Riversway Festival 2013

Preston Riversway Festival is an annual event celebrating Preston’s maritime past and present.  Up until the city’s dock closed in 1981 it was a hub of maritime traffic with a strong merchant shipping industry and regular ferries to Northern Ireland. Since then the country’s largest inland dock has been redeveloped with retail outlets and housing, but still retains a thriving marina and the Ribble Link provides locked access to the estuary and the Irish Sea from the Lancaster canal. The festival has previously been organised by Preston City Council and the 2012 event, coinciding with the most recent Preston Guild year, was well-attended. The austerity measures faced by public services countrywide saw the festival axed, but local businesses and community groups were keen to see such successful even continue – including the Morecambe Bay unit of the Maritime Volunteer Service. Whilst the Ribble Estuary is outside the normal geographic and economic boundaries of the Bay, the unit is the only one in Lancashire so despite its name it is involved in activities county-wide. Being a small unit, Morecambe Bay members requested support from the neighbouring region and were very happy to be assisted by volunteers from Liverpool City unit.

An early start saw the unit’s Rigid Raider (MVS V423) launched by crane from the boatyard, thanks to staff at Preston Marina, along with the Regional Volunteer Officer’s own boat. The main thrust of the day was provision of safety boat cover for the charity dragon boat racing which has become a key part of the festival in recent years. With MVS assistance to the event it meant the charities involved did not have to pay for costly commercial provision of safety boat services thereby maximising the amount of public donations to the charities.  Unlike some other providers, our boats were both double-crewed with trained volunteers and equipped with the necessary rescue and first aid equipment, meeting best practice standards. The charities which benefited from MVS involvement were:

Christian Aid
Galloway’s Society for the Blind
Derian House
East Lancashire Hospice
Rosemere Cancer Foundation
Caritas Care
Royal Air Force Association

In between the race heats, MVS volunteers with less experience afloat were able to utilise both the open water at the east of the dock to develop their boat-handling skills, with the marina providing an excellent opportunity for slow-speed maneuvering skills. MVS boats were also able to provide assistance to other boaters attending the festival, including assisting a broken-down dinghy back to its parent yacht on berth.

In addition to the activities afloat, the MVS also had a display amongst the festival marquees to spread the word about the Services’ activities and training opportunities. Several expressions of interest were received which bodes well for the expansion of the MVS in Lancashire.