouse was an old hall from Whakapara which was bought for 30 pounds and moved onto the site up-stream & adjacent to the Victoria Bridge in Whangarei on the 14th Nov.1921.
The building site for the clubhouse was a mangrove swamp of 1/2 acre that the Harbour Board leased to the club at 1 guinea/year ($2-10) for 99 years. The hall was put onto piles of manuka taken from the Awaroa Creek area and these were towed up by Bill Richards who was working for Skipper Paterson.
The clubhouse was connected to the road near Victoria Bridge by an aerial walkway. At the back of the clubhouse was a veranda and platform and a walkway down to low water, so that dinghies could be pulled up to the clubhouse and stored in lockers.
The club was divided into three sections - the social room, dinghy lockers and a meeting room in the lean-to. In 1924 the Harbour Board started to dredge out the yacht and launch basin and pumped the mud into the swamp and under the WCC building. The first annual general meeting was 8th.Sept. 1921 when there were 40 members and the flag was designated blue triangle with white diagonal cross, but the second annual general meeting was held in the new clubhouse on the 4th.Sept. 1922 with 35 members and a subscription of 1 pound/year ($2).
Victoria Bridge built 1898 and Town Basin beyond
Old WCC clubhouse 1921 to 1956
Copyright - Courtesy of Northern Publishing
William (Bill) Fraser 1920
Bill Fraser was the engineer for the Whangarei Harbour Board. He made the decision whether we had a straight channel from Kissing Point to the Marina at Orams or a winding scenic channel that it is today. Another thing that we can thank him for is the shags. Bill wanted the shags to get rid of the eels as he reckoned that they ate too many young flounder. So he released some imported from elsewhere. He was made the first life member of the Whangarei Cruising Club in 1923.It is also said by Pat Brophy that the ducks in the Town Basin are descended from those belonging to a family who lived in the old homestead at the end of Ewings Road and who moved during the war years.
Skipper Paterson 1930
Skipper Paterson owned a fleet of small tugs. When cars became more popular, petrol was supplied in 4 gallon tins and two of these in a wooden case. Transport from Auckland in those days was mainly by water. Skipper Paterson used his tug Rakanui to tow a large barge called "Big Tree", named after a popular brand of petrol, to bring fuel from Auckland and this was stowed in a big shed which was later taken over by the Army.
Skipper Paterson bought land at Manganese Point and made a leisure park. He built a wharf and erected a hall which was used for dancing on occasions. He also constructed swings and a large slide for the kids. In the summertime on Sundays he would bring parents and children down the harbour to Manganese Point for the days picnic at a cost of 2/6 (25cents). There were races, tug-of-war, lolly scrambles and all sorts of sport. The slide was long and we used to use a coir mat to slide on. Those keen on fishing would fish of the boats or from the rocks for snapper, and there was plenty of snapper in those days. Skipper Paterson also ran moonlight cruises and there were great nights of dancing in the hall. What a great time we had!
Manganese Point leisure park
The Whangarei Cruising Club 1934-35
About 1934, the dinghy lockers were pulled out of the clubhouse and the Parkes boys used the room to build themselves a nice little keeler about 18 to 20ft. long. She was launched and looked real pretty but when the mast went in, she layed over on her side. More lead was added to the ballast, but when the sails went up, she rolled over on her side. She ended up being chopped up for firewood - she was apparently built too narrow. Not to be put off, the boys got cracking on another yacht in a shed on their home land. This time it was a success with a beamier round bilge V class yacht named "Priscilla", after their sister, with the sail number V82.The 1934-35 season was the first time a WCC yacht represented the club in a provincial race. This was a 14ft.Z Class. Money was raised by organising dances and cake stalls. Our women folk did a great job especially Mrs.Ryan and girls.
Rewa's Binnacle 1937
The Rewa was a large steel barque with four masts, formerly named the Alice A Leigh and built in 1889. She had dimensions of 309ft and 25ft width and displaced 2817 tons.
After being laid up for years, she was bought by Charlie Hansen, the owner of Moturekareka Island in the Hauraki Gulf near Waiwera, in the early 1930s. Charlie's plan was to moor the ship across the mouth of a small bay and turn it into a floating hotel. The Rewa was towed from Auckland to Moturekareka Island by the tug Te Awhena.
As the Rewa was being maneuvered into position, a strong SW wind took charge and she swung into the bay and grounded. Efforts to get her off failed.
She is now cut down to the gunwale and is still sitting there today forming a breakwater and a snug little harbour for small craft. The WCC was given the binnacle and steering wheel of the barque by Charlie Hansen through Fred Leishman who was a club member in the 1930s. These were brought up from the Rewa by Bob Paterson on the tug Eva in 1937.Fred and Charlie were old mates on the square riggers, Fred being a sailmaker and Charlie was a bosun. They jumped ship in Australia and played their way around Australia and ended up in Auckland, New Zealand.
Fred got married and came north to Whangarei. He soon got to know the local yachting boys and was making sails for them and joined the WCC.The soft coloured iron spheres are from the naval survey vessel HMNZS Lachlan
Arthur Fisher, a member of the Whangarei Cruising Club, was the owner of a little yacht called Roxane built by Lou Tercel in 1935. She was a short end keeler of 26ft, waterline 22ft, beam 8ft and draft 4ft3ins.
