1967 The Squadron was first formed, although waterfront land was scarce. Meetings were held in a private house, then later at the Sea Cadet’s Hall. Social functions were arranged on board members yachts rafted up. Our object was the promotion of yachting for boats other than the racing dinghies sailing from Cairns Sailing Club. Our interest was to promote offshore racing and cruising and we gradually built up a membership that increased year by year.
This was the decade or more when it became common to see versatile back yard builders take up the challenge of constructing their own yachts in the adequate space of the 1⁄4 acre home block throughout Australia. In most coastal centres commercial boat builders worked with wood or GRP. Steel and ferro cement were often the choice of the amateur builders of private yachts.
Slipping in the early days was available at Cairns Harbour Board Slipway (opposite the current Casino) or against 2 piles close to the Sea Cadet’s Hall, where the firm bottom and tidal range accepted vessels up to 4’6” draught. The facilities to service these yachts were very limited in Cairns.
Cruises to the nearby reefs and islands were often arranged with 3 or 4 boats travelling in company. Weekend races around buoys, round islands, to Green Island, to Fitzroy Island; to Port Douglas and Low Island became annual events. 8-12 yachts sailed regularly. We also became the host club for the Gladstone to Cairns- Cairns to Port Moresby races.
Mid 1970’s CCYS leased part of the Harbour Board Slipway for an after work Friday social venue, installing showers and a bar, with the remainder as a work area for members and visiting yachtsmen’s projects. This lease was extended in 1978 to operate the slipway. It became a financial asset to the club. We established swing moorings in the Harbour, available at a moderate rental. We had applied to the Harbour Board for a site in Smiths Creek where land reclamation was in progress, and although little could be done for many years our liquidity was established.
In 1979 a move was made to join Cairns Sailing Club as they intended to incorporate catamarans, dinghies and yachts. This was seriously debated, and the Squadron declined the offer. The Sailing Club became the Cairns Yacht Club and split the membership of the Squadron: a severe blow as it reduced membership and created much ill feeling in yachting circles in Cairns.
1980 CCYS was given notice to vacate the site, firstly the slipway; then in 1981, the clubhouse, as a tourist venture was imminent on the site. Our race planning for the Moresby event was run from a hired Cairns Harbour Board Social Welfare Club, and we used the Pier master’s office as a radio room. We supplied and manned the Radio Relay vessel.
Meanwhile work commenced on the Smiths Creek site. Debentures were raised to cover the cost of the travel lift and associated yard facilities and a great amount of work was carried out by members free of charge. Plumbing was at cost of material only. Two members covered the expenses of the travel lift purchase from their own resources.
A new viable business under the full-time management of volunteer OLLIE UPITE was established. The struggle to consolidate the venue, and repay debt was, unfortunately, at the cost of losing the club’s racing activity, our events and trophies, and our facilities that we now had to replace. In appreciation of the assistance given by Cairns Game Fishing Club, Cairns Motorboat Club we invited their members to use our repair facilities. Fishing trawlers were also allowed these services.
1985 The Squadron’s interim open-air clubhouse (Now the laundry and veranda area in the work yard) was used to host the inaugural Hamilton Island to Cairns Yacht Race. The hospitality of the members did us proud. The event was a resounding success; and although a second was planned as a link up event with the Cairns to Port Moresby Race the following year, Queensland Yachting Association withdrew their support and favoured a shorter event scheduled during the same period. During 1985 CCYS became incorporated, took up a further lease (A) for expansion of the storage operations and Stage 1 of the clubhouse.
Dinghy storage racks were donated by Cairns Harbour Board. The Squadron then acquired the old barge ramp and roadway; rebuilt it, effectively consolidating the properties.
During this decade Taylor Marine built an on-site chandlery on our lease. Construction of the 16-berth marina followed by the 10 berth marina extension completed the waterfront accommodation. The industrial complexes of Portsmith attracted many businesses to the area. The BBS across the road developed their site and neighbouring “temporary” structures were re- established permanently.
1996 CCYS celebrated the re-opening of the extended clubhouse with stage 2 structurally completed. Equipping and furnishing the new building was undertaken, so that functions could be attracted. Mortgage payments, airline strike and credit squeeze with rising interest rates plus expanding staffing commitments created financial pressures that we sustained initially by subsidies from the yard operations. Meanwhile the Annual Five Island Regatta and the Easter Regatta at Port Douglas were well supported. Some Corsair dinghies were purchased, and enthusiastic sailing was re-born, although briefly.
