1912 to 1922 – The Formation of the Sandgate Yacht Club
The history of Volunteer Marine Rescue Brisbane started with the formation of the Sandgate Yacht Club and their need for a rescue organisation to keep their members who sailed safe
The first organised sailing races in Sandgate were conducted by the Gordon Sporting and Social Club which had its headquarters in Rainbow Street near Palm Avenue in Sandgate. The Gordon Club was a sporting club attached to the St Nicholas Church, Sandgate which used to stand in the grounds of Shorncliffe State Primary School and was demolised in the early 1990’s.
In a cruising race organised by this Club to King Island on the 11th November 1911, the 16ft sharpie `Sportsman’ capsized near the mouth of the Brisbane River with the loss of two young men, Samuel Law and David Ralph Ramsey. The other crew members, Robert Joyce and Walter Frank Buckley swam to Fisherman Islands, the sixth crew member James Groth was found still with the upturned boat the next morning.
Because of this mishap, many boat owners considered that a separate club should be formed to conduct sailing races in Sandgate. Accordingly a Public Meeting was called for on the 14th February, 1912 to discuss the `Formation of a Sailing Club’. The meeting was held in Deckers Hall in Pier Avenue, Shorncliffe with Alderman JES Plumbridge conducting proceedings. Those present were Messrs – Prentice, Boardman, Bond, Over, Field, Woodhead, Mills, Driver, Smith, Allum and two members of the Drew family and four members of the Jeays family. Apologies were received from Messrs, D’Arcy, Ferguson, Murray and Fox.
Mr Allum reported `that a feeling existed amongst boating men that the rules of the Gordon Club precluded the necessary rules for the proper conduct of a Sailing Club’. Following a discussion on the subject Mr Allum moved `The time is ripe for the formation of a Sailing and Power Boat Club in Sandgate’. The motion was carried and all present agreed to be members. It was moved and carried that the name of the Club be named The Sandgate Yacht Club. Mr A Marshall was elected President, Mr AE Drew elected as Commodore and Mr J Jeays elected as Secretary.
Preparations were made for a Grand Opening Carnival on 13th April, 1912. Invitations were sent to 300 Sandgate residents and members of Sporting and Sailing Clubs including Royal Queensland Club, Brisbane Flying Squadron, South Brisbane Sailing Club and Brisbane Dinghy Club. Over 20 boats were entered for the Opening Race with a`Sail Past’ past the Shorncliffe Pier where it was anticipated a huge crowd would be assembled. Saturday the 13th dawned brightly but by afternoon the south east wind had increased to near gale force and very few boats ventured from the shelter of Cabbage Tree Creek. The race was abandoned however, the festivities went on as arranged under the Cotton Trees near the pier in spite of the wind. The social events of the new Club proved most successful and the Yacht Club Ball for many years was the main Social Event of the year held in the newly built Sandgate Town Hall.
The Club continued for many years catering for a mixed fleet of boats from 16ft to 30ft on the Bramble Bay course with cruising races to King and Bribie Islands for Sailing and Power boats. The fleet was reduced during the 1914-1918 war years, and when racing commenced again some of the Linton Hope Rater class began sailing with the club. Boats of this class were built by Albert Drew at Sandgate and by builders at Wynnum. During a heavy storm in December, 1921, the fleet was caught near the Shorncliffe Pier. The 26ft `Mona’ sailed by AE Drew carrying a crew of 28 and the Rater `Gee Whiz’ capsized. A young man, William Guthrie, was drowned from the `Gee Whiz’, the `Mona’ suffered damage and did not race again.
1923 to 1942 – The 16ft Skiff Clubhouse is Built
From this year onwards, racing of the Linton Hope Rater class was encouraged. Because in those days most crew members worked in the City on Saturday mornings and had to journey to Sandgate by train, racing did not commence until 3pm. Late in the season it was common for races to finish at dusk and after the finish, a slow paddle up the Cabbage Tree Cree to Drew’s Boat Yard. In 1932, Albert Drew’s newly built Rater `Resolute’ was sailed to Townsville and sailed in the Easter Regatta, which was held yearly in either Bowen, Townsville or Cairns. The main class completing in these Regattas were the 16ft skiffs.
When World War 2 broke in September 1939, the Club still remained active and continued racing, despite many members enlisting. When Japan entered the war in December 1941, many more members joined the forces and racing was no longer possible. The Club went into recess at the close of the 1941-42 season. Approximately sixty members of the Sandgate Yacht Club fought in WW2 and five lost their lives. Their names can be found on the Honour Board in the foyer of our hall.
Whilst these men were at war, a member purchased a 12ft sailing dinghy known as `Nip Thorpe Trainees’. Soon there were several of these and SYC officials were asked to conduct races once more. They were then officially made a Club under the banner of the SYC and called `Sandgate Yacht Club Trainees’. Trainee Dinghies were raced in Cabbage Tree Creek and on Bramble Bay by the Sandgate Yacht Club and the Shorncliffe Trainee Squadron and from the ranks of these craft many of Queensland’s renowned skippers graduated.
