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.