I must go down to the sea again

Not actually the sea but boats from Rhyl Yacht Club sailing on the Marine Lake at Rhyl.

I distinctly remember when the wide, wet, salty sea and I became acquainted. It was a May day in 1955 and the Pierce family had arrived in Rhyl.

I was five years old and would probably have got in the way of the men carrying our goods and chattels into the house.

My mother decided to take me to the beach. A concept I didn’t fully understand because I had been raised far from the sea (and North Wales) in the market town of Chesham in Buckinghamshire.

My brother and sister may well have joined us but I was mainly aware that my mother was taking me to see a wondrous thing called the beach, beyond which lay an even more exciting concept – the sea.

It literally took us five minutes to walk from our new home in Water Street, onto the promenade, past the massive domed structure I later discovered was called the Pavilion, and down the steps to the beach.

I took off my sandals and socks and wriggled my toes in the sand. It felt good.

Then my mother took me to the water’s edge where small wavelets were getting closer all the time. Just as well the tide was in and not long gone.

As I stood there I felt the wavelets wash over my feet and I knew that I loved this salty, wet, foamy water which had now passed beyond me and was heading further up the beach.

I knew I wanted to immerse myself in the sea, go under the surface, and travel across it.

All that was still in the future as at this stage I could not swim.

I don’t remember exactly when my parents bought a boat and joined the Rhyl Yacht Club, based at the Foryd Harbour, but I believe it was around 1960 when I was 10.

By now I could swim.

As a pharmacist my father tended to know the local doctors and through them the wider circle of “professional people” including other medical people (even dentists); accountants; teachers; lawyers and others.

In fact the first customer in my father’s chemist shop was Dr Peter Anderson who became a firm family friend. His wife Jane, also a doctor, was a keen sailor and I think she must have persuaded my mother to crew for her and led to the family purchase of a 14-foot sailing dinghy – a Jewel.

Foryd Harbour: the nearest sailing boat (J64) is a Jewel class dinghy. The other white-sailed boat certainly looks like a Jewel, as does the red-sailed boat although I can’t remember a Jewel with red sails.

The Jewel was a 14-foot, clinker-built, Bermuda-rigged sailing dinghy which at one time was the predominant class fleet in Rhyl Yacht Club.

In the early days my mother and brother mainly raced our boat J67 at sea and on the Marine Lake. Normally the boat was moored in the harbour and we also had a small rowing boat to get to and from the moorings.

When the racing was on the lake we took our rowing boat over and I used to spend my time rowing out to the island and round the lake. Good exercise.

I made many new friends at the RYC as well as there being a crossover with other areas of my life. The Anderson boys, Bruce and Alan, went to the Grammar School, as did Ian Cowx, son of Peter Cowx.

When I first got involved with club life I used to help crew the rescue launch which was skippered by Bert Lees and Fred Williams, both of whom had sons in the club Peter Lees known as Gus and Ray Williams who was in the merchant navy and drove a red open top Jag.

The Lees family cropped up again when I joined the Little Theatre.

It was on the launch I learned much of my yachting knowledge and flag lore. I was even allowed to fire the starting cannons for some races although most of the time I was raising and lowering the warning flags.

The Rhyl Yacht Club start launch and rescue boat with bare-chested Fred Williams, Peter Cowx in the dark glasses and a senior club member.

The RYC was to remain a major part of my life for many years in fact right until the time I left Rhyl and headed for Essex when I was 22.

Roger Steele joined me at the club and later, when I used to race our next boat, a GP14 carvel built, 14 foot sailing dinghy, he became my regular crew and when we didn’t race would help crew the launch.

We were part of a group of friends who were the yacht club crowd. Most were my brother’s and sister’s ages but Roger and I and a couple of others were included, especially when it came to the parties.

There were the Knowles brothers, Carlowe Cotton, the Cowx boys, Tom Edge junior, and others whose names I cannot remember.

The parties would often be spur of the moment. We would all chip in and a couple of the lads would go to the off-licence and get Party Sevens, cans of Wrexham Lager, Mateus Rosé and Liebfraumilch and we would then party at someone’s house through to 2am on a Sunday.

They were good days and happy days and I remember the friends with fondness.

There will be other tales of the racing, the coastal cruises and taking part in the Menai Straits regattas. That’s it for today.

If you have memories of the Rhyl Yacht Club in the 60s then please leave a comment.

Next time: the young entrepreneur.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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