The origins of the club go back to the late 1960’s and early 1970’s when a small group of local people used Lower Halstow Creek to keep their boats and participate in Fishing, Water Skiing, and Sailing. The boats they had were quite small most under 20 feet and numbered about 3 in the mid 1960’s to about 30 in 1970. Naturally these people knew each other and during 1970 several meetings took place mainly at Church Farm, then owned by Guy Sykes. During these meetings it gradually emerged that there was a need to form a club to provide a focus for the local group and to a certain extent control the usage of the creek.
The first committee meeting was held on 17th of February 1971 in Church Farm where Lower Halstow Yacht Club was formed with 42 founder members mainly from the surrounding area. Guy Sykes was elected the first Commodore appropriately as he allowed the other members to use his field at Church Farm to keep their dinghies and the use of his foreshore. Unfortunately during the first year of the club a disagreement arose between Guy Sykes and some of the members with the result that the club split up with a few members remaining at Church Farm and the rest temporarily without a club site.
Luckily help was at hand in the shape of a piece of grassland near the church owned by Mr.Lowe and Dr.Wood-Smith, both members of the club, who allowed the other club members to keep their dinghies there. Mr Lowe was made a life member of the club in 1987 as recognition for this service to the club. This allowed the club to continue whilst a new site for the club was sought.
Later in 1972 an agreement was reached with Harry Mouland owner of Harval Farm for the club to rent some marsh land near the old football pitch on the Eastern side of the creek which is where the present site of the club is. In those early days the site was just rough marsh and salting and it was to take many years hard work by members for the site to develop to its present state. Work began to gradually infill and level the marshland to provide an area for car parking and dinghy storage.
In 1976 a merger was agreed with Rainham Yacht Club who had to vacate their site at Mariners Farm. This merger gave the members of Rainham Yacht Club a site to carry on their activities and increased the membership of Lower Halstow Yacht Club thereby increasing financial resources. Membership increased from about 50 to just under 100.
In the same year the club bought a concrete lighter called Blue Sands to become a club house. The lighter was moored to the jetty at the southern shore of the club site which used to be used by the sailing barge Mirosa, the jetty referred to today as the old or working jetty. The Blue Sands was used for committee meetings during the summer and the storage of club equipment with the eventual aim of making the lighter a proper club house. Committee meetings were up to this time held in members houses.
The Blue Sands continued to be used until in 1979 a severe winter storm damaged the lighter making the interior almost unusable. Eventually the Club decided to sell the Blue Sands and in 1982 it was floated away to Essex for use as a houseboat. From the time of the storm in 1979 till the end of 1982 committee meetings were held in a room at the Railway Hotel in Rainham until a Portacabin was purchased for use as a club hut and meeting place.
Throughout this time Club members continued to improve the site using their own efforts and limited finances.In 1980 a concrete slipway was built which was a vast improvement over the crushed rubble one that preceded it. By 1983 the initial reclamation of land was complete creating sufficient area for car parking and dinghy storage, the area was grassed and the heavy lorries carrying Hardcore and rubble for Mr Moulands reclamation ceased to gain access through the club site.
In 1984 Swale borough council became very keen for the club to move to the brickfields site on the West side of the creek to some land set aside for community use as part of the Wards housing development .An imaginative plan was drawn up by David Barling a local builder and club member for the club to move and create a permanent club house .This move would have meant a large input both financially and in work required and although the majority of the membership approved of the scheme the local council eventually rejected the idea.
In 1984 the club agreed to limit membership to 120, although that number has never been reached and from that time the membership has remained stable at around the 100 level.
1985 saw the installation of a floating jetty alongside the slipway made from solid oak painting pontoons obtained from the by now closed Chatham Dockyard . This was eventually replaced in 1988 when the present jetty was built by club members from recycled telegraph poles. This jetty remains virtually unchanged today except that there was initially a floating section for dinghy landing which has been replaced by fixed stagings.
The use of the club site for winter storage of members boats was agreed with the landlord Mr Mouland in 1990 and since then a steadily increasing number of members have taken advantage of this facility. After some severe weather in 1991 the clubs defences against the sea became compromised and the committee decided to embark on the largest project undertaken by the club both in financial terms and in the effort required by members in the construction of what club members know as the sea wall. It was decided to encompass the saltings with a barrier of telegraph poles covered with old tyres then filled with concrete , the enclosed area was then to be filled with rubble and then levelled. The majority of this work was completed in the first year and then finished off in the winter of 1992. This effectively increased the clubs area by about a third and provided the hard standing and car parking behind a sea wall that looks so impressive today. Over forty boats can now be accommodated for winter storage.
From about 1980 to the present day the clubs sailing members have participated keenly in friendly races including the annual Round the Island Race and the Red Sands Race. The Round The Island Race was originated by the people sailing from Church Farm and involves circumnavigating the Isle of Sheppey. This event started in the late 1970’s and was eventually adopted by Lower Halstow Yacht Club in 1994. The Red Sands Race started in 1982 and is a more open sea event covering a course from Lower Halstow Creek out to the Red Sands Fort on to the Spaniard Buoy off of Whitstable and back.Various other events have been run including The Snowflake Race held on either New Years day or Boxing day each year and the Harty Ferry Race Rally. These events have always been well supported by members and would indicate a good future as an active Yacht Club.
Today the club continues to improve and develop gradually, the latest project being to install proper toilet and shower facilities in the Club Hut .There are still several founder members in the club although only Ray Govier has unbroken membership.
Since the above was written the club obtained a site office building, which has become known as the “new hut” which has provided much superior club accomodation including a kitchen, toilet and shower room as well as a sitting and meeting area. The old Porta cabin has remained as a “tea hut,” but has seen better days and is scheduled to be removed in the Spring of 2017 to make way for a shipping container to provide an improved Bosun’s store.
As previously mentioned, the club started providing winter storage ashore and all boats that couldn’t be brought ashore on their own trailer were craned ashore by a hired crane. The increasing cost of hiring a crane became the driver for what has been the club’s second very large project. It was decided to purchase a tractor and cradle to lift boats dried out on the slipway. The slipway was enlarged and gradually more and more boats were lifted using the cradle.
However, the original cradle could only be used for smaller boats that could be lifted dry. This resulted in the club still hiring a crane for the remaining boats. It was decided to purchase a larger cradle that could lift the larger boats and also be used wet. Now all boats can be lifted using the club’s own equipment.
Updated Nov 2016
2019 Graham Osborne