THE hard work of the Narooma Blue Water Dragons and their supporters paid off on Saturday with the grand opening of the new dragon boat shed.
Smartly painted in club colours of blue and white, the little shed sits on the water nestled between the Quarterdeck restaurant and Fisheries building.
Club president Peter Essex gave a speech outlining the short yet successful history of the dragon boating club, the triumph of building the shed against the odds and potential of Narooma to be a dragon boating destination.
State member and now Minister for Finance and Services Andrew Constance and Eurobodalla mayor Lindsay Brown were present to hear the acknowledgment of their support.
Mr Constance praised the club for its determination saying any community organisation with a dream should not take no for an answer and continue to fight.
“This is best place in Australia to do it and this is the best boat shed to do it from and the best group of people to do it with – it’s absolutely tremendous.”
Mr Constance said dragon boating was addictive and even his politician colleagues were getting involved having a paddle recently.
He joked that now if only the brick Fisheries office could be made to fit in a little better with heritage look of the boat shed and neighbouring restaurants.
Local songwriter Melinda Hurren got the crowd singing a special, rhythmic song written just for the dragons.
The ribbon was cut by the project manager and foreman, followed by the slicing of a cake by the founding members.
Getting the shed built on the waterfront in the Batemans Marine Park did offer some big challenges with extra hurdles on design and materials and also construction of the various components taking place offsite on members’ properties.
Club founder and outgoing president Peter Essex outlined the club’s history that started out with an article in the Narooma News.
“When we first formed Blue Water Dragons as a Narooma club in July 2010 we had no boat, no coach and no sweep,” he said in his speech.
“What we did have was a group of people who could see the potential for dragon boating in Narooma.”
He specifically credited Alexis “Leck” Swadling who was the first to respond to his article in the Narooma News in 2009 and who pushed him into holding that first come-and-try day.
Regarding the shed, he paid tribute to Libby Shortridge, who started the boatshed process, Heather MacMillian, who took on the role of project manager, and project foreman Don Shortridge.
“Meanwhile other members raised funds, painted, nailed, paved, supplied sustenance to the work site and contributed at every stage of our build.
We never had to ask them twice for help,” he said in his speech.
“Don’s skill and leadership made all the difference and we can’t thank him enough.
“Thanks also go to the Seaths and Macmillians for the use of their large backyards where we constructed frames and painted our shed’s cladding before trailering them to the building site.”
After thanking all the local businesses and individuals that had lent support he singled out patron Pauline Rundle.
“Pauline invited us to use her waterfront property to house our boat nearly three years ago,” he said
“It was a huge step for us to move to Wagonga Inlet where we could raise our profile and start promoting Narooma as Dragon Boating paradise.
“During the time we were at Pauline’s property we were given unrestricted access to her boatshed and beachfront.
“Pauline’s hospitality and generosity as well as her support at a number of events has demonstrated a tremendous community spirit.”
He then acknowledged the Federal department of Family and Community Services as well as Sport and Recreation and the Community Builders grant scheme for their contribution to the project.
“Now that Narooma Blue Water Dragons and our friends and supporters have built this beautiful boatshed that the whole community can be proud of, come and have a go with your partners, your kids and your friends. It’s the most fun you can have sitting down!”
Read outgoing Narooma Blue Water Dragons president Peter Essex’s rousing and informative boat shed opening speech in full here:
Those in the know told us this would never happen and something this good doesn’t just happen.
You need the right combination for success and Narooma Blue Water Dragons got it in one. We have a sport that is perfect for a huge number of people, we have a committed and hardworking membership, the partners of those members have been amazing, we have the support of our community and state member and we have Wagonga Inlet.
When we first formed Blue Water Dragons as a Narooma club in July 2010 we had no boat, no coach and no sweep. What we did have was a group of people who could see the potential for Dragon Boating in Narooma.
We set about making contacts and forming relationships with like-minded people in the Dragon Boat world. We organised to buy a boat, members gained accreditation in coaching and sweeping and we developed a five year plan to promote our sport and Narooma as a place to paddle.
After more than three years of hard work by our members we’ve almost achieved everything we set out to do in that five-year plan.
A permanent home for our boat is one of the last and most important pieces of the puzzle. Watch this space as the last two pieces take shape over the next few months. With this membership of stars, two stand out for me.
Leck Swadling was the first to respond to my article in the Narooma News in 2009 asking for expressions of interest in forming a Dragon Boat club for Narooma. There weren’t that many responses and I was going to drop the idea after organising a Come and Try day with Nature Coast Dragon Boat club from Moruya.
Leck wasn’t going to let me off that easily and rallied the troops to get more than 20 eager novices to have a go. Dragon Boating is addictive and after paddling everyone there wanted a club for Narooma.
Since then Leck’s enthusiasm hasn’t waned. She’s become our treasurer and head coach and has put her heart and soul into making this club work. On a number of occasions, when things have looked dire, Leck has given the sort of support that keeps a club going and continues to go above and beyond the call of duty.
This brings me to our Secretary, Kathryn, who has been one of this club’s great strengths. We all know that an organisation needs a good secretary to work well and we have a real gem. Kathryn took on the job at the most difficult time and in difficult circumstances and immediately shot us to the top of the governance tree.
We have systems in place that have boggled the minds of the experts and if Kathryn organises something, you know it’s done properly.
Kathryn also took a leading role in liaising with the government departments overseeing our boatshed project and her approach when dealing with these departments has been a major factor in our success.
