Club of the Month - Mangonui Cruising Club

by Michael Brown

It was touch and go at times, with the final consent being emailed through just hours before the first yacht arrived, but the Mangonui Cruising Club's rebuild was ready in time to host the Two Handed Round North Island race in February.

Mangonui, perched on the eastern end of Northland's beautiful Doubtless Bay, is traditionally the first stop on the race around the North Island. This time the club could show off their brand new facilities.

"We were pushing it," Mangonui commodore Colin Price says, "but we made it. It was a very successful stopover."

It has been a very successful rebuild.

The club took over the rebuild once the building was closed in and completed it with a huge amount of volunteer trade labour and working bees. It meant it took about a year longer than previously planned but allowed them to come in on budget.

New Zealand's most northerly club was established in 1948 and originally converted an old boat shed into a yacht club. The idea to upgrade emerged in 2009 and the original plan was to refurbish but, despite many in the community who wanted to retain the quaint, old building, it soon became apparent that wouldn't work.

"It was full of borer and rot," explains Price, who was a driving force behind the project. "We weren't able to make it comply with the building code and if we had tried to lift it up, it would have fallen to bits."

The old clubrooms

As it was, they needed to re-pile the foundations, meaning they needed extra money and consents to excavate the sea bed, and volunteers could often be found lugging concrete on wheelbarrows at low tide.

"We pulled the club down and away we went. By that time, we were past the point of no return. It was a real community project.

"The downside was two years without a clubhouse but we worked off a hard stand area and were having beers on a container out in the wind and the rain. It probably didn't meet the liquor licence but... 

"We finished the project and everyone was still talking to each other so it must have gone OK."

The club had a handful of working bees.

They were all there to see their new clubrooms officially opened by their patron at a low-key function on June 6 and many are already looking forward to summer evenings on the deck after some racing.

Mangonui usually fluctuates between about 80 and 100 members and presently have about 85 on their books, with about 60 percent keelboat yachties and the rest motor boats owners, from small fizz boats to launches.

There was a slight decline in numbers due to having no clubhouse but Price is hopeful the new facilities, along with efforts to appeal to different groups, will see that grow again. The facilities are in demand, and has been hired for weddings and birthdays.

Mangonui still have an active racing group on Wednesdays, and locals often talk about how much they enjoy the sight of the yachts with their kites up on Doubtless Bay, but numbers have declined over weekends and winter. Price has his own theory.

"Like a lot of clubs, the average age of members is not getting any younger. We have many retired people who have cashed up and come from Auckland. People are getting older and softer - freezing your nuts off in the wind and rain is not all that appealing to many."

The weather for the two-handed North Island race was temperamental but fine during the stopover at Mangonui, and Price afforded himself a moment of reflection with all the activity outside.

"I went out on the deck and felt we had achieved something pretty special," he says. "It felt pretty bloody good, in fact."

The new clubrooms.

31 May 2017
31 May 2017