AT one stage in Port Alfred- circa 1860s, the townsfolk entered an era of “boat-racing” of a slightly alternative mode.
This rather blurred photograph is the only one we could find to illustrate the sailing that started here. From handed-down stories, we understand that the normal, wooden, fishing boats would have been converted to sail.
The “town-fathers” agreed to build a floating jetty from the bank of the river, off the railway yard. You can see the railway shed in the picture. As usual, for all celebrations, the residents and visitors dressed for the occasion. Tents were set up on the banks of the river, and picnics would have been the order of the day.
Tents for picnics were essential. They would be used as resting areas for elderly women, shelter for mothers breast-feeding, and likewise for young children.
We understand that these races were akin to horseracing, the fever of excitement so palpable as to result at times into physical fighting over the results. Even the mere tip of the sail could be construed as a win, let alone the nose of the boat.
Coinage was exchanged as in all betting, which too would have added to the burden in a household.
Unfortunately, the results for the boat races, like the horse events, were seldom recorded. This was an annual event, for which posters would have been put around the village and a notice placed in the local newspaper of that time.