The last 2 Linton Hope Raters were built by Albert Drew in 1947 and 1948. Up to this time all of the Club’s Linton Hope Raters were housed at Drew’s Boat Yard in Wharf Street, Shorncliffe in sheds with some in the open under canvas.
For many years the Club held the lease on an area of land on Cabbage Tree Creek at the junction of Nundah Creek where presently, the Queensland Crusing Yacht Club occupy this site. Plans were prepared to build a boat shed here to house 6 boats. Under the guidance of Ted Rice after many months of working parties by club members, the project was completed with boat cradles, trollies and launching ways. Most of the material used in the construction of the shed came from an Army Hut dismantled by club members at Wacol. The Linton Hope Rater `Miss Sandgate’ was housed in a separate shed adjacent to the main building. This craft was built by the Rice brothers, Ted and Brook, in the late twenties.
1946 to 1965 – The Merging of the 16ft Skiff Club and the Sandgate Yacht Club
World War 2 ended in August 1945, the Club did not come out of recess until the 12th February 1946, when a special General Meeting was held to elect officials to carry on until the Annual General Meeting. A second General Meeting was held on the 20th May 1946 and one of the main subjects discussed was the building of a Memorial Boat Shed on the land leased by the Club. A Committee of three was appointed to start on the project. A proposal was made to purchase ex-Army huts and the City Council approached for approval to build the shed. In 1948, the shed was completion under the supervision of Ted Rice. His dedication and hard work resulted in a fine shed complete with launching facilities. A special Foundation Stone was laid and the shed was officially opened by Hon EP Decker MLA on the 9th October 1948. This coincided with the Opening Day Race which started and finished off the Boat Shed. This opening also saw the first `Blessing of the Fleet’ which continues to this day. It was also decided that an Honour Board be made to commemorate the names of members who served during World War 2. The Honour Board was confided only to financial members as at the 3rd September 1939 or those who joined the Club after that date and served in the Forces during the War.
As the 16ft Skiff class was popular on the Brisbane River at Hamilton and Milton with a strong club racing on Waterloo Bay, it was logical that some interest shown in this class by Sandgate sailors, and in the years prior to the 1939-45 war years some of cedar open craft began racing with the SYC. `Ajax’ sailed by Guy Moody was the first to compete. It was soon apparent to the owners of these boats that a separate club 16 Foot Skiff should be formed with the facilities of a Clubhouse. A lease was obtained on Cabbage Tree Creek (now opposite the Sandgate Golf Club) and the St Margaret’s Church of England Sunday School Hall was purchased, pulled down, then rebuilt as a clubhouse on our present site. Since the original structure was built, an extension to widen the clubhouse and a verandah has been completed. At the foremost in the erection of the 16ft Skiff Clubhouse were: Graham Katterns, Frank Huxham, Sam Buchanan, Bill Tetzlaff, Jack and Len Johnstone, Maurice and Aussie Walker and Les Dommett.
To act as pick up boat for races the Sandgate, the 16ft Skiff Club purchased a Twin Screw Service Craft from the Civil Aviation Authorities and this craft ‘Zest’ served for many years being manned by Club members. Later it was handed over to a separate organisation and ‘Zest’ was run and maintained as a pick up and rescue boat until the Power Boat Section of the Club did the pick up and rescue work on a voluntary rostered basis. The ‘Zest’ figured prominently in the rescue of survivors when a dredge ‘Kaptajn Nielsen’ capsized near Moreton Island in 1970. The Sandgate 16ft Skiff Club members saw the necessity to foster juniors in the sport of sailing and Ken McLeod and a Committee organised races in Cabbage Tree Creek for SABOTS. Large fleets of these 2 children boats sailed regularly in the creek. This class was later to become popular all over Queensland and other States. Again as in the years of Trainee Dinghy, many of our present renowned yachtsmen spent their first sailing days in these small training craft.
Sailing suffered a decline in the mid sixties and as both the Sandgate Yacht Club and the 16ft Skiff Club membership had declined, it became obvious that there was an advantage in amalgamating the two clubs. Both Clubs held land leases (the Skiffs Clubhouse on the present site of the SYC and the SYC with their shed further upstream). Many meetings of the Executive and Trustees of both Clubs were held and finally a merger was arranged. The new Club name adopted was `The Sandgate Sailing Club’.
1965 to 1969 – Land Reclaimation for the Clubhouse at Cabbage Tree Creek
This new club now held leases of two creek bank properties and following pressure from the Brisbane City Council and others, it was decided to concentrate the activities on the area previously in the name of the Sandgate 16ft Skiff Club. During a deputation by Club Officials, Reg Verdon, Col Guy and Albert Jeays, to the Treasurer Thomas Hiley, it was suggested that the newly formed Club would surrender the upstream area of land to the Queensland Cruising Yachting Club if the Harbour and Marine Department could reclaim land in front of the Clubhouse as the existing wall was only 12ft from the building with little rigging and parking area.
The suggestion by Club Officials was adopted by the Department and in a dredging operation that followed a new wall was built and a large area was reclaimed. Sadly, the Memorial Boat Shed was demolished in 1970 and another piece of Sandgate Yacht Club history disappeared.
