BOAT OWNERS are being encouraged to join the fleet for next month's SeaFair maritime festival which attracts a host of traditional sailing vessels and seafarers to Milford Haven every two years.

“We've already had bookings from around 50 sailing vessels and 40 longboats from all over Britain and as far afield as Germany, with more applications arriving every day,” said event co-ordinator Alexandra Lort Phillips from Lawrenny.

“But we'd love to welcome lots more local boatowners to join in the fun, either by becoming officially registered with the event for the week or simply by joining in for a day sail and experiencing the special camaraderie of sailing the Haven as part of a flotilla of craft.”

This year's event runs from June 23-July 1, with the home base for the majority of vessels being Lawrenny Quay.

However some of the larger visiting boats will use Neyland Marina, while the longboats – which are coming for the second weekend – will be based at East Llanion Cove.

“This will be the first time for the Welsh Sea Rowers Association to be at SeaFair in such large numbers,” said Alex. “Richard Aherne of the WSRA came down from Porthmadog last week to check things out and he was very enthusiastic about holding a Celtic Sea Rowers Gathering on the waterway and being part of the festival.”

A full programme of sailing events has been planned for the duration of the festival, the highlights including a visit by the whole flotilla of sailing boats to Pembroke Quay on June 25 and a trip up to Cresswell Quay on Friday 29, with all participants encouraged to dress as pirates.

For spectators, the best time to view the whole fleet will be on June 30 when there will be a parade of sail off Pembroke Dock and Neyland promenade from 12.30pm onwards.

While the majority of the red-sailed vessels taking part will be relatively small, there will be some notable exceptions, including the Bristol Channel pilot cutter Olga, the round-the-world racing yacht Challenge Wales and the 96ft topsail schooner Johanna Lucretia which will be hosting evening dinner parties on her mooring off Lawrenny. Other evening entertainment will include live music and maritime film shows at the Lawrenny Arms, open to everyone, while there are plans for maritime-themed art and photography exhibitions to tie in with the event.

The whole festival is being organised and administered by a committee of local volunteers and will go ahead despite the setback of having had an application for funding rejected by Welsh tourism authority Visit Wales.

“This was particularly disappointing as Visit Wales has designated 2018 as 'The Year of the Sea' in Wales,” said Alexandra.

“SeaFair is an event which not only celebrates our maritime heritage but also shows off Milford Haven and the Cleddau waterway to its best advantage, bringing lots of people into the county. We thought we ticked all the right boxes, but sadly not,” she added.

“Fortunately we have an enthusiastic and hard-working committee and a lot of support from local businesses and community organisations, so there's no danger of SeaFair 2018 being scuppered by this Visit Wales rejection.”

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