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The Portishead Small Boat and Sea Angling Club was formed in 1994. Its membership is drawn from the boat owners, crews and families of those who fish in the waters of the Severn Estuary and the Bristol Channel.
The Club inspected all accessible sites in the Portishead area and found that Woodhill Bay was the only viable one. There was already an access to the beach there, used by the council for beach cleaning purposes etc. After discussions with the Council it was agreed that the Club should use this slipway for a trial period.
By May 1998 the Club had used this temporary slipway for its Club competitions etc. with no complaints. Despite clearing the largest of the rocks from in front of the slipway, it was really only possible to launch and retrieve the boats with the aid of four wheeled drive vehicles and even then it was only possible to use the slipway for approximately one hour either side of high tide on spring tides and it was not possible to use it at all on neap tides. After consultations with the following authorities and agencies - Woodspring District Council, North Somerset Council, Portishead Town Council, English Nature and The Bristol Port Company - it was decided that the Club should engage a firm of consulting engineers to draw up plans for a permanent slipway and to submit them for planning permission. Despite incorporating all the safety measures and requirement requested by the relevant bodies and having approval from English Nature and Portishead Town Council, the plans failed to get past the Planning Committee of North Somerset Council. About this time developers were in discussion with the Council to change the old Portishead Dock into a marina so it was agreed with the Council officers to continue using the temporary slipway at Woodhill Bay until the new lockgates were installed at the new marina, when we would then be able to use the slipway at the Parish Wharf.
The new marina opened in May 2001 and members gradually stopped using the slipway at Woodhill Bay and started to use the one in the marina, this gave approximately three and a half hours access to the channel either side of high tide but had the disadvantage of having to pay for use of the lock gates.
Since the opening of the marina, quite a few members opted to purchase larger boats and keep them on a permanent mooring in the marina and membership increased as more boat fishermen have moved to the area but unfortunately, due to the redevelopment of the old Parish Wharf part of the site, the slipway was closed on the 5th of July 2005. A new slipway was constructed into deep water along side the boat hoist, club members could no longer launch their own boats and they could not just turn up to on the spur of the moment but had to book a slot days in advance which was not always convenient. Membership of trailer boating members quite understandably started to drop off but at the time of rewriting this brief history of the club, January 2010, after long discussions with the management of the marina, agreement has been reached to allow members to launch their own boats again subject to strict conditions and at a greatly reduced cost to that paid by the general public. We now have a strong base from which to rebuild the club for both marina based and trailer boating members.
The Club is very safety conscious and has a strict set of rules, which have been approved and complimented by representatives of many maritime agencies. At our Club meetings we have had lectures from HM Coastguard, the Bristol Channel Pilots, the Assistant Haven Master, the UK Hydrographic Office and Cosalt Marine Safety and Marine Electronics of Avonmouth to name but a few.
Bill Griffiths January 2010
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