SEGAS SAILING CLUB – A BRIEF HISTORY…
The club is situated at The Strand, Gillingham.
Originally, the site belonged to the South Eastern Gas Company who manufactured, stored and distributed coal gas throughout the South-East region. With the advent of natural gas, the coking plant became redundant and was demolished, the ground roughly levelled and left fallow. The storage and distribution facilities for natural gas remain. The Gas Company managed the gas supply for the whole country through regional centres and, as with many large employers at the time, each centre enjoyed subsidised sports facilities. With a production site adjacent to the river, this was an ideal place for sailing activities to be founded for employees. The club became known as the SEGAS Sailing Club which remains the name today.
The club was allowed to use the land to provide dinghy storage and a single-story stud wall clubhouse with showers and a lounge area was constructed. Fire destroyed the clubhouse in 1982, however, a two-storey brick clubhouse was built as a replacement and opened in 1985. This present facility comprises a galley, lounge and a small licensed bar with spectacular views of the river on the first floor, with male and female shower/toilet facilities on the ground floor.
Some years ago environmental legislation necessitated the removal of the contaminated topsoil to a depth of several feet. This was replaced, with vapour barriers topped with a sand and gravel mix and the whole area capped with high quality brick pavers. This forms the yard which we have today and is considered to be second-to-none of any club on the Medway.
In the mid ‘90s, the gas board was required to cut costs and the subsidies to sports clubs were terminated. Many of these clubs, ours included, formed private associations and membership extended to the general public. The land was leased back from the company and the clubs became responsible for paying the lease to the landlords and rates to the local council.
Over time, the gas industry has seen several re-organisations with subsequent parent company name changes and the term ‘gas company’ or ‘board’ has been used to cover all these changes. The simple facts are that the site is owned by the gas company and the club leases it from them.
The club negotiated a new 10 year lease in 2017, which was signed in January 2018 .
Designed to unload coal barges years ago, the creek is sheet-piled and has been converted into a mooring facility with 26 berths, accessed by a number of steel ladders. Mooring poles and sliding rings allow craft to rise and fall with the tide without having to alter lines. These berths are fully occupied, much in demand and are allocated from a waiting list.
The creek dries at 3m height of tide and the boats lie in soft mud between tides. Tide height in the river ranges from 6.2m on high springs to 4.5m at lowest neaps. There is approx. 1m of water in the creek 1.5 – 2 hours either side of high water.
The Club mooring fee includes club lift-in at the start of the season and lift-out at the end of each season. The dates for these lifts are set by the club and no refund or credit is given for not taking a lift. Boats are lifted by a hired 50 tonne crane. Club-owned 10m slings and extenders are used which are examined and certificated for use for each lift – spreader beams are not used.
Boats are lifted from the creek side and stored in two rows on the paved area. Boats up to 5.5 tonnes must have wheeled steerable cradles so that craft can get pushed into the back row. These cradles must be constructed of ‘H’ or ‘L’ section beams. Box section steel must not be used as it cannot be adequately monitored for corrosion. Wheels must be at least 14 “ dia and have solid rubber or pneumatic tyres. Castors or steel wheels are not acceptable and one axle set must be steerable. These requirements are appropriate because all boats are pushed manually around the site. Wheeled cradles allow us to exploit the whole area of the site and accommodate more members.
Typically boats are stored 6 months ashore with 6 months afloat. However if a member wishes to be ashore for the whole year this can be accommodated without extra charge. Likewise if they wish to remain afloat for the whole year the same applies. At no time can a temporary structure be built in the yard to allow the construction or maintenance of a craft.
All boats must be fully insured and, as all help is given voluntarily, no member shall pursue another member for redress should damage or an accident occur. A mast lift can be arranged at lift-in or lift-out for a small additional cost. Other minor lifts, taking no more than 15 minutes of crane time will attract a similar charge. A key point is that all lifts are undertaken at owners risk and managed by volunteers. Members are able to take a private lift in their own time and at their own expense should they wish to do so. Any lift performed by a crane company needs to be fully insured and the crane should bring all the necessary slings to do the job as part of their contract. This should ensure full compliance with Health and Safety requirements and provides continuity of responsibility.