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downsmail.co.uk


Boat gathering lights up river


THE prospect of poor weather failed to deter boat owners sailing into Maidstone for the new “gath- ering of boats”. Almost 100 boats berthed in the


town for the informal gathering, or- ganised by River Medway Boaters, which last year replaced the Maid- stone River Festival. The gathering was a great social


event, according to spokesman Mark Smurthwaite, who said itwas now a fixture which would con- tinue in its present form for “many years to come”. There had been attempts to re-


vive the old-style festival this year but Mr Smurthwaite said: “The boaters do not want a fun fair, stalls, bands and all the grief that goes along with being part of an or- ganised festival. “From speaking with the boating community, the general consensus


was thatwe do notwant an official event –we are quite happy to carry on with our own gathering as we have done for 37 years.” Mr Smurthwaite said 90% of the boaters were happy with the gath- ering as it was – although he criti- cised Maidstone Council for its apparent lack of interest in the river as a tourist attraction. This year’s gathering coincided


with the Ramblin’ Man Fair, which the council claimed would boost the town’s economy by £700,000 and bring up to 20,000 visitors to the town. But Mr Smurthwaite said: “Yes,


lots of people travelled to and from Mote Park but very few stopped in Maidstone or spent any money in the town.” In contrast, one boat owner alone


– moored alongside Mr Smurth- waite and who visits every year –


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spent more than £500 during the five days he was berthed on the Medway. Mr Smurthwaite said: “It is such


a shame that the council cannot see the benefit in promoting the river as a positive attribute to the county town, despite using a picture of it on much of their literature.” Prior to the gathering, police is-


sued a warning to visitors to stay safe and behave responsibly on the water. However, one speedboater – un- connected with the gathering –was spoken to by police after driving dangerously close to young chil- dren bobbing about in dinghies, and causing a swell which knocked other boat owners off their feet.


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