Carry on Camping

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Carry on Camping

COVID-19 might have put a slight delay to camping at Marconi in the earlier months of the year but it didn’t stop us in the end.

With some careful planning and consideration the club management along with various members worked extremely hard to review the risk and work out the best way to manage the event while constantly reviewing Government advice. This led to the club running two successful weeks of camping along with camping at August Bank Holiday.

Traditionally the club is allowed 32 days of camping in a year and this is managed through our by laws. With an extended August Bank Holiday weekend we managed 21 nights, which isn’t bad considering we started late.

Camping Fortnight

Camping fortnight usually runs from the end of July for two weeks and is a paid camping event with bookings secured earlier in the year. The first week is traditionally our famous Cadet Week where members and their guests come together for a week of fun and learning.

We began early in the year with a positive outlook that both Cadet Week and camping would go ahead. Unfortunately as we got closer it was obvious that we couldn’t have over 100 people attending an organised sailing week and getting into boats with each other. Cadet Week was cancelled.

With the bookings already in, the club was very keen to give members that much needed release of frustration and to allow them to relax and get some quality sailing time in. However, camping had to be managed carefully and one thing was clear, with nearly 60 camping pitches allocated the number of people on site had to be reduced to make the club a safe environment for the two weeks.

Firstly the camping team contacted all the members who had already secured a camping space with a clear explanation of what had to happen for the week to run and with an offer to defer their pitch to next year. The end result was a reduction to 29 pitches in total with a 2-3m gap between each pitch to help with distancing.

In the background the club worked hard with cleaning contractors to organise a cleaning regime suitable for the number of people on site, this involved cleaners coming in 4 times a day to clean the toilets, the only facility within the club house that was open. The management team also worked on a code of conduct and various risk assessments for members to sign up to if they wanted to continue with their camping booking.

The biggest part of the code of conduct that put most campers off was that there were no changing or showing facilities available inside the clubhouse. However, the club installed warm outside showers on the end of the club house to allow those camping, and those sailing, to have a fresh shower after a blast around the River Blackwater.

The Sailing Sub worked hard to ensure we had a firm risk assessment and cleaning regime to ensure we could have a support boat on the water every day supporting sailors should anything unplanned happen.

For once, the weather gods were on our side and we had a fantastic two weeks of camping onsite at Marconi along with various on the water adventures including sails to Maldon and plenty of paddles around Osea Island. The Bar managers devised a plan to provide drinks from outside the bar on a few occasions to help clear the bar stock which hadn’t been used up this year with the bar being closed. Sam and Pat also managed to provide a limited galley service on a take away basis trialling a new system and keeping members outside the club house.

There were not only the camping members on site but a good mixture of members from those working on their cruisers through to windsurfers and those who were visiting for a days social sailing. Of course, all keeping their social distance from each other.

August Bank Holiday

With Camping Fortnight being such a success the members were very keen to see more camping at the club in 2020 and the only feasible time remaining was going to be over the days of August Bank Holiday. This time the weather gods were not as nice, but there was some stiff breeze to get those sails working.

The number of camping nights available were extended to 5 nights and the rules were the same with the clubhouse remaining closed and the pitches being limited.

Usually on a bank holiday members can turn up at the club, find a space in the field and throw their tent up to claim their land for the weekend. Unfortunately we had to limit numbers again and worked quickly to put in place an online booking system which would lead to a ballot for a camping place. This was the only fair way to run the process but of course did mean a few members missed out. This time we had 23 pitches available all in our spacious catamaran field.

Another success, once again everything went very smoothly and the members had a great time on and off the water sticking within their social bubbles.

Conclusion

The members of Marconi enjoyed some excellent on the water activities including paddle boarding, kayaking, sailing, windsurfing and rowing. Basically any way to get out on the water and enjoy the beautiful and spacious River Blackwater that we are lucky to call home.

Who knows what next year will bring, but one thing is for sure, we’re going full steam ahead and are planning for another action packed year of on and off the water activities. Maybe from a social distance…. Watch this space!

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Andrew is Marconi Sailing Clubs webmaster. He sails a Tornado Sport Catamaran and Sprint 15.

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