Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ January Newsletter!

This month’s edition will include a round-up of the following highlights as well as details of what to look out for over the next few weeks:

  • British Coach Tourism Awards 2020 FINALISTS!
  • Mother’s Day Cruise Competition LAUNCH!
  • “Oh, the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind” ~ Dr Seuss
  • Happy Birthday, Skipper!
Off to a flying start!

We are thrilled to announce that we have been nominated as finalists in the ‘Inland River Cruise Operator’ category at the prestigious British Coach Tourism Awards 2020 – what a fantastic way to start the year!

The awards ceremony will be held in March at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham and we are delighted to be able to tie this in with the British Tourism and Travel Show 2020 which we are exhibiting at alongside fellow members of Devon’s Top Attractions.

We are extremely proud of all that we have achieved over the past year and whether or not we receive the winner’s trophy on the night, it is a huge honour to be grouped with the best of the best in our industry.

Mother’s Day Cream Tea Cruise Competition Launch!

What better way to show your darling mum how much you love her than by just simply spending time together, on a relaxed cruise of the River Exe?

Not only will this cruise include a delightful locally-produced scone, lovingly made by Claire at the Devon Scone Company, served with lashings of cream and oodles of strawberry jam but also a good mug of tea and an informative and entertaining live commentary from the Skipper, as you meander around the river.

This month, we are launching our Mother’s Day Cream Tea Cruise Competition, the lucky winner of which will be entitled to all of the above PLUS refreshing bubbly prosecco for the adults  – (incidentally, this makes for the most perfect accompaniment to any Devon Cream Tea!) – and the great news is, there are plenty of ways to enter!

Please follow the button below for ALL the juicy details!

For more details and to enter now, click HERE

“Oh, the things you can find, if you don’t stay behind” ~ Dr. Seuss

Wise words my old friend – indeed, the things you can discover if you employ a little sense of adventure – the get up and out mentality, the wrap up warm, get outside, go for a walk, get up ridiculously early to catch that sunrise and watch in wonder as it comes up – type attitude. January is typically a rather ‘blue’ sort of month for one reason or another but life is what you make it, right? Well, that may not be entirely true – clearly some things are entirely out of our control but others can be very much determined by our outlook.

A positive and pro-active perspective can reward us with feelings of joy and sentimental enrichment of life – it’s during these episodes when the unexpected, seemingly small and perhaps insignificant interactions with people you’ve never met before and may never meet again, the momentary sightings of glorious nature and of course the ever-enviable sunsets which majestically command the sky over Exmouth – it’s these episodes which can bring a real sense of fulfillment.

(Of course, I am in part recounting my own experiences but I am sure that many of you can relate).

These moments may be brief but they are huge. They are what can truly determine our happiness and feeling of overall content in life. The great outdoors offers infinite opportunity for pleasure, whether it’s a walk with your family or on your own with your beloved dog, a leisurely cycle ride – or even a gentle cruise of the River Exe in the glorious winter sun(!)

I’ve never been a massive fan of restrictive ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ but I urge you not to be blue. Get up and out and resolve yourself to look for the positives. Because life is beautiful and precious and short.

Happy Birthday, Skipper!

Finally this month, on a more personal note, I would like to wish a very Happy Birthday to Captain Jake. Many of you will have had the pleasure of meeting him and some of you may even have been lucky enough to have been on a cruise for which he was your Skipper.

He’s an incredibly accomplished young chap and I am in awe of all that he has achieved and continues to work for. He has come up with some superb new ideas and concepts over the past few years, steering our family business with confidence and total competence. He truly is a remarkable person – we are so grateful for all of his tireless hard work and unrelenting positivity and are extremely proud of him.

You are a joy to work with and deserve the world, so keep up the hard work and long may it continue!

Now, I probably ought to say good bye at this point folks because he absolutely hates praise, especially in public, loathes photos of himself and hates attention so I may well get the sack tomorrow. It’s been a pleasure!

Despite very grey skies and murky hilltops this afternoon, we were amazed by the spectacular numbers of birds on the estuary. In particular, over 1200 Black-tailed Godwits graced the mudflats around Turf – a nationally significant flock. These backed by hundreds of Avocets, Lapwings, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Curlews and Redshanks, with a few dozen Knot for good measure. A Kingfisher did a complete circuit of the boat at Topsham, where we saw a pair of Black Swans and had our best views of Red-breasted Mergansers. ‘Herbert’, our resident Slavonian Grebe, was eventually found at Cockwood, with a Little Grebe and the first few Great Cested Grebes nearby. As we returned to Exmouth, thousands of gulls (of 5 species) were gathering on the remaining mudbanks and sandbanks: quite a spectacle.