1997 19 pile moorings were driven for us in Smiths Creek south-east of the clubhouse, by the Harbour Board with re-payments made over time.
1998-2001 Upgrade of office computer systems, purchase of “ Margaret U” our first rescue boat, the boat shed on the southern fence-line ,and registration of CCYS training school were acquisitions of note. Socially the inaugural Life Member’s Dinner used the upstairs function room venue with notable enjoyment, and the founding members contributions acknowledged with presentation of a gold lapel pin. Thursday evening members’ nights, Goose Club draws, were popular and the winning float entry in Cairns Festival of Lights a highlight. The members supported the establishment on site of the Schools Marine studies shed for practical training of secondary school aged students.
Environmental installation requirements were notified to mitigate toxic paint residue, barnacle scrapings, battery, oil and paint disposal and run-off into the creek such as was produced in our boat maintenance area. The installation of the wash down area was essential to our continued operations.
During 2001 changes in Government regulations impinged on the small trawler fishing industry that had provided 50% of the Squadron’s yard income. The extent of subsidy provided by the yard for the clubhouse operation could no longer be sustained. As our debt levels were rising, and foreclosure by our bank imminent, restructuring of the club business became essential.
A close examination of all options available was undertaken. Stage 1 was to sub-lease the clubhouse business. This alleviated the mortgage payments and running costs of the building but did not address the accrued debts.
Stage 2 formulated a business management contract with Ray Fry Services for the shipyard operations. A secondary commission-based agreement for marina, piles and trailer boat storage was established. The cash injection from the sale of the travel lift to Ray Fry Services was sufficient to continue operating and pay all outstanding debts, whilst maintaining club ownership of the lease.
The next four years was spent consolidating and accumulating funds to address the long overdue infrastructure maintenance programme. 2006/7 cash outlays of approx. $80,000 for the marina rebuild, members’ toilet and shower renovation, electrical works, still allowed $125,000 sinking fund to be set against the mortgage, thereby reducing interest payments.
Since 2005 CCYS and CYC have jointly supported a regular series of introductory sail training courses, using the fleet of 6 J24 yachts acquired by NQ Sailing for the purpose, presenting a well-received opportunity for adults to learn to sail small keel boats; and for many to venture into owning and cruising their own yachts.
Whilst popular cruising in company events such as the annual Louisiade Rally conducted through Yorkey’s Knob Boat Club provide crews further offshore experience and enjoyment, the local racing programme is limited. Much needs to be done to re-invigorate this core aspect of our club. Many of our members sail further afield; some return after the adventures of coastal and ocean cruising.
2008 Taylor Marine re-organised their business activities closing many of their branch outlets. Cairns was one to go: as a result, in exchange for the remaining term of their lease they offered us their street-front building. This was eventually sublet to Mickey Ink (signmaker) and VIP Plastics, both supporting marine industries. We acquired the Taylor demountable building as a new office and training room and with the generosity of Mr Ray Fry re-located it to a more convenient site opposite the clubhouse.
BY 2010 members endorsed changes to our constitution to allow Associated Clubs to be included as member clubs, recognised as mutual supporters of marine based sport and recreation from our venue. CCYS hosts the Cairns Dragon Boat Club, an active group of paddlers formed originally by breast cancer survivors. Their efforts in successfully competing in State competition, and in being awarded first prize for their float in the Cairns Festival are a measure of their enthusiasm and commitment. We are proud to have them with us.
More recently we have accepted an invitation of reciprocal club acknowledgement with Singapore Yacht club and with Cruising Yacht Club of South Australia. MOU agreements with them are published in this report. The Cairns flotilla of the Australian Volunteer Coast Guard has also expressed interest in moving their social home to CCYS. Whilst their vessels are already adequately established in the Marlin Marina, their radio/ training room and clubhouse are too small to cater for their needs. An MOU is under discussion.
2010-11 A new Collaboration Agreement with the management company Ray Fry Services replaced the agreement established in 2003. A new sub lease of the clubhouse based on the Retail Shop’ Lease operated successfully, with the clubhouse itself receiving a major face lift, and extensive repairs to present a fresh and welcoming atmosphere to club members and guests.
2012-Today CCYS has grown adding more services, functions and events for members the premier cruising yacht club in Cairns.