Members will be saddened at the loss of founding member and former commodore, Dr Ernest Bennie, who has died at the age of 83.
46 years ago, in 1976 Ernest was asked by Bobby Corbett to help him form a sailing club for doctors. The Serpent Yacht Club had their first ever muster that year, when 21 yachts raced to Colintraive on a stormy day in May. Ernest, his wife Norma and their young family were one of only a handful to pass the finish line on board their Elizabethan 29, Taal.
Ernest was a colourful character and a prominent consultant psychiatrist. His self-prescribed therapy in the late 1970s was to accept the challenge of building his own boat. He purchased a UFO 34 hull and deck, and fitted it out at Argyll Marine in Renfrew. Launched in 1979, Hulahoop was originally kept at the latest marina on the Clyde - Troon, which is now run by Stephen, Ernest’s eldest son.
Hulahoop was later upgraded to a Sun Fizz, Quechica in 1986, which cruised widely from its base at Largs. The plethora of teenage crew on board still reminisce about some of the best holidays they’ve had. A highlight was the CCC’s 1989 Blue Water Race from Kip to Brest in France, experiencing the 200th anniversary of Bastille Day in Belle Isle.
In 1998, the Sun Fizz was replaced with another Jeanneau, the Sun Odyssey 45 called Benita, returning this time to berth at Troon. Life-long friendships were formed over the years between Serpent Yacht Club participants, and also their children.
Ernest served as commodore in the 1980s. He and the committee were instrumental in extending and widening the membership to other NHS employees and their families. Supported by his wife, Norma, as social convener for four years, get togethers and BBQs became a fabric of the club.
A regular venue for club dinners was the Carrick - a surviving clipper ship moored at the Broomielaw on the Clyde, but when this became untenable, Ernest’s many and varied tastes came into play. He introduced the membership to the Tuxedo Princess - an iconic, but notorious white vessel that was nicknamed (amongst others) as ‘The Love Boat’. The loyal membership supported his suggestion, despite the unusual venue. Thereafter, club social events reverted to more fitting venues like The Glasgow Art Club and The Western Club.
Ernest’s loyalty to the club and its lively programme of musters and races meant his family endured many long, wet, windy sails. But his seamanship and detailed knowledge of the relevant charts ensured the safety of all concerned. He was a cautious but adventurous sailor - prioritising the safety of crew.
His favourite days on the water were calm seas and strong sunshine. The engine would take the strain and the crew diverted to a quiet anchorage where Ernest would hop on his windsurfer, or dive - lightly clad - into the sea to cool off.
His pleasure at developing a good, all round tan, encouraged him to expand his sailing exploits outwith Scotland and over to the Mediterranean. He explored the waters around Majorca, France and then Spain, where he enjoyed 11 years of warm weather sailing. Following his Mediterranean adventures, Ernest chartered yachts in the Caribbean and assisted his cousin and crew to sail from Largs to Greece, on route to Israel.
Life took a quieter pace after Ernest and Norma’s move from Glasgow to Rhu, with marine exploits confined to motor boating with friends on the Clyde, where he enjoyed many champagne lunches in favourite anchorages.
Despite a few health problems, Ernest’s love of the water drew him to return to motor boating in 2012 on Loch Lomond, where he had his first boat as a student medic. He spent ten enjoyable years exploring the loch. Never content with just a regular boating experience, he insisted on having a paddle board, a kayak, wetsuits, and drysuits all stored in the available locker space, for young and old to enjoy together.
Even until Ernest’s final weeks, he enjoyed pottering on the loch where he had made many friends. He took great pleasure and satisfaction in encouraging his grandchildren to respect and enjoy the water.
Ernest was an adventurous, wise and entertaining character who will be sorely missed.