Roger Goodyear can well remember the moment when he became entranced with the maritime charms and nautical nuances of the little village of Portsoy.
It was back in 1993 when a few of the residents decided to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the creation of their harbour in 1693.
Their efforts led to a celebration of the rich heritage and history which surrounded the coastal community and the dust had barely settled on the event before talk began about establishing an annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival (STBF).
At that stage, Roger wasn’t among the organisers, but he watched from the sidelines as around 2,000 people turned up for the inaugural occasion in 1994.
Since taking these fledgling footsteps, it has become one of the crown jewels in the Aberdeenshire tourism calendar and a feast for fans of The Onedin Line, Whisky Galore and Taste of Grampian.
This summer, the 25th festival will parade its progress by showcasing an action-packed weekend of boats, skiff racing, crafts, live music, food and drink for an anticipated 16,000 visitors on June 30 and July 1.
There will be a diverse range of historic boats with Isabella Fortuna at the heart of the festival, while energetic skiff teams vie for supremacy on the water.
And the jolly Roger, a spry 73-year-old, who has flung himself into helping orchestrate the proceedings since 2000, admitted it was inspiring to be part of one of the biggest success stories staged anywhere in Scotland.
He told the Press and Journal: “The original event really captured a lot of people’s imaginations and, ever since, it has gone from strength to strength and the STBF is now a truly global attraction.
“This year, for instance, there is a group of PhD students who are coming over from the United States, from Europe, and even further afield, and the 2018 festival is not just confined to Scotland.
“On the contrary, it has very strong links with Norway, and there will also be representatives from such countries as Estonia and Latvia.Obviously, at the outset, the boats were the main draw, but now we have many musicians and performers taking to stages, streets and venues around the Portsoy area to entertain the crowds.
“There is also sailing, zorbing, climbing and cycling at Loch Soy for younger adrenaline-seeking visitors.
“And, away from the water, you will also find storytelling, children’s shows, bouncy castles, face painting and lots more, including the Wee Red Bus, which has become a festival favourite!
“It is a lot of hard work and there is big difference between organising a one-off event and turning it into an annual festival, with all the logistical challenges that presents.
“Given the fact it is held in such a small setting, it has had its ups and downs. There were a few growing pains at the start of the journey, but there is nothing surprising about that.
“All in all, though, I am genuinely proud of the manner in which the community has taken it to their hearts. There are people still involved with the STBF who were here in 1993 and 1994 and that is something to cherish.”
Nestled in the north-east corner, Portsoy is one of those places where it can frequently seem as if time has stood still.
Walking through the village last week, there was near silence during the afternoon, even as a few older residents strolled towards the harbour just as they have done for the last 50 or 60 years.
This was the setting where the remake of Whisky Galore, starring Eddie Izzard, was shot and it’s easy to imagine the locals partaking of the odd nip while cocking a snook at officialdom.
But the atmosphere will be completely transformed in the build-up to the STBF and Roger expressed admiration at the way in which the citizens have responded to Portsoy’s transient transformation from sleepy backwater to festival frenzy.
He added: “It is a beautiful place, with a long maritime history, and I suppose that was in danger of being forgotten about before the festival was launched.
“Yet, nowadays, the residents throw themselves into all the activities and they recognise the value of the event and also how it can boost both the local and the regional economy.
“When it began, there was the festival, the crowds flocked into the village, then they went home and that was it for the next 12 months.
“But it has evolved to the point where it highlights not just the boats, but the music, the food, the language and the heritage of the north-east, way beyond Portsoy.
“We have also been involved in developing the Salmon Bothy, the Boatshed, a museum, a caravan park and a range of other amenities, which run all year round.
“We also create a video of the festival and, this year, Channel 5 is making a programme about Scotland’s lost railways, and the word seems to keep spreading about the STBF.
“I don’t think anybody would have imagined we would have advanced to this position way back in 1993.
“However, we are never complacent. These sort of large-scale events don’t happen by accident: and the public are entitled to expect higher standards every summer, and we are well aware of that.
“So it is very important that we keep building up our volunteer pool and the Portsoy folk have been excellent in that regard. If there is a challenge, they rise to it.”
Those words were certainly borne out last year when a ferocious storm caused significant flood damage in the region and, however briefly, threatened the postponement of the 2017 festivities.
Yet, displaying the same stoical resolve to tackling any obstacles in their path as their predecessors did during tempests in the 17th and 18th Centuries, the mess was cleared up with the minimum of fuss.
Roger said: “This is a weather-sensitive event, and we have to accept there will be some summers where the sun will shine and others where the heavens open and do their worst.
“But there is nothing new in that. Whole generations of sailors have had to adapt to these conditions in Portsoy and our residents are a pretty determined and committed bunch of people.
“I was a worried man last year – at one stage, there was a definite possibility the festival might have to be cancelled, which would have been a big blow.
“Nonetheless, the community effort was amazing. They went out of their way to ensure the STBF went ahead and you couldn’t help but raise your hat to those who sorted things out.
“It is one of the strengths of the festival: the manner in which it has lit a spark and put Portsoy on the map.
“And, ever since I have been here, there have been stalwart individuals who have made a tremendous difference to how the festival has developed.
“One of our great stalwarts, George Murray, put his heart and his soul into everything connected with the festival.
“He died this year in his 80s and that was very sad, because he had made an immense contribution. But he will not be forgotten. He was exactly the sort of person whom every organisation needs.”
Roger and his team have been busy creating the infrastructure for the latest exhibition of Portsoy’s myriad qualities.
But he and his co-organiser, Keith Newton, can at least derive confidence from the professionalism of their confreres who erect the marquees, organise the various sailing events and work tirelessly behind the scenes.
Keith said: “The festival is a real showcase for the area with local crafts, music, dance and food all bound together with the maritime heritage of the area.
“With the great variety we have to offer, some well-loved and some new, there is something for everyone, of all ages, and the sight of the historic boats around the harbour, with music playing in the background and the smell of smokies on the breeze creates a great atmosphere for our visitors.
“The opening concert with Dougie Maclean (on June 29) will get the festival off to a great start and that will continue over the weekend with the programme we have put together”
Indeed, the whole cultural aspect of the festival has expanded and found its own momentum, with an eclectic range of music, song and dance and cross-fertilisation between all different groups.
In which light, it is hardly surprising that Roger is messianic about telling people why they need to sample the STBF as it prepares for its 25th incarnation.
He said: “It’s quite simple, really. We want you to come along and enjoy the delights of the coast and the skill of those who sail the boats.
“We want you to sample the enticing and delicious food and drink of the many producers and caterers in the popular Food Fayre and around the festival, because there is something to tempt every palette.
“Whatever your interest, and whether it is on or off the water, STBF is sure to have something to offer.
“It really is a fantastic day out for the whole family.”
What’s not to like?
Further information is available at: www.stbfportsoy.org