Dave Smallshire

Another great Cruise for the visitor with plenty to see from start to finish. 20+ Red Breasted Mergansers on view from Shelly Beach to Topsham and close to the boat. A bonus Male Black Redstart on the inner side of Dawlish Warren beach showing on the signage board in the dunes. Possibly the Exmouth Marina bird needing a change of scenery! A couple of Turnstones and plenty of Dark Bellied Brent Geese across the mud in front of Dawlish Warren hide to Starcross. Little Grebe was not far away from the Slavonian Grebe off Cockwood and showed well for the visitors to see clearly but at a distance. Again plenty of gulls now on the estuary with Common and Herring Gull comparison easy to be seen. 20+ Great Crested Grebe showing well from Starcross to Turf Locks. First of 200+ Pintail and a few Widgeon off Lympstone. Shag and Cormorant fishing in this area and lower down showing the visitors the comparison on both species. First of the 300+ Avocets were seen at the Kenn confluence with good numbers showing all the way to Topsham. At the waters edge from the Clyst confluence to Turf Lock large numbers Black Tailed Godwits along with Dark Bellied Brent Geese beyond this line and out on the mudflat large numbers of Dunlin were feeding. Towards Topsham a large flock of Golden Plover and Lapwing went airborne putting on a display at a distance. There were another 200+ Golden Plover roosting opposite Turf Lock. A small flock of Knot flew over the boat in the same location. Plenty of Redshank were seen all the way to Topsham. After we turned and left Topsham we were treated to a great display from 400+ Brent Geese flying over the boat from Darts Farm direction. Another flock of Brent Geese took off and joined them making 500+ circling overhead, making a great winter spectacle enjoyed by the visitors. Back on the river a pair of Goldeneye were seen but moved on down stream. A few visitors saw a Kingfisher on the old wreck below Starcross Sailing Club. Good numbers of Oystercatcher were lining the route back to Exmouth.
Derek Carter

Dull and cloudy (but at least clear!) this afternoon. We started with a Peregrine on Exmouth church tower and a Kingfisher near to Exmouth Marina – a good start. However, pride of place today went to the Long-billed Dowitcher feeding with Black-tailed Godwits at Topsham and a roosting group of 30 Cattle Egrets (counts varied from 28 to 32, but I reckoned 30!) on a sandbank at Starcross as we returned. There were at least 22 Great Crested Grebes, plus the usual Slavonian at Cockwood and a Little Grebe and 2 Black Swans at Topsham. 3 Pintail were on Pole Sands (off the tip of Dawlish Warren) and later there were about 130 at Lympstone. 12 distant geese on the mud appeared to be Greylags and 50 Teal were likewise at Topsham. About 30 Red-breasted Mergansers and waders in general were well scattered. Selected estimates include 300+ Avocets (30+ at Powderham), several hundred each of Lapwing and Golden Plover, c100 Bar-tailed and several large flocks of Black-tailed Godwits (there must have been well over 1000 in total). 4 Greenshank were scattered between the Warren and Powderham. A Grey Seal was hauled out onto a buoy and an unidentified seal was seen briefly between Turf and Topsham.

Dave Smallshire

What a difference a day makes! With challenging conditions at the start once in the Estuary the visibility improved and the visitors started to see plenty of birds on show. Curlews were in good numbers across the Estuary and the distinctive evocative calls were drifting around the estuary on a light breeze. Several Turnstones were seen on the mussel vessels off Dawlish Warren and on the shoreline at Starcross. The Slavonian Grebe was spotted with a Little Grebe in the normal place off Cockwood. Dark Bellied Brent Geese were in good numbers in this area with several flying near the boat. Cormorants and Shags were plenty along this stretch with comparisons between the two easy to see. Greenshank were seen towards the River Kenn confluence with Common Gull, Black Headed Gull, and Herring Gull bathing in fresh water. First of the 300+ Avocets were seen at this lower location and good numbers were seen close to the boat all the way to Topsham. A few Bar Tailed Godwit and plenty of Dunlin were off Lympstone and were numerous across the mudflats all the way to Topsham. 300+ Black Tailed Godwits were showing well along the waters edge for visitors to see along with Redshank and two small groups of Golden Plover either side of the main channel near Turf Lock. A raft of 20+ Great Crested Grebe were viewed near the River Clyst confluence this sighting was the most seen all together this winter and a real treat for the visitors. Red Breasted Mergansers stole the show today with at least 20+ on show close to the boat. On our return back to Exmouth 200+ Lapwing took off from Powderham Marsh and showed well from the boat. As we steamed past Dawlish Warren there were very close encounters of 8+ Sanderling were had by the visitors which was a real bonus this finished off a very productive cruise.

