By Alan Thorne
FAVERSHAM SKIFFIE FEST 2022
This three-day event powerfully demonstrated the pleasure and thrill of racing boats in
Faversham Creek. 13 teams from the town plus one team from Herne Bay competed in time
trials from Faversham Bridge to Crab Island and back, a distance of just under half a mile.
The buzz and excitement were reminiscent of Faversham Raft Race but without the eggs and flour! 300 watched and cheered from both sides of the Creek. Some of the rowers had never rowed before. Others had been rowing for most of their lives. Their joy is evident on the faces.
COMMUNITY BOAT BUILD
Elegant, graceful, traditional styled, wooden rowing skiffs are being hand-crafted by
Faversham’s children and adults. They’re aged 12 to 87 years! Our workshop is in The Purifier
Building at the head of Faversham Creek, next to The Basin. You’re very welcome to drop in
to take a look, smell the wood, the glue, the varnish and the paint. Join the construction of the next skiff for a couple of hours per week. No prior experience is needed as all sessions are instructor-led and guided. Use hand tools, learn skills and help create a beautiful fiveman skiff to be proud of. The camaraderie is wonderful between all ages and backgrounds.
A growing number of rowers are discovering the joy of rowing on Faversham Creek. These St Ayles skiffs are capable of coastal rowing. Famous boat designer, Iain Oughtred, followed the lines of the Fair Isle skiff, so they are extremely stable and seaworthy craft. Experienced rowers and complete novices love rowing our two skiffs, Avocet and Findlay Macdonald. It was the late Findlay who suggested we build one for each of the four wards of our town. Skiff number three will be launched at 2.00pm, next to the bridge, on Saturday October 29th. Don’t miss it! You can also come for a taster row that afternoon in one of our three skiffs!
THE BASIN AND CREEK
The sea flows into the heart of Faversham. It once carried important trade in and out. Ships,
large and small, were built here. Time passed and it appeared that the creek had served
its purpose. The creek began to silt up with mud and so a vicious cycle began: fewer ships could navigate to the head of the creek which led to more silting. The sluice gates become defunct. The swing bridge no longer swung to allow vessels to enter the basin. Now the once
vibrant basin looks no more than a duck pond.
The basin is a neglected treasure, right in the heart of Faversham! Admittedly, it’s buried by a load of mud. But, as we all know, treasure is worth digging up. There’s huge potential for this stretch of water. It can be both beautiful and of great value to the people of Faversham once again. It doesn’t take much imagination or a great vision but with conviction and determination, the heart of Faversham can be transformed. The benefits would be enormous and Faversham’s Basin would be a destination for locals, tourists and sailors alike.
COMMUNITY IS KEY
Isolation due to Covid, obsession with TV, “smart” phones and gaming is not healthy. Humans need real interaction and, maybe, the financial crisis will encourage us to socialise again.
The St Ayles skiff boat building communities throughout Scotland and N Ireland have had an extremely positive impact upon towns and villages, bringing together disparate groups in remarkable and moving ways. We’re seeing the fruits of this with our own community boat building and rowing project.
Training, exercise, team building, youth programmes, social rowing and preparing for the World Skiffie Championships are all on the agenda! A community of helpers and leaders is also beginning to grow.
We want to introduce Adaptive Rowing to enable people with disabilities to participate
in rowing our skiffs (some already engage in building the boats). We need floating pontoons to enable easy embarkation. These pontoons would also allow us to dry-store the skiffs in the basin for ready access when the tide is up.
Let's push for the sluice gates to be repaired. Then rowing and dinghy sailing can take place whatever the state of tide.
By Brian Pain
Despite the fact that the Creek Trust cannot exploit the potential of the location of its organisation at the side, of the creek basin, which completely scuppered any chances of realistically doing any real boat repair or restoration work alongside the Purifier building,
commendably, boat builder Alan Thorne, based in the building, has persevered and
achieved considerable success.
He has shown commendable initiative with his training scheme to teach a wide range of people how to build rowing skiffs and also encourage greater interest in the potential of the creek by staging rowing races.