40 Years of SYBC - Continued History

Fifteen years have gone by since the 25th anniversary of South Yorkshire Boat Club and this continued history brings us up to the 40th in 2007 To find the information, I have read all the minutes of committee meetings over these years and it is an eye-opener to see how many members give so much time and effort for the benefit of the club. Some names appear time and time again and some not at all. What is surprising is how many dozens of people have joined the club, enjoyed themselves and then vanished. There must be many reasons: children growing up and losing interest, crew rebellion and maybe illness and infirmity. We have many members however who have been with us for years.

1993 saw further spending of £8000 on fencing which was depleting club funds rapidly. Entrance fees were increased from £150 + vat to £250 + vat per couple. An extra £10 was put on mooring fees and slipway charges increased to build up the bank balance. The roof over the quiet room required urgent repairs as in l989 work had been badly carried out by a roofing company charging £1000, then we had to pay a further £1000 to another company to rectify the poor workmanship. Imagine the rows which went on about that!

In l995 members were keen to see the club refurbished/updated or even a brand new clubhouse either in the same place – British Waterways land or in the car park field which SYBC owned next to the road. At the time there were eighteen years left on our re-negotiated lease but many members concern was that it would be folly to build on BW land as our lease says if we terminate, we leave everything on site or demolish. BW informed us they would not sell us any land but did discover they had not billed us the increased rental for the previous three years. What a surprise! Fortunately the treasurer of the day had prudently saved up the increase, so it was not a shock. The committee did try for a fifty year lease but a legal obligation would have to be entered into to commit the club to certain levels of expenditure for the future development of the club.

Still in l995 the club only had single phase electricity supply and we needed three phase to provide power to all jetties and lengthy investigation was started into feasibility and cost. The option for the meters was credit readings, cards or tokens, research was carried out and electric card meters was decided on but now we are on quarterly meter readings. The charge by Yorkshire Electricity was £21,544 to bring the cable from Heck across the bridge into the basin and put the main fuse board into our switch room. The fuse board belonging to the club was fitted and the boxes wired in, the YE fitted the meters and turned the power on. Work parties laid 95 mm cable round the basin with the boxes, meters and cable costing £27,700 making a total of £49,244 for the new supply with members toiling for hundreds of hours. The cost to berth holders was to be £40 per berth per year x five years. No-one on committee was to purchase any item however small, to keep a grip on funds. August l996 found our bank balance worryingly low, very nearly overdrawn with no substantial funds coming in: subscriptions in January and mooring fees in March and it was decided to put the problem to a forum in October. The shortage was mainly due to change in vat regulations on mooring fees which meant we could not reclaim the considerable amount of vat which had been paid for the new electricity supply to the club. Our auditor and treasurer worked very hard on the problem and eventually the argument was resolved by representation from the club, RYA and other bodies as it was a national vat on moorings problem. Most of the vat finally reclaimed had to be given back to members and ex-members which involved newspaper advertising and our finance committee had their work cut out reimbursing the monies to the rightful owner, however many members donated their VAT refund to the club. Initially the large sum was paid into the Halifax building society which ensured we received maximum benefit from the conversion of the society to a bank. On paper this exercise does not sound a lot but hours were spent on the headache the VAT people gave us and remember no club member receives a penny for telephone or time costs. In 2007 VAT rules are changing and the treasurer now has to prove if we are exempt or zero-rated.

At the two hour forum in October 1995 the financial position was given by the commodore. There was £700 in the current account and £4000 in the building society but most of this amount was earmarked for BW rent in December and there were bills of £400 to pay. A member offered a £2500 loan but the club could not accept this. Members were asked to donate fireworks and food would be put on every Saturday night “so that members would not go out to the pub for a meal”! The commodore asked for a show of hands from members who would pay their subscriptions and mooring fees early and the majority agreed to do this. The electricity to the jetties has been such a boon, how did we manage on the boats for eighteen years with only a gas supply on board or ebespacher if you were fortunate. When you realise the amount of money saved and then spent down to nil, it is a credit to all the people, many who are still active participating members that we built up the funds again to give us the superb toilets, clubroom and galley with money in hand to redo the bar.

Storage boxes on moorings caused controversy, the first proposal was that all boxes should be together in the car park but members did not like this idea, so it was decided that a box should be of standard size and colour on each mooring if required. This was discussed and agreed at a forum and also where to keep dinghies – preferably on our boats and not in the hedge bottom – as this made grass cutting difficult.

