Blessing of the Waters at Brightlingsea is normally sunny, but on 29th May 2022 it rained, and then it rained some more!
Despite the rain the open-air service at the Hard was very well attended and the Cinque Port Deputy's Procession was enriched with a number of Cinque Port Mayors and Mayoresses from Kent and Sussex alongside their Essex coastal counterparts.
At the Hard the Town Crier made his declaration, then the Deputy of the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea, Mark Wilby welcomed everyone. The Lord Warden’s Droit-gatherer for Brightlingsea, Roger Tabor delivered a message from the Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports. The Speaker of the Cinque Ports, Mayor of the Cinque Port of Hythe Jim Martin gave a reading in the service, followed by our own Mayor Mick Barry. The Motley Crew sang supporting the combined voices of the large crowd.
The Area Dean of St Osyth, Rev Canon Lawrence Bond and the Vicar of Brightlingsea, Chaplain to the Cinque Port Liberty Rev Caroline Beckett blessed boats on the Hard with water – in addition to the considerable amount falling from the skies!
Once the processionaries were aboard the boats on the town jetty, then the "Din" of horns, bells, whistles to help 'Beat our Bounds' erupted as the boats set off. The main flotilla consisted of the only remaining skillinger smack Pioneer, the smacks Priscilla, My Alice and Maria, with Dutch barge Sietske, former Trinity House launch Trinity, and working boats Maverick and LuLabelle. They were followed by rowing gigs, numerous yachts, cruisers and sailing dinghies. The boats were dressed in colourful pennants and bunting but this year – instead of flying freely – they drooped in the wet!
Where Brightlingsea Creek meets the Colne Estuary, the boats hove-to, and the Area Dean laid a cross on the waters and blessed them. Then some beer was drunk to the traditional toast of "Gang-ho!" and the Motley Crew sang for the flotilla from the Dutch barge.
After a gap of two years when the ceremony took place in semi-virtual form due to the covid pandemic, a return to the normal full event was gratefully welcomed despite the weather!. Despite the conditions, or perhaps because of them, there was more laughter echoing around the boats between the "Dins" than usual. People enjoyed themselves!