The Full Story
Around 1958, LDYC was one of the Vaal Dam's early yacht clubs, created by a group of enthusiastic sailors. It all started with a few tents and caravans.
The Speedbird insignia on the club's burgee (pennant) was inspired by British Imperial Airways (later BOAC and now British Airways), which utilized the Vaal Dam as a landing strip for their flying boats on their journey to India. Canopus, a S.23 Empire Class Flying Boat, transported 3.500 lbs of mail to South Africa in June 1937. The crew of five and the 24 guests remained at the Deneysville Hotel, which has since been demolished. With few airports, waterways across Africa were used for landing and refueling overnight. The Vaal Dam was Cape Town's southernmost terminal and most likely South Africa's first international airport. The service was in operation until 1950.
LDYC Legacy Club
The club is the sum of its members both past and present.
At the 2023 AGM we recognized and honoured members who celebrate an unbroken commitment to LDYC of 20 years and more.
LDYC Legacy Members
Over 50 years
Alan Lion-Cachet 51
Brian Lion-Cachet 51
Bill de Swardt 50
40 - 49 years
Joey Lee 47
Onno Kleinjan 46
Archie Taylor-Smith 46
Geoff Teasdale 42
Melissa Nel 42
Elna Bothma 40
30 - 39 years
James Haddock 39
Robin du Plessis 39
Mike Vella 38
Corinna Vennell 37
Luke Fisher 35
Monica Fisher 35
Alex Schön 35
Acton Plunkett 35
John Durrant 34
Eddie Brown 33
Linda Brown 33
Simon Fisher 31
Austin Daly 30
David Carter 30
Daniel van den Heever 30
Colin Hales 30
20 - 29 years
Keith Vennell 28
Alex Lambert 28
Roy Spurdle 27
Linda Spurdle 27
Mark Malherbe 27
Brent Haddock 27
Nikki Haddock 27
Ronald Bartram 26
Robert Bartram 25
Denise Adams 25
Vanessa Remmington 25
Brian Nicholl 25
Allan Stokes 25
Salome Stokes 25
Tielman Burger 24
Frans Antunes 23
Ronald White 22
Vince Brown 21
Mark Verhoogt 21
Edward Wium 20
Alex Lambert(28), Allan Stokes (25), Salome Stokes (25), Alex Schön(35)
Left to right back row : Edward Wium(20), Brian Lion-Cachet(51), Daniel van den Heever(30), Linda Brown(33)
Middle row: Vanessa Remmington(25), Monica Fisher(35, Luke Fisher(35)
Front row:TielmanBurger(24), Melissa Nel(42), Brian Nicholl(25), Butch Lombard(26), Nikki Haddock(27) , Brent Haddock(27), Austin Daly (30), Eddie Brown(33), Jimmy Haddock(39)
Bill and Jean de Swardt became members on 18th August 1973. The couple has been invested in the club on many levels and Bill has served in several capacities including Vice-Commodore and Trustee. Although they were regretfully unable to attend the dinner, Bill sent through some memories of five decades at LDYC which Commodore Luke Quinn read to the assembly.
EARLY DAYS AT LDYC
Jean and I commenced our many happy years of sailing in 1969 at Rietvlei Dam south of Pretoria on an Andy dinghy. Our son Brian arrived and I started the hunt for a suitable “family” sized yacht. E.I Marine in Deneysville run by Ronnie and Muriel Stewart came highly recommended. They were sole builders of the Jaguar 22, Vivacity 20 and 24 and later the Theta 26. We ordered a new V24 which cost R3,000 including the main and Jib.
In this process we discovered LDYC and applied for membership. We were formally accepted on 18th August 1973. I was instructed to apply to the Water Bailiff for permission to sail on the Vaal Dam. That was granted and we were issued with the boat registration number V876.