Where does boating come into this history? If you were to read the cruising reports given at committee meetings by the inland and tidal cruising officers, you would know of the dozens of organised trips over our local canal and river systems These include the rivers Aire, Calder, Ouse, Trent, Witham and some narrow boat owners go all round the inland waterways, even down to the Thames. Then there are the tidal cruises time after time to Hull, Grimsby, Ferriby and anchoring at Spurn. There are many individual trips to Bridlington, Scarborough, Whitby and further north. There have been many cruises across the Wash usually via the Witham and also cruising the Broads, River Orwell to Ipswich, Blackwater river, Burnham on Crouch, Thames into Chatham, round to Ramsgate and Brighton Members have cruised the Solent to Brixham, Torquay, Dartmouth, Poole, Weymouth, Cowes, Jersey, Guernsey, Cherbourg and across to Ostend for Belgium and Holland.

Its incredible to think how the boats in the basin have changed in forty years to allow all this adventuring For instance the writer’s first boat in the basin in l970 was a Teal 22ft fibreglass cruiser shell with an outboard engine which the family thought was lovely and it cost £350. You could buy a new Seamaster 23 for £2750 and a 27 ft for £3500 in 1972. We have had some excellent cruise masters and the beauty of club cruising is that there is always some one to help. Even the short trips can be fun with a recent bean feast having 31 of our boats there, as was said “we supped some stuff”.
Another matter our committees take very seriously are the boating organisations. SYBC sends delegates year after year to the Aire & Calder User Group meetings, Ouse User Group, Trent Boating Association, Association of Waterways Cruising clubs, Don Valley User Group, South Yorks Navigation Group, North Yorks Navigation Group, East Riding User Group and SYBC is very vociferous on any matter not to our liking. This includes innumerable meetings with British Waterways officials at our club and on their premises and one subject in particular has incensed us all – Keadby lock – say no more! Every delegate has attended these meetings at their own expense and some are miles away from their homes. The club is a very keen supporter of Humber Rescue and raise funds whenever we can. For years a member ran VHF courses, also coastal skipper and yacht master courses to ensure safety for our crews.

A site visit was held at Keadby in October 2006 with representatives from SYBC, other clubs, the BW operations manager, training officer and lock-keeper. Everyone was shown round the new lock office where four cameras are in operation twenty four hours continuously (so they tell us). The film is kept for seven days then destroyed unless an incident has occurred. Assurances were given that fixed and hand held radios would be monitored. There are to be improvements outside the lock, in the lock and the topside of the lock. If all these are implemented our complaining and lobbying will have been worthwhile – so fingers crossed but six months later there is still a lot to be done.

In October 1998 the Environmental Health department visited and compared with the visit in 2004 we had little to do:- replace tiles behind galley sink, buy a food probe/thermometer. No loose food to be left in freezer. Rewire hand-dryer in toilet, more sockets in children’s room, wear safety goggles and gloves when using hazardous materials in the bar area. Virtually nothing to do compared with recent legislation. Even 2003 after a further visit only two items were required, edging to work surfaces and diffuser should be fitted to fluorescents but by 2005 all members handling food and drink must have a food hygiene certificate. Nineteen social committee members obtained these three year certificates but then after only being asked to advise on a galley update, we were given a long list of recommendations and contraventions by the Council. Work parties on 23/28/29/31 December 2005 renewed ceilings in galley and anteroom, fitted access ladder to roof space. The new galley units were fitted by a club member contractor assisted by our in-house joiners, plumbers, plasterers, decorators and labourers. The total cost of the refurbishment was £15,000. The committee really wanted to refurbish the bar before the galley but realised there was no choice once Environmental Health had spoken. They have recently enquired when we propose to refurbish the bar! Fortunately after a rest from the galley the project is in hand.

