Last Saturday was the annual ceremony of the “Blessing of the Boats”, a poignant tradition that lets us remember all those whose lives are on the water, those who work there and those who watch out for them. The solemn moments are counterbalanced by the accompanying Riverbeach festival with its events, food, market stalls and live music.
I watched this year from the narrow strip of ‘beach’ between the Fish Quay and the New Quay and have recorded some of my thoughts in this poem. I have borrowed from Psalms 107 (v23) and John Masefield’s poem ‘Cargoes’.
The Blessing of the Boats
Ships of verse course waters of my mind:
that quinquireme of Nineveh; the galleon,
stately and Spanish; the dirty British coaster;
rowing, dipping, butting ships
riding ebb and flow of tides of time.
The dinghy weaves through the Teignmouth fleet,
the man in his green fisherman’s smock,
the lad in blue Crab Shack top,
their crab-pot cargo racked between,
left to writhe at tide-edge on the beach.
The ‘Girl Rona’, kayaks, ribs, ferryboats, skiffs
jostle bucking between the quays;
just memories the banks of Newfoundland
where Teignmouth men once sought out seas of cod
and sailed with salted riches home to redstone cliffs.
Scudding psalmic words dip and echo from quay to Ness:
“They that go down to the sea in ships,
that do business in great waters.”
We sing to those in peril, a sailors’ prayer, a silent pause,
the passing of the leaves of peace, the boats are blessed.
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