1969 to 1990 – Sandgate Air Sea Rescue is Born
Boating was increasing in popularity in the Sandgate district but with the emphasis towards power boats. Both the Sandgate Yacht Club and the 16ft Skiff Club had always made provisions for power boats and with the combinations of both power and sail divisions, the Club was renamed `Sandgate Yacht Club’.
The power section held its first meeting on the 13th May 1969 with officials and executive officers nominated. Attendance at this meeting was 20 members. A Ladies Auxilliary Committee of the power section was also formed in 1969. The first edition of `Boat Talk’ was published in June 1969, consisting of one page of information. By October of the same year, the magazine had progressed to a cover sheet and was produced in booklet form which also included advertisments.
The Power section of the Club provided safety boats for the sailing fleet from early 1970 until the Club was able to purchase their own safety boats which were manned by Club members. In 1973, members of the Power section decided that a need existed for a Rescue Group in the Cabbage Tree Creek area and formed the `Sandgate Yacht Club Search and Rescue Squad’. The following year, the squad assisted in rescue work during the 1974 floods.
The same year, a Cruising Group was added consisting mainly of Trailer Sailers of all descriptions. By 1976, membership in the Power section exceeded 300 members in the Sail section and once membership hit 500, a lease for additional land was sucessfully negotiated with the Port of Brisbane Authority. This extra space provided extra parking area and a hardstand area.
In 1987, the SYC Rescue Squad affiliated with the official Air Sea Rescue organisation and became known as Sandgate Air Sea Rescue Inc. A 5.2m Haines Hunter powered by twin 70hp outboards was purchased for use in rescue work. A 6.3m Seafarer was purchased in 1990 and was built with modifications to suit the rescue duties it was required for. The Seafarer was powered by twin 90hp outboards and fitted with long-range fuel tanks. Sandgate Air Sea Rescue now provided a trained crew on duty each weekend and public holiday and was on call after hours for emergencies.
The Power section of the Club provided safety boats for the sailing fleet from early 1970 until the Club was able to purchase their own safety boats which were manned by Club members. In 1973, members of the Power section decided that a need existed for a Rescue Group in the Cabbage Tree Creek area and formed the `Sandgate Yacht Club Rescue Squad’. In 1987, the SYC Rescue Squad affiliated with the official Air Sea Rescue organisation and became known as Sandgate Air Sea Rescue Inc. A 5.2m Haines Hunter powered by twin 70hp outboards was purchased for use in rescue work. A 6.3m Seafarer
was purchased in 1990 and was built with modifications to suit the rescue duties it was required for. The Seafarer was powered by twin 90hp outboards and fitted with long-range fuel tanks. Sandgate Air Sea Rescue now provided a trained crew on duty each weekend and public holiday and was on call after hours for emergencies.
The Sandgate Yacht Club still currently owns two rescue boats which are now primarily used as Starter Boats. The MV Cape Moreton is a 56 man life boat of the same design found on the `Cape Moreton’. It is powered by a 13hp Lister Diesel Engine. The boat was recovered by Sandgate Yacht Club and restored as a starters boat. SYC also has it’s own Safety and Rescue Boat – FIL is a 7 metre centre console FRP Javelin Long Boat powered by a 50hp Mercury 4 stroke outboard used by club officials for sailing and canoeing events. It is also made available when necessary to compliment the Volunteer Marine Rescue Brisbane’s three rescue vessels. These boats are maintained by members and through commmunity sponsorships.
1990 to Current – The Birth of Volunteer Marine Rescue Brisbane
Volunteer Marine Rescue Brisbane was born in 1996 and is now in charge of the Search and Rescue activations and owns three rescue vessels, Energex Sandgate 1, Sandgate 2 and Sandgate 3. In the 2011 floods, Sandgate 2 was tasked to assist at Colliers Crossing. As a vast amount of land was covered by water, the crew used a car GPS to navigate through the streets.
VMR Brisbane purchased our third rescue vessel, Sandgate Rescue 2 which could be used for shallow work in 2013. A number of improvements have been completed over this time including a boat ramp, pontoon, a caterers kitchen in our hall and a new front facia for he hall. Within this time, the Sandgate Yacht Club, the Sandgate Canoe Club and the Polynesian Va’a-alo Outrigger Canoe Club have been affiliated under the banner of VMR Brisbane. The dive group Lionfish disbanded in 2015.
Today, our rescue squadron now has approximately 100 active crew members who actively train on their crew days, to be able to perform their duties in case of an emergency out on the bay or neighbouring waterway. VRM Brisbane actively trains with other squadrons such as VMR Bribie Island, VMR Stradbroke Island, VMR Victoria Point, VMR Raby Bay and VMR Jacobs Well.
We are constantly on standby should an emergency occur on a week day and at night. We provide support for the Queensland Water Police to help with search and rescues. We also provide support for the Queensland Ambulance Service to transport them to the various islands for Medivacs.
History of the Sandgate Sailing Clubs: 1897 – 1990 (compiled by George Lestor, forword by Noel Stanaway).