Another obvious difference over the last five years is the legislation and bureaucracy causing more work for our club officials. For instance, risk assessments for everything such as children’s trips off the club premises. Some theme parks will provide assessments but for thirty five years our youngsters went to Blackpool, Bridlington, Alton Towers Flamingoland, Lightwater Valley etc etc with maybe six adults and they all lived to tell the tale. The fireworks have fallen victim to risk assessment and there were none in 2006. We used to be paid for our waste oil but in 2003 the club had to be registered as a ‘dealer in controlled oil’. Our treasurer thought our batteries would be under the same licence and fee, but no another licence and fee was needed. We used to be paid for old batteries and the money went into the children’s fund but now members have been asked to dispose of their own batteries. The club licence had always been handled by the Clerk to the Justices at Selby with all club secretaries attending court every five years before the magistrate, police, fire-service and environmental health representatives The licence would be granted with a small fee if everything was in order but it has all been taken over by Selby District Council at a fee of £180 annually and our recent bar chairman had to go through hoops filling in forms before we were given our club premises certificate. Rubbish disposal has gone the same way all with extra charges and restrictions, definitely no electrical items or batteries in the bins or they will not be emptied. In 2006 Customs & Excise now require detailed reports on the sale of diesel to members only and a new meter and pump was purchased and there is a worrying prospect of Selby Council taking away our discretionary rate relief but our treasurer has negotiated a 30% relief for the next year. We had our first health and safety inspection in 2004 but there were no major problems, however a fire risk assessment has produced a list of ‘to-do’.

The club investigated the possibility of linear moorings, both sides of the canal outside SYBC, with the club to provide security fencing, electricity, water and car parking area and we asked BW to provide a footbridge. They would not release the north bank moorings and did not think we could use the south bank due to close proximity to Heck Bridge. We again seriously considered a basin extension in l998 past the slipway into the field but the cost of excavating, piling and installing jetties would be beyond our reach with estimates of up to £90,000. Something still defeating us is the water logging in the car park despite every effort but at least the recent concrete ramp and steps access is a real improvement.

In 2003 huge work parties involving forty members raised the clubhouse ceiling which allowed ventilation units to be fitted giving an improvement from the original low ceiling and smoky atmosphere. A new boiler was bought at a cost of £1500 as the old one was playing up but we had been given it eighteen years ago second hand!

The roof itself had to be dealt with due to impending regulations on asbestos. It was decided to have the roof encapsulated at a cost of £23,447 as opposed to £60,000 for a new roof.

Mention must be made of the issue of smoking in the club which was originally allowed all over the clubhouse, including the toilets. A whole forum in l999 was given over to discussion of what was now a contentious issue and it was decided the quiet room would be non-smoking for a trial month which was then made permanent and the tables by the telephone were able to be used by smokers but the toilets were non-smoking. However, the government has had the last word and smoking on the whole premises is banned from 1st July 2007. There are ongoing discussions how to accommodate smokers outside.

In 1993 there was the first mention of boat standards and by 1998 some directives were still being changed when boat owners had carried out the original ones. The differences and compatibility of parts and fittings which either have a kite mark or CE marking was causing confusion to examiners and boat owners alike. Gas installations and modifications are subject to corgi regulations and as some boats had a pass certificate from earlier regulation they would be subject to further modification at more expense. SYBC sent a letter to the AWCC representative on the BSS management committee voicing objections and strong concerns over the way BSS was going. From 1st April 2002 the revised BSS has become more understandable.
The doors to the original toilets were blocked and the last shower (the second we had installed) demolished in 2002 for the complete new toilets and showers. We were to have altro walls and the cost of that, plus flooring, ceiling and cubicles was £21,000 with club members providing the labour for the drains. The veranda access to the toilets was made instead of through the clubroom and the boiler and children’s room extended all by work parties.
In 2003 despite the money, time and interminable discussion spent on the security yet again action had to be taken by raising the height of the three outer gates and raising the height of the fence from the gate to the clubhouse. Night time patrols were organised once again. After all the alterations in the previous months our funds were down to £10,000 and a forum agreed that another levy should be put on each member with £40 in mind but this did not have to be imposed.

In 1995 there were problems with the caravan for the then bar steward, which was 35ft long and appeared without committee knowledge so no base was prepared and another 24ft van was coming also to be sited in the corner where the chalet is now. Several stewards left or were asked to leave taking their unsuitable caravans with them as some had hardly slept on the premises. It was decided the accommodation must be provided and suitable so hence the chalet which had to be lifted in from Heck Lane and there were of course the many work parties needed. Because our bar steward lives permanently on site and the whole area is properly fenced we have had the best run of security since the long ago days of the early nineteen seventies when we had no fencing or even closed the front gate. Then the only keys the members needed were the BW sanitary station keys. Our main threat is from the canal nowadays.

