It’s noon on a sunny Sunday, and Jensen Fisher is out on the Mordialloc foreshore attaching a crisp red and white sail to his O’pen Bic, a single-handed sailboat designed for younger sailors. It flutters lightly in the breeze as he sets about doing one of the things he loves most.
“The whole family does,” he declares.
At 12, Fisher is a member at Mordialloc Sailing Club, and today he is working alongside two other young sailors getting ready to participate in a sprint-series regatta.
Fisher has been sailing for three years. He was taught by “really good sailors from around the world”, he says.
“Also, my Dad!,” he pipes up. His father Graeme also found his sea legs at the club, guided by his own father.
rew Henry, the Vice Commodore of the Mordialloc Sailing Club, also joined when he was a child.
“I was about that 10 or 12 … I remember we were fascinated with all the marine life and the culture and the fishing, the crabs and the jellyfish and the fish washing up.”
Now he has spent more than half of his life by the Mordialloc club, where scores of boats are moored where the creek enters the sea. He is proud of the boating culture. As a teacher of many kids who love sailing, Henry believes that the boats play a big part in community building in Mordialloc. They connect people, he says. Families, too. Almost half of the members at the club are family memberships.
Established in 1946, the Mordialloc Sailing Club is located at the mouth of Mordialloc Creek. The black and white photos displayed on a wall and old wooden boats lying near the creek are testament to a rich past. “People love them,” Henry says.
With 200 members, the club has a variety of membership categories.
Some are social members, some are active sailing members. Some are “ancient mariners” who maybe don’t do too much sailing anymore. They are all volunteers. “People love to come down and just help out at the club. It’s a lot like a Sunday church – this club”, Henry explains. “It’s awesome.”
Nonetheless, it’s tough to expand the club with the limited resources of a community. Beyond charging membership fees of about $470 a year for a family, the club has to raise ongoing funds to keep operating.
In the end, survival turns on the enthusiasm of members to run events and navigate a way through the inevitable obstacles of running such an organisation.
While the likes of young Jensen Fisher provide hope that the club and its culture will survive, members aren’t taking any chances. They are preserving and archiving their story for future generations, creating time capsules with articles and photos to be discovered in 2021 and then 2046, the 100th anniversary of the club.
The archive records how the club, the community, the local council and State Government have all played a part in the evolution of the boating culture in Mordialloc, and in efforts to maintain the health of the creek that sustains it.
In 1934, a severe flood resulted in silt and pollution tainting Mordialloc Creek and it was shrouded in mud. Since then, the sailors have struggled with obstructions such as seaweed, sand and garbage. Drew Henry remembers one unusual obstruction – a “full-on, puffed-up dead cow” floating down the creek. He waited for it to float westwards enough so that he could retrieve it from the bay.
However, the creek has been a lot cleaner since the City of Kingston started a sustainable dredging program in 1997. Parks Victoria joined the maintenance dredging in 2017, along with local residents and those who love sailing as a sport volunteering to clean the grass and silt.
Sailing programs could only operate once the creek was linked to the ocean. The dredging program has also extended the life of the creek.
At the same time, the Mordialloc Sailing Club has grown its profile. In 2007 and 2008, the club held an international sailing championship, attracting people from Japan, Canada and elsewhere around the world. Every year around Christmas, it hosts a Mosquito championship, inviting sailors from around Australia. “That’s the ultimate, really,” Henry says.
The club’s current initiative is a community boat-building event which will be run for 12 months.
“People working on boats and messing around them … they love them,” Henry says.
For the full multi-media report, the latest in our series on ‘The Creeks of Melbourne’, click here.