Boats ahoy as Quay celebrates


Last Sunday, August 2, Rye celebrated its vibrant and popular annual Maritime Festival. The usually quiet Strand Quay suddenly exploded into life. As the tide rose, boats of all shapes and sizes began to arrive. With flags and bunting flying from deck to masthead (known in nautical circles as being dressed overall), the old Quay started to take on a carnival atmosphere. The previous day and early on Sunday morning, organisers had been hard at work putting up more bunting, erecting small marquees and gazebos and organising a multitude of small displays.

The rockitmen rocking their stuff
The Rockitmen rocking their stuff

As the tide rose, so did the numbers of shore visitors. Space on the Quay became at a premium and it was not surprising. At one end, thankfully on the opposite side of the river, the Rockitmen performed as only they can and entertained the crowds as they queued in the beer tent and waited to sample some of Rye Butcher’s superb sausages and burgers.

But the Rockitmen didn’t have it all their own way. In competition further down the Quay were a jazz band, a traditional band and of course the Rye Ukulele Experiment, who were not only nimble with their fingers on the strings, but were also in fine voice. In between performances, one could browse the work of some of the town’s artists, admire carvings, donate to Missions to Seamen, risk kidnap by a bunch of pirates pretending to be the Lions (or was it the other way round, or indeed were they even Rotarians), catch up on the activities of the Sea Cadets, learn about first aid and resuscitation, meet the Hastings and Rye lifeboat crews and their boats and much more.

And that was just on shore. On the water, boats were moored two and three deep and the gentle sounds of popping wine and champagne corks could be heard, as well as the hissing of beer cans and the occasional agonised cry as a plate of smoked salmon sandwiches disappeared overboard.

Some boats were big, while others were not
Some boats were big, while others were not

In the middle of all this, Superman rose vertically from the middle of the river on two jets of water and stole the show with a display of skill moving upright across the top of the water, disappearing underneath only to surface in an explosion of spray as he took off 10 feet or more into the air. Not to be outdone Spiderman then arrived (actually it was Spiderwoman, but no matter, we live in an equality age) who proved to be every bit as adept as Superman.

Slowly, as the tide started to fall, the day started to slow down. Satiated by sun, food, ice cream and perhaps the occasional drink, the crowds started to thin out, one or two boats scuttled back to their regular moorings while there was still enough water and finally the only sound was that of the motor bikes, who, having been ejected from their usual parking spot, had taken over the cobbles at the far end, going through their usual ritual of revving up loudly before leaving the Quay, quiet and peaceful once more. Only another year and we can enjoy it all over again.

Superman visits Rye
….and then there was Superman

Photos: Ray Prewer, John Minter

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