Way back in 1961 I acquired my first boat and beach plot. In those days the annual fee was 30/- (£1.50) a year and my boat, Sea Hawk, was situated on Central Parade (north of the Royal Hotel). The old salts on that patch were: John (nutty) Revell, Frank Preston, Terry Harris, Bill Bailey, Tommy Upton, Bert Tookey and others. I can even remember a young Dave Skardon!
Boats lined the beach and there was a waiting list to hire a plot. Almost every day the charter fleet would be out with anglers – and bookings for the boats had to be done a year, or even two, in advance. All of the boats were made from wood; and Hilary Able’s boat building business in Middle Street, did a roaring trade. He specialised in 18 to 24 ft craft constructed from mahogany on oak – nice little beach boats and always popular with the locals.
It was this year that I retired from the beach and also as the Deal & Walmer Inshore Fishermen Association’s president. After 47 years I have seen a lot of changes. Needless to say all the ‘old fellas’ have long gone (apart from young Dave Skardon), and I wonder what they would have made of the present situation. Knowing them, they would have somehow exploited it to their own benefit! However, even in their wildest dreams, or nightmares, they would never have expected the lack of boating activity that has occurred.
Nevertheless, if this is progress, then so be it!
I have taken pleasure, in my time trying to make a living from the beach and have no regrets. From the many people, that I have met and worked with, I have enjoyed the banter and camaraderie.