History of LIBC Part 3


One may think that once the harbour construction projects were complete the Committee and Members would sit back and relax and enjoy using the facility but that was not to be! Reading through the minutes of LIBC meetings, it is abundantly clear that even after construction on the harbour extensions was completed in 2004 the committee remained committed to ensuring that the Club facilities were further improved to meet its members’ ever-growing needs.

Thus it was that no sooner had the harbour expansion project been completed when by early 2005 the Committee was already planning the construction of a new Clubhouse to replace the small workshop/storage room which had served the club so well for the first ten years of its existence. The Clubhouse project proceeded and the firm Knysna Timber Homes was appointed to design and build the magnificent building that we have today.

Reading the minutes there was clearly much discussion about the shape and size of the building and many different ideas about what the requirements should be, but the final result was a building which is not only pleasing to the eye but also admirably serves our practical needs with an office and reception, a large meeting/function room, a kitchen and male and female toilet facilities. The old office and store room were moved to their current position behind the new clubhouse to make space for the new building. By December 2005 the Clubhouse was complete and immediately put into use by enabling LIBC to host the AGM on 19 December 2005 for the first time in our own premises.

With its major facilities now complete LIBC had firmly entered the modern era of its existence and reading through the minutes during the early 2000’s we find that most of the matters dealt with then are very similar to the issues the committee has to deal with even now. Arguments about oversize boats have been an issue ever since the harbour was designed and they continue until today.

It would appear that in about 2008 there was a lot of controversy as a result of SANParks announcing their intention to introduce a new system of levies and charges for all persons and organizations using the lagoon, such as jetty owners, harbours, marinas and similar facilities and it seems that the proposed new tariffs would be really punitive and excessive. The minutes record discussion between all the lagoon users and there is much talk about legal action and counter-proposals, but in the end all the noise seemed to die down and life continued as normal!

It is interesting to note that the selling price of harbour berths had increased steadily ever since the harbour was constructed and in July, 2007, the minutes record that the asking price for a berth was R115 000.00, which in today’s terms (2023) would be at least R230 000.00. Of course, shortly thereafter towards the end of 2008 the global financial crash had happened and this had a significant effect on LIBC as was the case throughout the world. In December 2009 membership was recorded as 394 with a further 9 applicants on the waiting list.

This figure crept up to about 400 in 2011 and then dropped back to about 390 over the next couple of years. By May 2013, the minutes record that “We now have 12 berths listed for sale. There is very little interest at present and those that are changing hands are going for very low prices therefore no commission for the club”. The club records show that the price of berths reduced to around R60 000.00 and in the case of an insolvent estate the lowest price offered for the berth was R35 000.00 (the offer was turned down and the committee decided to buy back the berth).

During 2010, the Club undertook a major overhaul of the jetties carried out by Laurie Mans, a long-time stalwart LIBC member and a legendary lagoon fisherman.

After the harbour was extended in 2004, the entire parking area was pretty much a barren wasteland and apart from a few grassed areas, there were no gardens to speak of. Wisely the Committee had decided to spread wood chippings/shavings across the entire parking area and this did an excellent job of binding the surface and preventing dust being blown all over the place. The wood shavings also acted as a mulch and gradually over a period of a few years the indigenous grasses managed to get established and spread and by 2012 the lawns were so extensive that the Committee was considering the purchase of a sit-on mower or employing an outside contractor to assist with cutting the grass.

The Harbour Manager at that time, Carel Nel, was a keen gardener and he did a great deal to develop and maintain the lawns and gardens until his retirement in 2016 at which time Margie Johnson joined LIBC and she has taken the landscaping of our premises to new heights. During the years after 2005, the club was able to settle into a routine of repairs and maintenance which has ensured that all the facilities have been kept in tip-top condition. At the same time, the committee has continuously sought to improve the facilities to provide everything that a modern club of this nature can wish for.