A bit or an argument arose regarding the veranda window opposite the main entrance door being boarded over and used as a notice board blocking the view down the basin. After hearing many views at a forum in 2003 it was agreed the view should be opened up and a new window frame fitted. The veranda was plastered and there were new carpets in there and the quiet room. Also a new floor in the clubroom as the old one had been down for over twenty years. We also had new curtains and new tables which whilst looking good and better for eating on are not so good on the knees!
There should have been a rent review in December 2002 but BW had forgotten again and eventually our treasurer managed to keep the increase to £1200 a year, that is £13,190 per annum and they let us off the increase on two quarters. To think our first rent in l967 was £200 for the muddy hole. The lease expires in 2012 but BW said it is too early to negotiate.

The club is keeping an anxious eye on the geophysical exploration taking place around Heck village, canal and basin and requests were made to us that cables could be laid round the basin to search for coal seams. SYBC made a donation to the Heck village fighting fund. The BW manager has told us ‘SYBC will be protected absolutely’.

In 2006 after learning of difficulties at Strawberry Island Boat Club our committee and members wished to ban residential mooring in the basin as it would split the club into ‘them’ and ‘us’. A sub committee was formed to overhaul the annual mooring application form but it was clear that we needed to consult our solicitor in Hull, who had devised the form in the first instance. He recommended we alter our rule book as well and came back with clear instructions what to do. A special meeting was called as required and the changes were unanimously approved. The new regulation does not stop our members staying on board in the basin for R & R as we have always been able to do. The committee decided that at the same time, an up to date Procedures and Conditions of Membership should be formed and given out to each member with a mooring when the fees are due. All members have to sign that they accept these Conditions.

It is necessary just to record that we have had several instances of club officials not looking after our money and this has led to committee members having to go both to the small claims court and the magistrates court to recover losses. Fortunately in forty years this has been rare but once again it takes so much time by these committee members and it has made successive committees very wary. All details are always in the minutes, nothing is ever concealed and members are free to read the minutes on request.

SYBC has had a social (formerly ladies) committee from the first year of the club and we have had at least twelve members on these committees, one year even sixteen but sadly this year there are only five and only 11 members at last year’s social AGM. The social committee has made a huge contribution to club life, raising many thousands of pounds, spent on ‘luxury’ trimmings, such as curtains, carpets, galley equipment, children’s Christmas presents, decorations, outside patio furniture and large sums made over to the building and main funds. The social committee organises raffles, club night suppers, lift out and in lunches, veterans lunch, Christmas dinner in the club, tea and coffee for work parties all the dinner dances and are a major part of the open weekend sub-committee and on and on. It puts in a lot of work to ensure everyone enjoys themselves and it is appreciated so much so it is very concerning that when all new members come for their interview they assure the committee they will help out and then out of one hundred-plus lady members we can only raise five for committee this year. It isn’t onerous when there is a full committee and there are a lot of laughs along the way. Hopefully soon the social committee will get to full strength and give some of the long standing members who have been on committee for many years (some could now be called our golden oldies) a well deserved rest.

The club has superb entertainment from professional ‘turns’, quizzes, race nights, auctions, country & western, carol concerts, Presidents evening, Jubilee street party, weekend trips to the boat show and many other good nights, such as wedding/silver/ruby anniversaries to which all members are invited. Add in the regular club nights, adult party, laying up and fitting out suppers, New Year’s Eve and there is never a dull moment!

The number and ages of children in the club fluctuates with the passing years and it is sometimes a problem to please all ages. There has not been much interest lately in the bean feast/racing but they have bought a play station and games with their funds and love to re-decorate their room. After occasional problems in the children’s room a CCTV camera was installed just to keep an eye on things, even so SYBC has had some lovely children members over the years.

To sum up the last fifteen years, we still have the enthusiasm from most members as the earlier ones had, keen to see the club progress and we intend the 40th Anniversary Open Weekend should be another one to remember and enjoy. When we realise that in November l967 it was reported that the fledgling club had spent £769.13.0d and had £2.9.1d (approx £2.40 left) and at December 2006 our treasurer reported that there was a total of £58,263 in club funds after all the tremendous work and expense detailed, how do we do it? The answer of course is plenty of hard working and generous members and a good grip on the finances by the treasurers and finance committees (who it is said look after club money better than their own) which will take us forward to our 50th.
Shirley Sandom – Honorary Vice President and Life Member.
Club member 1970-2007