In 1973 the entire Club was situated among the blue gums within a registered ‘Water Servitude’ which was an additional water storage area around the Dam should the wall be raised. The Department of Water Affairs would not have to pay for expropriated land and structures. Popular opinion was that this would never happen.
The Club infrastructure was a corrugated iron Club House, known as the ‘Tin Temple’ - a small hall for meetings and partying and most importantly a small adjoining pub. Toilets and showers were separate and there was no jetty or slipway.
In 1975 I was invited to join the Committee and was appointed Grounds Keeper along with Leo Leeuwner as Club Manager. Leo was awarded Hon Life Membership in 1979.
The massive pressure of severe flood waters in 1975 caused a slight displacement of the dam wall. The Department of Water Affairs decided to raise the wall by 1 metre to secure the structure and create an additional outlet. The Tin Temple would be a casualty of raised water levels. LDYC bought 1 hectare of land from the Sumners.
The new club house was duly built and officially opened by Rear Admiral Chris Bennett on 4 October 1986. I was Vice Commodore at the time and we were in the grip of a lengthy drought. We discovered that when the Vaal Dam was constructed on the 1930’s the government did not pay for the land under water. LDYC’s holding and that of adjacent farmers actually extends all the way down to the original stream in the valley. The water had receded so much that no water was visible from the Clubhouse. Yachts were on the dry or moored opposite The Castle. During the ceremony the view was a vast expanse of mielies, planted by neighbouring farmers so the Club really resembled an Agricultural college.
I was then tasked with preparing a layout plan for the caravans. However, Water Affairs announced its intention to extend the wall by another 3 meters which meant most of our land would be swamped. Allen and Alfred Sumner insisted that LDYC bought all their vacant land which we did with tightened belts and a hefty levy.
Bill and Jean summed up their club life,
“LDYC has been an integral and extremely enjoyable
part of our lives for so many years.”
THE CARAVAN PARK
The caravans needed to move above the high-water mark so I headed the committee which constructed the configuration we have today. The Provincial authorities limited us to 150 sites which was insufficient so we added “A”s to existing site numbers to meet our needs. Armed with a theodolite, a 60-meter steel measuring tape, hammers and a few hundred steel pegs my late dad, Meshack and I pegged all 150 sites.
There was one little tree on the property but plenty of khakibos with blackjacks - Dave and Doreen Rice planted Penny Gums to start the greening of LDYC. We were the first to move our van to the new area now the front row of sites east of the Clubhouse, where we stayed until 2018 when the Lee family took occupation.
Our first jetty at LDYC consisted of several steel platforms we could move when the water level shifted. It was replaced with a wooden jetty and became the power boat jetty. Superbly designed and built by Carlie Lion Cachet it comprised several platforms on legs that could be ‘walked’ up or down the slope. Following years of excellent service, the Committee decreed a replacement was needed. I was in my fifth stint as Vice Commodore in 1987 and approached a firm of civil engineers to design a steel jetty with wheels able to travel up and down on a railway track. The jetty, as it still stands today was constructed at a cost of R96, 000. My late dad was a retired railway engineer and arranged for all the railway lines and concrete sleepers donatedl
We invited Jean’s brother John Fisher, his wife Cynthia and kids Lark, Luke, Pamela and Simon to LDYC. A sail with us on the dam pretty well sealed the fate of the Fisher family – they went on to become respected sailors and LDYC stalwarts. Until his recent retirement Simon Fisher proved to be a major asset as the Club Manager for 11 years. Prior to their emigration to Oz our son Brian, wife Karen and children were member with a site and also avid sailors
INTERESTING AND AMUSING EVENTS
I must mention Dorothy Randall - the amazing and wonderful blind wife of John Randall who served 18 terms as Commodore between 1974 and 1997. She maintained a genuine and sincere interest concerning the club, its activities and its members. When John was telling her about a proposed or new development or an event that had occurred on the property he would use his index finger to draw a map on the palm of her hand. The ‘map’ would indicate to her where the matter of interest had occurred, its position relative to the position of their caravan or the foreshore or maybe the position of the clubhouse.