The jetties have always required ongoing maintenance which continues all the time. In about 2013 it became apparent that the timber poles which hold the jetties in place were under attack by the marine organism “gribble” which makes its home in the timber and which literally eat the timber. Interestingly, the organism (similar in shape to a tiny shrimp about 1-2mm in size) only lives in that section of the poles which is above the harbour floor but below low-water mark. In 2016 the club started a programme of replacing poles which were in a bad condition with properly marine treated poles and this has been an ongoing process over the past several years. Each year an underwater inspection is carried out and only those poles which are considered to be structurally under threat are replaced.

Similarly the jetties themselves are subjected to a lot of wear and tear from foot traffic, impacts from boats and mainly the effects of weather on the timber. Notwithstanding the overhaul carried out in about 2010, by 2018/19 it was clear that further major work needed to be done. Most of the timber decking dated back to the original construction and the ends of the deck planks had deteriorated to the extent that it was no longer practical to repair them.

Thus it was that in 2019 LIBC embarked on a project to repair and renovate all the main and finger jetties. After much debate it was decided to undertake the project in-house using our own resources supplemented by employing outside contract labour. All the jetties (except A Jetty which was still in good condition) were completely stripped down, the underlying structures were repaired and reinforced, and all decking replaced. A lot of research went into the selection of the most appropriate and cost-effective materials and it was decided to continue using correctly treated pine timber which was locally sourced.

A big improvement was to replace all the old conveyer belt hinges between the various jetty sections with purpose made galvanised steel hinges and brackets. The work was close to complete when the Covid-19 crisis hit the world and a lockdown was imposed, but after the restrictions were lifted we were able to continue and the project was successfully completed in 2020. Many lessons were learned and some mistakes were made but overall the results were very satisfactory and the project ended up costing roughly 50% of what it would have cost if we had simply employed a contractor to do the work.

Another item which has always been at the top of the priority list is to ensure a high standard of security in the harbour premises and every month the minutes record the committee’s discussions around security. In around 2016 a number of break-ins through the perimeter fence took place and there were many reports of petty theft particularly of trailer wheels and boat batteries.

This went on for some time until a syndicate operating in Knysna was apprehended by the police and the criminal activities ceased. In the meantime LIBC had improved the security arrangements at the club with a guard on duty every night, improvements to the perimeter fence, some CCTV cameras near the entrance and at the slipway, and eventually the construction of a raised “guard tower” in the trailer parking area. All these measures appear to have had the desired effect and for the past several years LIBC has been virtually crime-free. The committee, however, remains vigilant and prepared to take further action when needed.

During 2017 the old workshop building behind the clubhouse was extended to create decent staff ablutions and the carport was converted into a store with a new carport created at the back of the clubhouse. These small but important improvements all added to the overall functionality of the Club.

Perhaps the most significant feature of all the development work carried out on the LIBC premises from 1994 right up until the present has been the Club’s recognition of the importance of ensuring that the premises fit in with the rustic, natural environment that epitomises life on Leisure Isle and this is evident in the design and construction of all the facilities at the Club.

And so, now in January 2024, as we approach the end of the first quarter of the 21st Century, the Leisure Isle Boat Club can look back with pride at the long journey which has led us from small beginnings way back in 1982 to where we are now with one of the best facilities of this nature anywhere in South Africa. And yet, the Committee and the LIBC Members do not sit back and rest on our laurels, but rather we are looking forward and making sure that we continue to improve and grow and meet the needs of the future. The current 50 year lease we have with the Knysna Municipality expires in 2042 and we need to have that renewed and extended.

The harbour will continue to require significant maintenance and repair and soon the Committee will have to address the very real problem of silting of the harbour basin and approach channel and the perimeter fence will have to be replaced in the not-too-distant future.. These and many other projects are all matters that the Committee continues to discuss and plan for the future. We salute and give thanks to the founding fathers of Leisure Isle Boat Club and we give our assurance that we will continue to carry their legacy forward for as long as we are able.