Balderhead Sailing Trial – April 3rd 2016

Posted on April 5, 2016 10:03 am

Balderhead Sailing Trial – April 3rd 2016

This is not the usual slick and well-crafted narrative we all eagerly anticipate from our Bosun and ace writer, ChrisD. I have to add the “D” because there are lots of Chris’s at our club, and we even gained a new one last weekend!

Not many people have an imagination like “CD”. Or have a varied and in depth knowledge of local, national and International affairs; ably supported by his “rock” and proof reader extraordinaire, Anne.

Well, you didn’t think he did it all himself did you? It’s difficult to put pen to paper and be able to read it afterwards when the bottle of Chablis nears its end.

So here goes – the Weekly Ramble – are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin, but hopefully by not by droning on too much!



Now that the winter is finally over, some of us look forward to a late spring break before the busy summer season starts (sailing that is). Peace and quiet, good walking, moderate temperatures and wonderful scenery – maybe Austria or Switzerland this year or perhaps something a little warmer like Italy, with its fine lakes and mountains.

We are just spoilt for choice in Euroland and its nearby neighbours.

But then again, maybe we should keep away until after June 23rd – we don’t want to be grilled on the in/out debate whilst we are away, especially as most of our population (me included) hasn’t a clue about the real facts or likely outcomes. Surely we deserve to be better informed than the constant droning on, churning out the same standard, media approved sound bites and statements that all seem to be lacking any real evidence or value.

There, I digress; I said it would be a ramble, so back to the main theme.

Not everyone has the time or money for a holiday, so here is an alternative.



Try to image a sunset sail in magnificent Teesdale where you have virtually the whole of the water to yourself, apart from a few gulls, geese and an occasional wader for company.

Well, last Sunday was just such a day.

Charged with taking part in a gull disturbance trial, 4 sailing dinghies from Teesdale Sailing Club (soon to become the charity, Teesdale Sailing and Watersports Club) took to the water, aided by an army of “helpers” to ensure the plan ran smoothly.


For a small club, there is always an impressive array of volunteers to help make things happen. Our youngest today was Poppy (I am not going to tell you her age because that’s not polite) and our oldest, well let’s just say quite a few participants were over 70!

Poppy had been helping Mum, Rosie, in the morning, testing and cataloguing the clubs stock of buoyancy aids (we have a lot). In the afternoon she boarded the safety boat and went for a cruise and next week she gets to try out the clubs refitted (go faster) Oppies – it’s a tough life for some!

So what was this all about and why were we sailing on Balderhead?



Many of you will already know that we have been looking for a new home for the past 3 years. We have simply outgrown our current base at Grassholme and, if the club is to remain sustainable, it has to increase its activities and attract new participants and volunteers.

Balderhead gives us an opportunity to expand, but not just for sailing.

There is ample space for other exciting water sports such as windsurfing, canoeing and maybe even kite surfing. For the less adventurous there are walks and cycle routes right on the doorstep and, hopefully, we will be able to create a new centre where you can get a cup of tea and watch the action in the warm and dry.

If that still isn’t enough, how about visiting an observatory with a telescope almost as big as the one at Kielder Water? Interested? Then just watch this space – Balderhead is a Dark Skies site and plans are afoot.

However, before we can use the water and do all of this, we have to satisfy the conservation concerns about our sailing adversely impacting the local wildlife and, in particular roosting gulls. It’s just one of the penalties of living in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and an area where wildlife (some of it rare) can be seen.

The early signs are good so we are hopeful of some news soon as this is probably one of the biggest planned community projects in Teesdale and if the project fails, a local institution could eventually be lost and the community and wider area will be a lot poorer.


sailing5-1200x100Sunday was a very busy day, apart from the sailing. In the morning we had a visit from our local Teesdale Mercury reporter, Stuart, who came to write an article on why we were converting to a charity. Maybe a bit dry, we thought, with a glint in our eye!

To find out more you will have to buy a copy of the Mercury, but suffice to say, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has devised a new set of rules that will cause many amateur sports clubs to become charities in the future. It is just another case of targeting a problem and not fully understanding the consequences of making changes.



Being the intrepid reporter he is, and not wanting to miss a scoop, Stuart decided a return visit after lunch might be worthwhile. So, as the entourage from Grassholme approached Balderhead, he was there ready and waiting with his camera and notebook.

He met the conservation team and just as the first dinghy was launching, it was time for “the group shot” with the old defunct water ski club cabin in the background. There, I bet many of you did not know there was ever a water ski club in Teesdale and another case of “use it or loose it”.

Looking back, this launching was a quite a historical event as Keith (who knows a thing or two and can still remember most of it) pointed out that this was probably the first sailing dinghy on this water for 40 years!

Whoopee, I had been the first to arrive at Balderhead and, with a bit of help from John and William, managed to get my boat on the narrow launching ramp ready to win the race to the water and be featured in the Teesdale Mercury shot with lots of happy smiling faces.

So it came to pass, my Solo launched, quickly followed by Commodore Paul in his Laser, and we sailed off to sample the delights of this new water. So much space, so much quiet and so peaceful – this was a perfect way to de-stress.



Then, just when he thought it was all over, Stuart was handed a buoyancy aid (I told you we had a glint in our eye!), and he was directed to the safety boat to be taken afloat for some more action shots.

We (Paul and I) were joined by the Vago with an expectant trapeze artist wanting “burn some rubber” or whatever you call it on water.

This was quickly followed by one of the club Bahias – a 5 person dinghy – and, with a 5 person crew on board; it was no competition. Take the kite next time boys!

In the end it all worked out fine, we kept Stuart dry (from spray) and we look forward to seeing the reports when they are published.


DSC_0061-1200x100With the initial excitement over, the sailors relaxed a little more and got into a groove, up and down the water, but there was a final twist.

Word had obviously got out that Balderhead was to receive our visitation. Yes – Balderhead, supposedly the coldest dale in Yorkshire (sorry Durham), had spectators.

Whilst sailing up the water towards a small flock of gulls and a couple of swans, we had also been spotted by an alien machine in the sky. It was definitely armed so we decided the best thing to do was act natural and keep our heads down, something that sailors around the world are renowned for.

The alien turned out to be a real drone taking advantage of the fine weather and stunning views.

So there you have it – two drones for the price of one. The sailing club always tries to give good value for money!

Not a lot happens in Teesdale then does it? Well, not until the next time and fingers crossed we get to build our new watersports centre.

And, as for me and my holiday – just this time, I have booked a train trip to Switzerland to do some alpine walking just before the Brexit vote and the subsequent fallout.

Many thanks to Howard Pearson who we tracked down (or at least ChrisB did) and kindly allowed us to show some of his aerial drone pictures. And thanks to ChrisB for the other on land pictures.