Known members only had to say a word or two and she would greet them by name. Dorothy had a beautiful black Labrador guide dog. She often took our son on a walk to the village and back. When asked how she found her way she replied “I just listen for the noise of the overhead telephone wires”.
During 1975 I was asked by the Committee to chair probably the first Disciplinary Hearing. Two well-known members were caught late one night relieving themselves against Ma Hamilton’s caravan tent near the Tin Temple pub. She came out to see what all the merriment was and was not amused. Both accused received a 6-month suspension from the club.
One evening those of us in the Tin Temple pub heard a blood-curdling scream coming from the ladies’ toilet. The occupant was found standing on the toilet seat with a rinkhals on the floor. Alan Tiley fetched his Colt 45 pistol and proceeded to totally demolish everything except for the snake and the wooden toilet seat. Springbok baseball player Bob Hart finally eliminated the snake with his bat. The story titled the ‘Ode to the Snake’ was framed in the surviving wooden toilet seat and hung on the pub wall for many years.
Catamarans arrived on the sailing scene but no Vaal Dam clubs were prepared to grant them membership as they were not considered to be “true” yachts. Various groups accessed the water wherever farmers allowed access. Two of the groups that regularly lobbied LDYC were called “The Roving Cats” and the “Meerkats”. Clubs slowly relented and eventually Stilbaai Club was established as the ‘Home of the Catamarans’.
LDYC developed a sizeable catamaran fleet. One owner hurrying to join the race start line was about to replace a missing hull cap only to find a huge rinkhals in the hull. Undeterred, he quickly screwed the cap on and the snake went racing. Back on land the cap was removed and one extremely annoyed snake shot out. Gathered spectators immediately scattered at similar speed!
In another encounter with wildlife a sailor left his toolbox open on the shoreline. A passing swarm of bees settled into it. The young and brave in the club hatched a plan to attach a long rope with a hook to the box handle and run into the dam dragging the box into the water. The bees had no intention of being displaced and each ‘brave’ received a sting or two when trying unsuccessfully to hook the box. The objective was eventually achieved and the bees abandoned the sodden box of tools.
Jean and I arrived at the club one wintry Saturday morning to find a police diver and a constable on the shoreline along with a stranger very warmly dressed. He and his mate had apparently entered the club property illegally the night before and taken a club dinghy from which they planned to fish. When some 30 to 40m from the shore the partner fell into the water and being dressed in a heavy overcoat and gum boots drowned. The police diver was searching for the victim but the young police constable tasked with going out on the dinghy and retrieving the body was far too squeamish and I had to volunteer. With the family of the unfortunate fisherman watching and waiting it was a tragic and distressing experience.
During the 1980’s I also had an office in Sasolburg and during the odd lunch break I’d visit the club. One day I found the police on the shoreline with an extremely intoxicated gentleman from the local township. The club gate guard had contacted the police as the said gentleman had threatened him and entered the property. This person then found a dinghy with oars. He managed to find an unlocked yacht from which he filched a couple of bottles of liquor. Back on shore he consumed the contents to the last drop. When asked to indicate the yacht from which the liquor was taken he continued to point with a sweeping arm from left to right – that yacht was never identified.
There are still many more stories to be told…
LDYC has been an integral and extremely enjoyable part of our lives for so many years. Although we are no longer active members of the club we still have a Baronet 17 and visit now and again to run the 2 motors. I always enjoy seeing what is new at the club and of course the outstanding condition of the entire property. May the club continue to go from strength to strength and continue to remain
‘The Best Dam Club’.
Jean and Bill de Swardt's original official letter of acceptance produced on a typewriter with carbon paper placed between 2 sheets of paper to produce a duplicate for the files. Hand signed, inserted into an envelope, stamped and sent in the post. Probably took about 3 days to be delivered...