Once a year, rain or shine, a very mixed group of Medway leisure craft led by local fishing boats, accompanied by police RIBs and sometimes the Sheerness lifeboat, makes its way up and down the Medway. Held over two days on an early summer weekend, the flotilla Beats the Bounds of the Rochester Oyster & Floating Fishery.
ROFF, a very ancient organisation indeed, can trace its roots back to a charter granted by Henry III to the City of Rochester and another by Henry VI giving the local fishermen rights to harvest fish and oysters from the river. The charter was given further weight in 1729 when George II passed an Act of Parliament allowing management of the river to be organised and policed by ROFF.
Each year, Saturday starts early with the Mayor, as Admiral of The River, holding court in the Rochester Guildhall, listening to reports from the Chamberlain of the Fishery, as to how the year has gone. The health of the fishery is noted; poaching has been a problem in the past.
After the court the Mayor led by the Beadle makes his way round the corner to Rochester Cruising Club where a boat has been allocated as his Barge for the Day.
The flotilla then heads upstream to the upper limit of the fishery with members of the great and good aboard. Then it’s back down the river for refreshments.
Once again the fleet sets off following the ROFF fishing boats, this time heading downstream, frequently picking up vessels from some of the clubs and marinas as we pass. It is traditional that we fire a cannon at all the various clubs we pass and they answer in the same manner.
First “hove to” is the war grave of HMS Bulwark where a vessel is stationed for a wreath laying with local sea scouts and piper aboard. Then it’s off out past Garrision Point, sometimes with a water display from the Sheerness tugs and on to the SS Richard Montgomery
Again a “hove to” for a wreath laying and the Last Post before returning into Queenborough at the invitation of the Mayor of Queenborough and his good lady. Over 70 boats have been known to attend.
The festival is open to any boat, large or small, designed or built before 1970 – wood, steel, aluminium, fibreglass, ferro cement, sail, power, steam or other, the bigger the variety of boats the better the show. If in doubt as to whether your boat qualifies please email a photo and a short description.
Without classic boats, we will not have a festival, so we are delighted to offer free berthing for up to 5 nights for qualifying vessels that register with us before 31 August.
You must register by email and have received a confirmation email to attend. To register your Classic Boat please email email@example.com
Visitors (by foot)
Entry is FREE, the harbour will be open to the public to view the boats and meet the skippers. In addition, we plan to run passenger trips around the harbour and visit classic boats on their moorings. Last year almost 1000 people attended and the atmosphere was terrific.
Friday 28th Most of the Classic Boats arrive in harbour
Sat 29th Festival open 10am to 5pm
Sun 30th Festival open 10am to 2pm
We hope you can join us in making this 3rd festival even better than last year and a regular feature in the boating calendar.
SE Tugs have booked the 1948 motor tug Kent into the Maritime Festival in Ipswich on the weekend of 18-19 August. The Ipswich Maritime Festival features heritage vessels, tugs, tall ships etc and takes place on Ipswich Waterfront. Activities include Pirate & Sailor theme, Programmed stage of live entertainment (fully programmed all day both days), Street entertainers, Food market, Craft stalls, Bar, Vessels, Re-enactment activities and displays, Face painting, glitter tattoos, Funfair rides, Fireworks on Saturday night at 9:45pm
PS Waverley, the last passenger-carrying sea-going paddle steamer in the world, visited the Medway on Saturday as part of her annual round Britain cruise. The historic tug Touchstone was among the local boats that went out to meet her.
MSBA fan Mark Thorne, known to many as the first mate on X-Pilot, has acquired the classic Tom Pudding tug “Water Haigh” which is currently on the mud near Strood Pier. He is requesting help from 3 or 4 able-bodied people to refloat the tug on Thursday 12 October. X-Pilot will be assisting but someone with a workboat would be a great help. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or click Reply and I will pass on your details.
MSBA Chairman Brian Corbett was treated to a personal tour of the indescribably weird and wonderful steamship SS George Stephenson. The beautiful vessel is the brainchild of eccentric Dutch owner Vaas Stik who used hundreds of recycled components and materials, some more than a hundred years old, in her construction. The ship has both a steam engine and an eight cylinder 1950s Gardner diesel engine, both wonders to behold in their respective immaculate engine rooms The ship is moored on the waiting pontoon in the river at Chatham Marina and is free to visit this week only, so don’t miss the opportunity!
Chatham Maritime Food and Drink Festival will take place over the bank holiday weekend on 27-29 May. It’s a free-to-enter three-day event featuring local artisan food and drink producers, live music in the bandstand, Dragon Boat racing, a funfair, watersports and a charity fun run. We’re going to be joined by 15 of the original Dunkirk Little Ships as part of their commemorative cruise. They’re all members of the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships, and will be moored in Old Royal Dockyard Basin 1 in Chatham Maritime – a beautiful and inspiring sight. Owners will be on hand to chat to visitors about their very special boats during the festival. Everyone is welcome to a memorial service by the Ship and Trades pub on Sunday 28 May at 11am. We’ll also be joined by 20 Dutch barges from The Barge Association with members of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra doing some concerts on one of them on Saturday 27 May.