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Vetch’s Beach activist pens book

The book tells the story of the history of the Durban Paddle Ski Club, and the battle to save Vetch’s Pier from development.

THE history of the Durban Paddle Ski Club and a record of the battle to save Vetch’s Pier from development feature in a new book by local Vetch’s Beach activist, Johnny Vassilaros.

Johnny said the initial idea behind the book, Little Boats and Big Fish… And Big Snakes Too, came about when secretary of the club, Lyn Cloete, asked him if he would write down some information about the club which was considered unique back in the 80s because it was the only club that used Crocker skis.

“I thought ‘sure, the club wasn’t too old, how hard could it be?’ and started writing. That was 25 long, hard years ago! I’m elated and relieved that it is finally finished,” said Johnny.

The book begins with the intriguing story of the building of Vetch’s Pier in the 19th Century, and the North and South Piers.

The cover of the book.

It describes how a tranquil lagoon was transformed into the busiest harbour in the country.

It then traces the roots of the fishing boating industry, from the humble Crocker ski in the 1940s and its evolution to the fishing skis of today.

And of course, the history of the Durban Paddle Ski Club.

ALSO READ: The slow death of Durban’s Vetch’s Pier

This story brings to life many characters, through their amazing and often amusing tales of courage and plain madness, in their pursuit of big fish on their little boats.

This book will have you in stitches as it describes what these rough and tough but lovable characters got up to, both on and off the water.

Numerous tales are woven into one smooth flowing story with many photos to stir the memory of the reader.

Vetch’s Pier in a spring low in the 1990s.

Johnny said it was a ‘nightmare’ tracking down old members of the club and getting true accounts of events.

“I got different stories on things that happened. I had to put together a facts file and a ‘BS’ file! The next problem was weaving the stories together in chronological order for it to flow, and gathering photos,” he said.

Johnny said the writing of the book took a back seat during the years when he and club members were fighting to save Vetch’s Pier and Beach from development.

ALSO READ: Position of new promenade raises concerns

“The rest of the book was written in bits and pieces, to tell the story of the crucial role the club played in preventing Vetch’s Beach and reef from being buried under concrete by the proposed small craft harbour, which was later abandoned. It tells how the smallest club sacrificed all it had to save Vetch’s Beach while all the other bigger and richer clubs sat on the sides criticising it during its long and bitter struggle,” he said.

Johnny said there are no punches pulled here, and all the lies and deceit, threats and bully tactics, the secret deals, and the disregarding of legal agreements and the law itself by the municipality, are all laid bare.

“I still tried to keep my dry sense of humour along the way, despite the emotions and anger I felt through the process. I started to dive at Vetch’s Beach as a young child, it is a special place and I fought so hard to preserve it,” he said.

The book ends with an informative section on the most common fish that are caught along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline with the main emphasis being on the Durban area.

“The book will appeal to anyone who has fished off a paddle ski and off the beachfront, members of the Durban Paddle Ski Club and other boating clubs on Vetch’s Beach, and anyone else who has an interest in the ocean or the affairs of the city,” he said.

The retail price of the book is R395.

Email littleboatsandbigfish@gmail.com for banking details and to arrange delivery.



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