If ever there was a hat, that a rabbit as large as “Paignton Harbour Festival Day” was pulled out of, then it surely had to be that of the
Magician Simon Pinder, Harbour master and his committee. Paignton Harbour has to be one of the most magical places in Devon, community is everything, and today certainly proved that.
Regatta week always attracts a heavy contingence from the rowing scene, many clubs supporting from various locations.
I’ve had a connection here since the 80’s, with The Rowing Club, Harbour Sports and Birchell Marine, from sideboard surfer to powered jet skis to super ribs, always a smile from strangers, many a comment from a heckling tourist and continued trusting comfort from fellow Mariners, all sounds rather soppy doesn’t it?
Well, I can tell you now, many a soppy mariner makers an unsloppy sailor, much advise is passed on, fellowship is made and trust is earned, laughter always comes free, but, fools are easily noticed and not taken on too lightly.
A new venture outlet opened in the mid Eighties on South Quay by Frank Sobey and his partner, Offering ranges of clothing & sailing activities and windsurfing courses, this place located next to Paignton Rowing Club was the social hub of the area, many waterborne courses being run on Saturday mornings, using floating devices the size of your grandmothers sideboard, here *we* we’re all tethered together off of the beach, Frank from his dingy barking out orders to us newbies balancing precariously on these balks that were at least twelve feet long, masts as tall as telegraph poles and sails the size of builders tarpaulins, this man has always had the patience of a saint, as he still has today, a true gentleman, always with a smile.
They were happy days, and this day, proving that too.
The beach now at its lowest ebb, numerous teams and their gigs awaiting the start of the races, perfect weather that had been ordered ahead, had been delivered right on time.
I can’t remember the last time I’ve ever seen so many people, approaching from the promenade towards the Harbour Lights restaurant was an amazing experience, North Pier was almost taken over by sliding frame experiences, so many families, the queues for boat rides that were selling for free moved steadily as the tide that was gaining upon them.
Children segregated on the harbour beach were constructing mystical castles and fortresses with such imagination that might blow all the carbuncles off of Prince Charles’ architectural hit lists if given a chance, a bossy girl in pleated skirt and spectacles gave orders to others as fast as those who accepted the instructions were obeying.
South Quay was writhing with people looking at, and into, the many pop-up gazebos, which were occupied by artists of many genres, safety first at sea guidance, food stalls offering sangria and tapas, ‘champagne’ & oyster bar, so very chic and popular,
Twelve foot diameter diving experiences at £8 a go were proving popular, although, what can you do at that short depth apart from going around and around the bendz! ( no pun intended) I have no idea!
The trusty Boat shop displaying *toy* jet skis, great now if you fancy being a digital character out of Tron the movie, with engines the size of lawn mowers.
What’s changed? Is there still the comardary within this sport?
What happened to the days of craft with motors with more horse power than a land Beemer, the untamed super chargers and that crazy breed of white water knuckle head riders?
They certainly didn’t have to think twice about making up a convoy heading around the berry head in a force 8, mad, Mad MAD! (Weather permitting of course)
Fish filleting workshops and crab picking lessons graced against the walls of the yacht club and factory, no hanging about here, a stall selling crab meat, so much of it, infact it was way past your eyes!!
The main exhibition tent was partially occupied with wondrous creations and their talented creators, in the other half, industry professionals and chefs displayed their culinary expertise with master classes of gutting fish, making Sushi, creating fine dining masterpieces and giving advise, some we knew, some we did not.
Local performers sang shanties, strummed guitars and cajoled with the crowd.
Of course, the beer tent, always a crowd puller, was busy, local brewery, Bays, providing three of their famous cask ales,
an array of ciders for seafarers and landlubbers alike, impossible queues of salivating customers waiting to share choices of scallop & chorizo rolls, fresh mackerel, ling salsa tacos and of course, the ever popular mussel dish, aka moulles.
The atmosphere here today was amazing, something for everyone, here it is, all in one very special place, infact, as Paignton Harbour Festival Day stands, ‘it’ certainly proved today, that this was Devon, at its finest.
And what better way to give this event such character, certainly larger than life, it’s only Captain Jack Sparrow, arriving on a boat ….. Crazy crazy crazy!