The idea of a boating club for small boat owners had come about in 1955, when small boats - trailer boats in particular - were rapidly growing in popularity. John Malitte, then editor of Sea Spray magazine, first mooted the need for a club to cater for small trailer boat owners, and wrote at length about the popular new pastime of trailer boating in the magazine. Co-incidentally, both John Malitte and Fred Walker, a trailer boat enthusiast, wrote to the OBC of America in the hopes of obtaining guidance for setting up a similar club in New Zealand.
When Fred called into the Sea Spray office, clutching the same set of helpful literature John had also received from the OBC of America, it was time to get things moving.
In August 1956 a group of interested boaties met in the boardroom of United Business Directories, the publishers of Sea Spray. From these beginnings it was decided the Outboard Boating Club of New Zealand would be formed, based on the format of the OBC of America.
The official opening of the OBC marina, April 30, 1960.
The club had a total of 15 foundation members, including Fred Walker who, while he would seem an ideal choice for president, declined the position. Stan Gleadow became the club's first president, supported by Gore Fisher as secretary/treasurer; Bob McRae, club captain; Fred Walker, chairman programme/attendance committee; Ron Abel, chairman publicity/membership committee; and Gordon Brookbanks, chairman technical and safety committee.
At the end of the first year the club had around 70 members, and counted an annual income of one pound per head entrance fee. With little to offer except camaraderie, any larger sum just couldn't be justified.
Members' boats ranged in size from John Hicks' 12ft dinghy to Stan Gleadow's 21-footer. Launching was commonly undertaken from the very slippery and steep Okahu Bay ramps.
The club's first big event was a cruise on the Waikato River attended by 21 boats laden with families, around 100 people in all. An organised weekend to Kawau Island was another major club undertaking. Then, as now, family involvement was what the OBC was all about.
Early monthly meetings were held at the Tamaki Yacht Club, initially on a Thursday night. It was later changed to a Tuesday, to avoid a clash with episodes of 'Coronation Street'!
The club's pennant was designed that first year, and a supply - made from real flag bunting not available locally - was sourced from Scotland.
At the club's second AGM the title of president was dropped in favour of the now familiar 'commodore' honorific. The club had also finally managed to boost its coffers. In 1958, it held the first annual Auckland Boat Show on the ground floor of the Farmers Trading Company car park building. New partners joined in the running of the show over the ensuing years, and it expanded and evolved - one memorable show was in 1975 when six million gallons of water went into a purpose-built pool at the Epsom showgrounds. The OBC's involvement with the boat show continued until 1980 when an industry downturn and increased costs forced the club's withdrawal.
With funds from that first show, which featured mainly club boats and three trade displays and attracted 15,000 visitors, it was time to go looking for a home.
Defeated in any endeavor to obtain land at Okahu Bay or Westhaven, members cast their eyes upon a rather unattractive site at Hobson Bay on Tamaki Drive, used as a rubbish dump. Initial approaches to the Harbour Board were unceremoniously rebuffed but members were not about to give up. Through sheer determination, persistence and the pulling of every string that could be reached, the OBC was finally given permission to occupy the land for an indefinite period.
With no launching facilities or clubhouse, and a channel approach that couldn't be used without dredging a lot of mud, the club members' work was just beginning.
In due course, fencing was erected, ground metalled, a ramp poured and a jetty built. The official opening of the OBC of New Zealand's marina was held on April 30, 1960. The club 'assets' numbered a car park, a 20ft ramp, a floating jetty, fixed walkway, and 350 enthusiastic members.
The first dredging of the channel occurred in 1961, a contractor and the Harbour Board (at 48 pounds/hour) handling the major part of the 30ft wide, 3ft deep dredging. OBC working bees wielding buckets and shovels did the rest.
Further work was undertaken the following year. Widening the channel, building an all-tide ramp with a pontoon jetty and catwalk, and two more ramps, all improved sea access for the club's boaties.
The popularity of trailer boating was still growing, and in order to encourage other regions to start their own Outboard Boating Club, the OBC of New Zealand was renamed the OBC of Auckland in 1963. Fundraising to build a clubhouse also started around the same time, and construction began in early 1968. Officially opened on Saturday May 18, the building came in slightly over budget at $30,000, but there was no need for the club to take on any debt.
Further development occurred in 1971/72 when an 11-foot by 200-yard section of Whakatakataka Bay was reclaimed for more parking, and in 1974 work on two more ramps commenced.
In 1981 the clubhouse extension was opened by Sir Dove-Meyer Robinson, the club's patron. Members were starting to move to bigger boats and an all-tide marina was planned for the OBC side of the Ngapipi Bridge. The first stage was completed in February 1983 and the Barry Eade Marina was officially opened in August.
Planning kept moving forward and despite being hindered by the 1987 stockmarket crash, funding was in place for a 200 berth marina extension, a car park suitable for 195 cars and trailers, and six new ramps, by 1990. Ten years after planning began, stage one of the marina extension commenced in September 1992 with 58 of the 66 berths signed up. Stage two began construction in 1995, and in July 1997 the project was fully completed.
Developments have continued over the years. In the past ten years, some of the major undertakings have been replacement of the ramps nearest the clubhouse in 2006, and re-dredging of the marina. And as most will be aware, the club today has significant plans for replacement of the almost 50-year old clubrooms, along with other facilities.
From relatively small beginnings, the club has thrived in its 60 years, and now numbers almost 2000 members. Much has changed, but the OBC's core values of family involvement and safe boating remain. As does the fact that the OBC is still the best darn boat club in Auckland. Happy birthday!
Where are all the boats? The OBC grounds looked quite different in the early '90s.