GBA President’s Annual Report 2023

On the 24th.March 1923, the Guernsey Boat Owners Association was formed by a group of local businessmen in the backroom of a shop in Smith Street.

Their GBA aims were “to foster and watch over the interests of any of its members in connection with boating”.

These aims have not changed over the past 100 years and neither has two other very important matters relating to local leisure boating, notably seeking adequate provision for more moorings and the rising costs of mooring fees.

There may have been many advances in technology, not only in boat design and in navigational aids like radar, GPS, AIS and Aton beacons but we still have a waiting list of 200+ for berths and now we are being threatened with draconian increases in mooring charges of 50-150%!

When the States of Guernsey decided to proceed with plans to convert the old harbour into the Victoria marina in 1973, this was done as a result of pressure from us to meet the growing interest and demand for more moorings as there was a waiting list of 200+ then.

The same applied in 1978 with the conversion of the South Side of the harbour into the Albert marina and guess what, the waiting list was still 200+. And again in 1987 with the construction of the QE2 marina and then in 2005 the St.Sampsons marina for the same reasons. Yes, there was controversy and resistance from some quarters, but our forefathers had the common sense to realise that they were witnessing an emerging and potentially lucrative source of new revenue for the Ports and for Guernsey’s economy.

At that time, the deal was for these marinas to be self-funding fuelled by the leisure boat mooring fees but that these fees, and I quote from the debate in the States, “ that they should be affordable”. Now, remember this because that’s the key word in this argument.

Yes, the Guernsey taxpayer provided the cash to build these assets and depreciation was factored into the mooring fees, according to reliable sources. The profits from our marinas have repaid this capital several times over during the past 50 years. Even during covid when we were not able to use our boats.

And we agreed to keep pace with inflation so this percentage has been included in our  berthing fees over the years.

Our marinas have restricted access either side of high water, and unlike marinas in France and the UK we don’t have security or car parking provision. But we’re not asking for that, all we want is a safe place to keep our 1350+ vessels secure.

We certainly are the only marina in this part of the world that’s funding an airport and its growing losses.

Our official response to these proposals has been well- publicised both in the local media and on our GBA social media network so if you haven’t seen them, please go to our GBA website for all the relevant details.

The GYC in conjunction with the RCIYC circulated their members with a survey to determine their views and this forms part of their official response to the authorities. At the same time, Guernsey Ports conducted their own survey of all local berth holders in the marinas and other areas of St. Peter Port and St. Sampsons harbours.

The results of these two surveys are now known and there was a resounding outcome from both. The GYC response shows that 25% of current boatowners who responded stated that they would be forced to sell their boats if these draconian increases were approved by the States members, and in the Gsy. Ports survey 63% said they would consider giving up boating for the same reasons, especially when factoring in other operating costs which have been affected by high inflation rates.

All of these survey summaries and the official responses from the GYC and the Marine Traders have also been posted on our social media for all to see.

We will be continuing this discussion at our AGM and I have asked our States Deputies to attend together with any members of the local media so that they can hear your views on this worrying subject. Also present will be representatives of Guernsey Ports to update you any of their endeavours to accommodate your needs and an update on the Pool Marina Project which could have a dramatic effect on their future income.

As I stated at the start of this annual report, this is our 100th. Birthday.  There has been considerable publicity about this memorable event with articles in the Guernsey Press and media interviews demonstrating our past support for you all. I’ve even done a podcast interview with the Priaulx Library which will be broadcast to their followers shortly!

I have updated John Torode’s history of the GBA after lengthy research which again you will find on our GBA social network.

We have had a special commemorative burgee produced to replace our old pennant, woven on both sides and on MOD material for long lasting qualities and these are available from our Hon. Secretary at a cost of £35 at the AGM or by request. We had hoped to host a special birthday party but there was poor demand for this so I hope you will purchase one of our new burgees which you can proudly fly on your boats, especially now that hopefully Covid is behind us and we can venture to foreign ports, albeit following their respective online systems for the appropriate notification.

In conclusion, your President and the GBA Committee members are continuing this long tradition of fostering and watching over your interests and as many of you are members of the Yacht Clubs too, I like to think that our hard work with many hours spent in negotiating with the authorities is helping all of us leisure boat owners and may attract new GBA members. Remember, it only costs £25 and coupled with the discounts we receive from certain marine traders, you certainly get more than your share in return.

Thank you for your on-going support and if you can afford it, plain sailing in 2024.

Nick Guillemette.

President of the GBA.