A history of Hollowshore Cruising Club

Edited by Mike Riches

OUR THANKS to all those who have contributed to this history with their own recollections as well as passing on memories and documents from those no longer with us. These are their recollections, edited along with earlier pieces by Ian Campbell and others so far unidentified, into a snapshot of the early years of the club. Whilst there is sometimes a conflict over dates and the sequence of events, the resulting picture is one of people who loved sailing in general and our part of the world in particular, coming together to form a club that is still evolving and still contributing to the enjoyment and fulfilment of many, and still maintaining the ethos of the early years.

A special thanks to Lesley Jameson, Paul Smedley, Dick Holness, and Harry Jobey (son of Jack). Being on the web, this is a “living history” that can be added to or amended as more information comes to light.

Although Hollowshore Cruising Club was born in 1959, there had already been for several years a strong fraternity of yachtsmen sailing from Oare Creek. At first, they met at The Shipwright’s Arms and later in a club-like atmosphere at the wooden “boat shop” of the barge and repair yard at the junction of the Faversham and Oare creeks, which was later to become our official clubhouse for something like half a century, before moving to the present headquarters at the head of the creek at Youngboats.

At the turn of the 20th century the Hollowshore yard had been bought by the Cremer family who owned local brick fields and ran a barge fleet. The next two owners, Jack Jobey and later the Tester family were strong supporters of the Oare Creek sailors and played major parts in the club’s formation.

According to Ian Campbell, “In the beginning, three people – Jack Jobey, Eric Wiltshire and Reginald Wilkin – talked about forming a yacht club. At that time, Jack Jobey owned the yard and buildings at Hollowshore, as well as the pub, the Shipwright’s Arms. The idea was soon to become a reality.”

Another pioneer, even earlier than that, was Philip Hays (father of Lesley Jameson), an ex-Lt Commander with Naval Intelligence, who because of his Navy experience was believed to be the first to sail out of Oare Creek and across The Thames after the tight war-time security precautions. He was 30 years with the BBC news broadcasting units, and was a hugely respected correspondent for Yachting Monthly. He supported the establishment of the club as he didn’t want to see the Hollowshore area used for ship-breaking. His son-in-law, Roger Jameson, turned to cruising after distinguished service in the King’s Hussars in Tripoli, and fitted out a 34ft gaff ketch Cornish lugger “Lucent” at Hollowshore for a cruise to New Zealand. One of the first members of HCC, he eventually ran for a time charter trips between the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador, and donated the Lucent Pot to HCC for the best log of a cruise.

There had been much discussion about a design for the club burgee.

At that time the discovery of a Viking Ship on Graveney Marshes, coupled with the premiere of the film ‘The Vikings’ (1958) made it seem logical to use the Viking ship profile on the burgee. But Harry Jobey says the philosophy of the burgee pre-dates the HCC.

Since World War Two, Rouen Yacht Club boats had been sailing over from France, and Faversham boats had been cruising to Rouen, and the Rouen burgee (very similar to the current HCC one) was displayed in the Shipwright’s. In April 1954, Jack Jobey had asked Faversham Town Council (then a corporation) if the sailors could put the corporation’s crest (a roundel featuring a medieval coastal trading vessel) on 60 burgees to welcome back Queen Elizabeth from her six-month tour of the Commonwealth. Permission was refused, so the Rouen boat was put on 60 burgees made in Rigden’s sail loft in Whitstable. In the event, only one boat from Oare Creek made it to the Thames Approaches for the Royal welcome, leaving JJ with a lot of unused burgees, later handed out to other yachtsmen in the creek. The fraternity that was later to become Hollowshore CC had been born.

The club was formed under its first Commodore, Rex Wilkin (1960), and drew members from boats moored in Oare Creek between Hollowshore and Ham Wharf, all of whom were mooring tenants of Lawrie Tester, the Vice Commodore – in effect it was formed as a club for Tester’s customers.

In those days there were no yacht moorings in the creek upstream from Ham Wharf – today there are hundreds.

Older members remember years of fun together – an annual regatta for the Jack Allen Cup, involving not only racing and tests of seamanship skills, but also ladies’ and children’s rowing, and, extraordinarily, cake-making; the annual Bonfire Night, “one-side roasted by the fire, the other chilled by the rawwind”; the cruises to Stangate Creek, where all would raft up alongside LawrieTester’s barge Portlight and nip swiftly aboard when summoned by the ship’s bell to the evening’s entertainment, which was almost certainly memorable although few can remember details.

In years past, HCC would be well represented on the annual Calais Rally, where on at least one occasion the club collected the prize for the most members’ boats attending, and of course the club was one of the groups that used to help run the Swale Regatta, a gloriously relaxed weekend of light-hearted racing still held in local waters. Cruises to London, also still an annual event, were started long ago and often included a stopover at Benfleet YC to try out their bar.

Members still roam near, far and wide, local Swale-pottering and serious long- distance cruising. It is obvious, though, that all share a deep affection for the East Coast.

HCC is a far cry from the media’s fanciful idea of a ‘yacht club’. Any visitor to the old premises will have quickly formed that view, especially if shown the high-water marks on the bar-stool legs. In truth it wasn’t generally that bad, although every HWS did make itself known in the lower corners of the club lounge – a member once met Princess Anne (President of the RYA) and reported back that even she knew about the fortnightly rising damp.

A committee minute from 1962 tells of a plan “to lay hardboard over the floor to endeavour to keep the carpets from taking off in an Easterly.” It certainly wasn’t the kind of place where ties were often seen, unless deployed to hold up trousers.

The club members, however, were very happy there, an amiable bunch of salts, many of them having been part of the woodwork for a good piece of their lives. But, as it seems, all things must change, and upheaval came over the horizon quickly one day late in 2007, when the landlords declared that they would not renew the lease, wanting to use the shed as a mast store. With the lease due to end early in March, club members had to work fast to find new premises. They looked at several options, including a move to Iron Wharf, building anew on the edge of Oare Creek, buying an old lightship (well, it was a nice idea) or even closing down for ever.

Finally the club found a welcome at Youngboats, at the head of Oare Creek, where Terry Young agreed to lease part of his building. Members fitted it out themselves with professional help paid for out of club reserves and helped by many kind donations.

The bar opened for the first time on March 9 2008, ‘last orders’ having been taken at the original clubhouse the previous Sunday. “We never closed”, they said proudly. By June the new clubhouse was virtually finished, and over 100 members and guests celebrated the official opening in November 2008.

Hollowshore Cruising Club may not be at Hollowshore any more, the view is different, the tide does not seep up through the floor and the cold doesn’t seep through our bones, either, but it is still “home” to members young and old who look to a bright future while still cherishing the efforts and memories of those early creek sailors who made it all possible.

The photo above was taken by Ian Campbell in 1956, looking down Oare Creek towards Hollowshore from Ham Wharf. Note the coaster outbound from Faversham.
And this photo was taken by Ian from the same place in 2003. Not much has changed, just rather more yachts, and, of course, no commercial traffic at all.

Click Here to see a gallery of photos from the old clubhouse