by John Challener and Mike Roach

I’m sure the Club is not unique in having a Dutch Barge as a Club-House, but here is a short history of how we came to have, and nearly lose, our much-loved centre-piece

1961 The club was started on Easter Monday the 4th of April  by Bob O’Brian and 60 members, using a wooden hut on the bank as a base. The first recorded Club Champion was Peter Milne.

1964 A 65’ wooden Motor Torpedo Boat, named ‘Grebe’, was purchased from a lady who lived in it with several cats, moored in the river Avon. The MTB was moved to Fishermans Bank, where she was used for the clubhouse. Here she is one winter’s day, looking in pretty good condition, but without the wheelhouse evident in the picture above and with a much extended stern, so approximately of the same era as the aerial photo below.

The general view of Mudeford below includes Grebe at the bottom left

This crop is taken from the photo which was published on Facebook by Everett Jones in 2017

1979 Membership reached 150. However, the MTB was rotting badly and needed regular pumping out.

1981 The MTB became rotten beyond repair and was towed to Blackberry Island for a Viking funeral. We would probably be arrested and thrown into jail if we tried this today!

A 65’ steel barge was purchased from a Southampton scrapyard

and renovated by the members at a total cost of around £6,000.

1982 She was christened ‘Grebe’ by the Mayor of Christchurch, Mike Winfield.

1990 After a storm when the beach retaining wall was damaged by the barge, some neighbours objected to the continued planning permission for mooring Grebe at Fishermans’ Bank, Christchurch Council refused permission, Grebe had to go, and the Club’s future was uncertain.

1992 Planning permission ended in November, but after a long planning battle and appeal to the Department of the Environment, the club finally obtained planning permission for a Dutch sailing barge to be moored a bit further along the bank next to Strides’ yard.

1995 The 53’ Dutch sailing barge, “Vrouwe Johanna”, was purchased with a £35,000 grant from the Foundation for Sport and the Arts. She was motored round the coast from Rochester with 5 club members on board.

Over the next few years a very considerable amount of work was carried out. With the help of Reid Steel and numerous Club members, a jetty was built to allow easy access, a pontoon and a Pioner safety boat were purchased, running water and mains electricity plumbed in and the interior fitted out. In the mid-90’s the mast was deemed unsafe and was removed, as were the engine and leeboards, but she became a much loved Club-house.

During the noughties however, the hull was abraded so much on the shore that the metal thinned drastically and needed continual repair as rivets failed and leaks became commonplace. The final straw was a big storm in February 2014 which overtopped the stern, damaged the hull and she sank.

All the internal fittings had to be scrapped and she was towed to Hythe to repair a split in the hull, paid for by the insurance policy that we had taken out years earlier and faithfully renewed.

2015 The interior was re-built and new windows fitted. So thanks to a number of hard-working members. she is now fully refurbished and should serve the club well for a good many years to come.