Saying goodbye to St Piran

I would have done more or less anything to get myself on a boat over the bank holiday, I’m not necessarily the world’s most boat-y person (unless the occasional trip on a Thames sightseeing tour counts), but I live in Cornwall and the weather was nice, so it seemed like the done thing. That meant that when I heard about a boat trip that sounded both like, well, just like a boat trip on a nice day, and also weird and Cornish in the best possible way, it was a no-brainer.

The whole point of the trip was to see and bless a statue of St Piran. He had been sculpted somewhere in Penryn, and he was all set to make a voyage to Brittany to join a few hundreds of his saintly friends in the Valley of The Saints, because he has way better holidays than me.

I picked up the boat in Falmouth in the middle of a beautiful afternoon. Having recently embraced maxi skirt life and, as a result, having experienced a newfound inability to take big enough steps to do anything, I even let the nice boat man hold my hand as I climbed aboard, which I assume means that we’re married now.

Upon boarding, I was confronted with three vicars and bishop. I’d conveniently forgotten the whole ‘blessing’ part of the deal, so focused had I been on the serious business of having a pint on a boat. But there they were. It soon became clear that I was practically the only person on board who didn’t know somebody who was directly involved in the making of the statue, daily life in Brittany, or Catholicism. But we could still have a good time.

We sailed out of Falmouth harbour and did a little tour of the Carrick Roads as the sun beat down and those with hats tried to keep them attached. We paused only to say hello to the seal who lives on the boat bollard in the middle of the river (this is not a technical term, it’s just that I do not know the actual technical term), before sailing to St Mawes. Once there, we paused to drink our beers and stare at the people in the beer gardens doing the exact same thing, because we’re all British and nobody has a choice in the matter on a sunny bank holiday.

As we headed back we drew alongside a yacht (unless it wasn’t. I DON’T KNOW BOATS.) and there, in all his stony glory, lay St Piran. All 3 metres of granite of him. Everybody on the at-capacity boat rushed to the starboard side (I guess I know a bit of boats), and we listed like a scene from Titanic. We stayed at a near-forty-five-degree angle for the duration of the service. Passing fishermen took photos. I tried to stop picturing every ferry disaster that ever made the news.

One by one, the clergy clambered from one boat to the other before blessing everything. The statue, the boat, the sailors, you name it. They even blessed a couple of bottles of wine which we tucked into on the way home. We drank it from our plastic pint glasses in a display of exactly the kind of religious activity I could truly get on board with.

And then, in a blessed wine-induced haze, the whole thing was over. Everybody who knew somebody who’d been involved in creating St Piran (so, everybody) hung back, while I squeezed my way through the stripe-clad throng and back to dry land. Perhaps it was the sun, perhaps it was being on the water, or perhaps it was the relief at surviving a near-capsizing, but I even felt a little bit emotional about saying goodbye to St Piran.

(Oh wait. I checked. It was actually the wine.)

 

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