In 1936 Dick Wellington bought Roxane and sailed it to Auckland to prepare her for an ocean cruise to Australia. On April 30th. Roxane set sail for Norfolk Island and became the smallest vessel to get clearance to leave new Zealand. The crew were Dick Wellington, Keith Dawson and I. O'Brien. After a good six days sailing, she arrived in Norfolk Island on the 5th of May, staying for a few days before heading for Lord Howe Island.
This passage took 8 days and the weather was rough. Again they stayed for a few days then had a good sail to Sydney, Australia. Soon after arrival they were offered a good sum of money for the well built yacht. Dick Wellington then caught a steamer back to New Zealand to buy another yacht.
By 1935, interest in the leisure park at Manganese Point had declined. In 1939 Skipper Paterson gave a piece of the land to the Whangarei Cruising Club to be used to help the young yachties. Working bees then got together to make a bunkhouse. Timber was donated by the Haigh boys. Construction took place in the clubhouse and was prefabed in sections and then taken by barge to Manganese Point where it was erected. The bunkhouse was 34 foot 9 inches X 11 foot 3 inches in size, had six bunks, food lockers (kept filled in case of emergency), firewood, axe, a fireplace (for cooking and heating the building), cooking utensils and a first aid kit. It was well used before the war.
We had yacht races there and often spent the night there or sleeping on their yachts that were pulled up on the beach. Most of the yachts were Star Class, Idle Alongs, Z Class or 14 footers and other small craft. It was good for the young people to sail longer races, go camping, fishing off the wharf, collecting pipis off the banks and cooking them and being away for the weekend. Launches and camping groups also used it. After the World War 2 there were differences of opinion as what to do with the bunkhouse. Vandalism became a problem and Club Committee members did their best. Maintenance was done on the bunkhouse in 1960 and 1970 and for the last time in 1971.
Forest and Bird Association
The club amalgamated with the Forest and Bird during the war years when Barnie Finch was Commodore (1944-48). It was strange that yachties could associate with this group because they are so different. Before the war we used to put aside a weekend for the boat builders. We would find a bay where Pohutakawas had trunks or branches suitable for knees, leave the boat builders to mark out the shapes, then anchor in an adjacent bay. We would then jump into our dinghies with saws and head for the Pohutakawa bay and start sawing out the knees. When it was dark, the yachts (mulleties) would be brought round to the bay where they were beached with the outgoing tide. The bends and knees were then loaded inside the yachts, floated off with the incoming tide and moved back to the other bay before daylight. After breakfast and a swim we would then sail back to the mooring basin. When it was dark we moved the yacht to the boat builders yard and unload - a good day was had by all!
After the War 1946
With the war over it was time to get the club going again. The old clubhouse was built on piles and later the piles were covered in mud and these eventually rotted. The piles were replaced by concrete foundations and bearers. New timber floor joists, bottom plates and flooring was installed. Any rotten timber was replaced and a new roof constructed. Septic tanks and toilets were put in place. The new floor was perfectly level so we got two bowling mats and joined the indoor bowling club. The Buscks (of Busck's Concrete) donated a prefab open fire place for the club which made the big room very cosy for overseas visitors. We also had a bar for dispensing of beer. The club was on a 1/2 acre of land leased from the Harbour Board at one guinea/year for 99 years with right of renewal.
In 1949 the Cruising Club leased a section of 1/4 acre below Orams Boatyard where the Anchor Inn is now. This was a place to sail our 7 footers from and we had a fleet of 28 at the time. A working bee constructed a slipway using a few yards of filling and acquiring steel rails and trolly wheels with steel rope and winch. So we had a track from the section, where the boats were stored, to low water. The boaties supplied their own cradles. The P Class boys were controlled by Gus Henderson. The Whangarei Speed Boat Club also used the slipway. We also applied to build a grid but was knocked back by the Harbour Board.
In 1955, the WCC gave up the lease on the section and took out a lease at Kaiwaka Point. A start box was built to start the P Class and Star Class. In 1956 the P Class moved to Kissing Point and in 1976 the Star Class moved to Parua Bay.
Barney Finch was the founder of "Barney's Barrel". He joined the club in the 1920s and was the commodore 1944-48. He owned a mullet boat of about 18ft. called Decima. He was a small man, but a dedicated man in his support of the WCC and this continued for about 50 years. He was honest, straight-forward, level headed, straight to the point and no waste of words. It always had to be the best for the club. His knowledge was always well received.In the 1950s yachts were getting bigger and designs changing and all had noisy stinking engines. Yachties were also changing and they became sissies and had to be home before dark. They were called the "apron string" jokers and had to be with their bit of skirt.Barney came up with the idea which was called "Barney's Barrel". His idea was to get the old social evenings going again with a full weekend. It was to be a fun race and similar to the old days. The Settlers Hotel was the watering hole of the club members.
The 5-1/2 day working week started about 1937 with 45 hours/week and work finished at midday on Saturday, and we thought we were in paradise in being able to have a full weekend away from home (home meant work). The yacht race started at 1230 hours Saturday. The crew who did not work, got the yacht ready and anchored in the channel with the sails up, waiting for the rest of the crew from work. The crews jumped into their dinghies and rowed out to their yachts, upped anchors and headed for the line and gun a t 1230 hours. One yacht volunteered to carry the keg of beer for the evenings entertainment at Limestone Island. A bonfire was lit on the beach and pipis, mussels, sausages and steak was cooked on sheets of cast iron. That was the life in those days. In 1977 the race was changed to finish at the Parua Bay Clubhouse with a barrel of rum. The days of the bonfire and keg of beer have gone. Barney died in 1981.