The Star Craft Owners' Club was founded in 1993 by Mike Morell, Diana Bates and Carol Bates along with a group of enthusiasts in order to preserve and enjoy the classic Bates wooden motor cruisers. Since its inaugural rally in 1993, club members have been bringing their lovingly restored boats to gatherings up and down the Thames.
With each passing year, the number of highly restored craft has increased, as has the size of the membership and the attendance at club rallies. Today, most owners of operational Star Craft boats are members of the Star Craft Owners' Club.
Commentary by Diana Bates, Former Commodore "I first met Mike and Sylvia Morrell one rainy Saturday afternoon at a Henley Festival weekend. They had been in touch with a few Star Craft owners and invited them to attend a sort of 'Open Day' at Henley, with the prime objective being the formation of a club for owners of Star Craft.
On this extremely wet day, I joined Jack and Lillian Reardan who owned a 45ft Star Craft called La Chemme and we motored in tandem towards Henley, stopping not too briefly I am pleased to say, at the Red Lion Hotel for lunch - after which, braving the elements, we proceeded towards the then very muddy Fawley Meadows.
We squelched our way towards Deirdre Loiuse, which we could see in the distance; Pace was moored just ahead of them. We were invited aboard by Mike & Sylvia and spent the next few minutes trying to find a suitable spot to deposit our wet clothes, at the same time apologising for being late, but were told that we were, apart from Pace, the only people they had seen. Mike and Sylvia made us feel most welcome, very bravely I thought, considering we had brought half of Fawley meadows onto their beautiful boat.
We listened with interest to Mike's ideas. He and Sylvia had been trying for some time to form a club for the owners of Star Craft. After some discussion, the suggestion was made that the objective might be more easily achieved by having the Bates family involved . . . . the seeds were sewn!
Some months later, my own Star Craft, Lady Bea, was still an embryo at Mike Dennett's yard and the phone calls between Mike, Sylvia and myself were dwindling. However, some timely nagging from Jack revived our enthusiasm and we decided that we should hold a rally at Chertsey - the birthplace of the Star Craft. Thus it was that in September 1993, with flags flying and lots of enthusiasm, the first Star Craft rally took place.
The morning dawned cloudy, but dry and as more and more boats started to arrive panic overtook excitement. Where were we going to put them all? We had organised some moorings, but evidently not enough! Some quick thinking and sweet-talking to my nephew, Richard Bates, who moved his boats off the front moorings he rents from us, and we were able to find homes for one and all. A happy day was spent getting to know everyone and having a chance to look over their boats.
A dinner was held at Bridge Hotel on the Saturday night and the Sunday saw many 'hang-overs' - soon forgotten when owners without their boats, friends and e-Star Craft owners began arriving. On Sunday afternoon, a 'Sail Past' was organised - I joined the craft involved in Lady Bea, whilst John took a video of the occasion from his balcony. We were both extremely emotional to have witnessed fifteen Star Craft cruising up river past their birth place and knew that if Dad could have seen this sight he would have been very proud - a truly momentous occasion.