Kathryn has also played a big part in our successful grant applications. This is supposed to be one of my jobs but Kathryn volunteered to be my partner in this dance and to borrow a phrase from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, everything I did, Kathryn did backwards and in high heels.
With our search for a permanent home on this side of the Inlet there were real problems with the original site we were offered but our members wouldn’t be beaten. Libby Shortridge started the boatshed process with a suggestion that became plan A. (What you see before you is Plan D)
Heather MacMillian took on the role of Project Manager after being in the club for only a couple of months and added the level of professionalism we needed.
Helen Hayes attended innumerable meetings and plotted and planned over three years to help get us where we are.
Gilly Kearney, who joined us in 2011, sweeps, coaches and is our Club Captain, and took us into the 21st Century by setting up our Facebook page that has been so important in telling others about our club’s progress.
Meanwhile other members raised funds, painted, nailed, paved, supplied sustenance to the work site and contributed at every stage of our build.
We never had to ask them twice for help.
Without the members we have, this project wouldn’t have happened.
We needed more than this however. The partners of our members have always provided an enormous amount of support for our club.
They’ve been there at regattas, provided safety boats at our come and try days, been land crews, photographers and IT experts for us.
Just when you think theyÆre a pretty good bunch they blow us all away by taking on the vast majority of the building duties.
Our reluctant foreman, Don Shortridge, took time off the extensive renovation of his own home to design and draw our plans ,then became our builder and site boss. We were lucky to have Don and also to have Peter Kearney, Wayne MacMillian, Peter Seath, John Whiting, Mark Chatillon, Keith Bowden and the band of happy Dragons to back up Don and help make the job go smoothly. We even had a guest appearance from Richard Coventry, the partner of a former member.
There could have been disasters because much of the work had to be done off site because of being on the foreshore of a marine park but the process was a triumph of cooperation and good humour.
Don’s skill and leadership made all the difference and we can’t thank him enough. Thanks also go to the Seaths and Macmillians for the use of their large back yards where we constructed frames and painted our shed’s cladding before trailering them to the building site.
Even when Don took time off for a well-earned break, Peter Kearney and Wayne Macmillian were able to step into the role as boss. The build was supposed to be one day a week and gentlemens’ hours but Don, the Peters and Wayne put in a lot of overtime. True gentlemen.
We wouldn’t be here today without them.
But wait, there’s more! Our local community can also take a big bow for their contribution to the success of our project.
From day one our community focus has struck a chord with locals and their support has been vital. Stan Gorton from the Narooma News took an interest from my first article in May 2009 and we often received emails from Stan asking about our progress.
Stan has also given us almost enough column space in the Narooma News over the years and we are the envy of the Dragon Boat world with the coverage we receive. Peter Hermann from Tilba Valley Wines took about two seconds to agree to host us when we first formed.
Jim and Kerry Ryan from South East Plant offered us five years’ sponsorship without even being asked.
Dr Jenny Wray provided funding for equipment, Daryl Bond from The Ocean Hut , Helena and Charlie Bettini, Gail and Michael Knight from Narooma Beach Front Apartmants, Ian Stevens from Dalmeny IGA, Michael and Paul Stokes, Rotary Club of Narooma, Quota Club of Narooma, The Stay at Tintagel at Central Tilba, The Hair Room, Steel line, Truss Plus, Rick Wood and Dalmeny Deviates have all provided much appreciated support.
Narooma Golf Club also has treated us to their hospitality and magnificent view and Lindsay and Lyn Brown enjoyed getting their hands dirty with us on our Clean Up Australia Days
One of our greatest supporters and someone who has had a big part in the development of Dragon Boating in Narooma has been our patron, Pauline Rundle. Pauline invited us to use her waterfront property to house our boat nearly three years ago.
It was a huge step for us to move to Wagonga Inlet where we could raise our profile and start promoting Narooma as Dragon Boating paradise.
During the time we were at Pauline’s property we were given unrestricted access to her boatshed and beachfront.
Pauline’s hospitality and generosity as well as her support at a number of events has demonstrated a tremendous community spirit.
Pauline’s been a real friend to this club and we’ll never forget that.
But that’s not all. During the build that has created so much interest around town we’ve had unsolicited help from Sylvia, Chris and Les Gausla who donated Bobcat time, Bill Dudley who was happy to offer advice and his waterjet gear, Paul Butcher who donated fencing, welding as well as picking up our stumps from Ulladulla and delivering them.
We also appreciate the letters of support from Chris Scoggy at the Quarterdeck, our sometime photographer and waterboy and the Peet family from The Inlet Café.
As I said before, Andrew Constance, Gail and Ian have been the people behind the people.
I’m sure even they didn’t realise how many people appreciate their efforts.
At this point I’d like to acknowledge the Federal department of Family and Community Services as well as Sport and Recreation and the Community Builders grant scheme for their contribution to our project.
Without government support projects like this wouldn’t happen.
Nothing this good comes by chance. Those who said it couldn’t be done obviously didn’t know who we had on our side.
This is a significant occasion for me. It’s my last official act as president. It’s also my 50th year of involvement in sport of one kind or another. Those 50 years have taught me that grass roots sports like local football, tennis, surf clubs and particularly Dragon Boating have a vital role to play in the physical and social health and well being of a community.
I would have far more pride living in the nation with the highest participation rate in sport and the lowest obesity rate than living in the country with the greatest number of Olympic medals and World Cup trophies gathering dust in a warehouse somewhere.
Now that Narooma Blue Water Dragons and our friends and supporters have built this beautiful boatshed that the whole community can be proud of, come and have a go with your partners, your kids and your friends. It’s the most fun you can have sitting down.