Derek Carter

This afternoon’s cruise benefitted from sunshine, admittedly mainly when it came from behind us! Exmouth was busy today, but there were still Shags feeding off the Marina. We had to do an about-turn soon after leaving, when someone spotted a Kingfisher on the rocks there. Our regular Slavonian Grebe was rather silhouetted off Cockwood, but at least it’s still around … in its 14th year with us! A least 4 Greenshanks were off Powderham and the first few Avocets nearby. A Harbour (Common) Seal played with a fish near Lympstone, where Pintails and Wigeon were feeding. Approaching Turf there were large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits and Dunlin, with fewer Grey Plovers, Bar-tailed Godwits and Ringed Plovers. A large flock of Brent Geese flew up from fields just over the sea wall, mostly returning there soon afterwards. Beyond Turf the mudflats were crowded with feeding Avocets, Dunlins, Redshanks and a tight roosting flock of Golden Plovers. Equally impressive were thousands of gulls (all 5 of the regular species) flying in, bathing, preening and settling down to roost on the intertidal areas; Bull Hill sandbank was covered in them as we returned to Exmouth with Venus shining brightly after a lovely sunset.

Dave Smallshire

This afternoon’s birdwatching cruise was excellent, with a Great Northern Diver and a feeding group of 30 Shags near to the Exmouth Marina. The ‘resident’ Slavonian Grebe and the first of about a dozen Great Crested Grebes were off Cockwood, plus a the first of a meagre 30ish Red-breasted Mergansers. A Peregrine flew over the boat at Powderham, where there was a Greenshank (and 3 on the way back). Passing Lympstone we saw small groups of Pintail and there were mixed groups of both Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits. Approaching Turf, large flocks of Brent geese and Golden Plover were seen in flight and a few Ringed Plovers were found amongst the hordes of Dunlins and Black-tailed Godwits; also on the mud were hundreds of Avocets, c140 Knot and good numbers of Grey Plovers, while a few Sanderlings fed along the river channel. We had better views of Mergansers toward Topsham, were a few dozen Teal were feeding and a pair of Black Swans walked out onto the mud.

Pride of place, however, went to a brief sighting of the Long-billed Dowitcher that is spending the winter with us (usually at Bowling Green Marsh though). It was on its own on the river channel between Topsham and Turf – to be honest, it was a bit of a fluke actually finding it amongst the hordes of feeding waders and bathing gulls. Less exciting was a Snow Goose in fields with Canada Geese near Turf. Gull numbers were very impressive as we returned to Exmouth in late afternoon, with hundreds of Common and Great Black-backed, though only half-a-dozen Lesser Black-backed.

Dave Smallshire

Near perfect conditions, sunny mild and light winds the exe estuary looked stunning. Plenty of photo opportunities with good numbers of birds on show with Shags and Cormorants in the mouth of the estuary 200+ Pintail flying and feeding off Lympstone. 50+ Bar Tailed Godwits and a surprise group of Avocets feeding in the same area normally these birds are further up the estuary. Dunlin seen right across the the mudflats from Lympstone up to Topsham with a few Ringed Plover near Turf Lock. 500+ Black Tailed Godwits at the Clyst confluence along with 200+ Avocets further up the Clyst so just to far for the visitors to see these number but plenty of Avocets across the out to Topsham. 1300+ Golden Plover were on the mud off Turf Locks. Gull numbers have increased throughout the Estuary. To finish off the cruise a pair of Peregrines were seen with a kill off Shelly Beach.

Derek Carter

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ December Newsletter!

December’s edition will include a round-up of the following highlights from this month’s festivities as well as details of what to look out for over Christmas and New Year! 

  • Christmas Extravaganza!
  • Festive Specials
  • Thank you

CHRISTMAS EXTRAVAGANZA!

Well folks, Christmas is in full-swing and it’s all mulled wine, mine pies and festive merriment here at Stuart Line HQ – what with numerous Christmas Boat Parties, Live Band Nights, Sail with Santa and the big day (aka Christmas Day Swim) fast approaching!

This year has seen a record-breaking number of Sail with Santa cruises, the first bookings for which were taken back in February 2019!  It is truly a joy to see the children having so much fun and we are delighted that people have been so thrilled with their presents this year – the high quality of which has been remarked numerous times. Our Christmas Boat Parties have been hugely fun, with delicious hog roasts, fabulous discos and impressive festive attire all-round! Our Live Band Nights have also been a real hit this month – our vessels providing a fun, unique and sophisticated venue for live gigs with a difference!

In summary, we have enjoyed a very busy and fun month of December and are hugely excited to see many of you on Christmas Day or over the coming week!

FESTIVE SPECIALS

‘Tis the season to be jolly aboard our festively decorated, modern vessels! What joy it brings to hop aboard this holiday season, for a warming River Exe cruise – get yourselves some fresh air and a change of scenery with your friends and family, aboard Pride of Exmouth for a Festive Special Cruise of the calm-assured waters of the River Exe. Homemade mulled wine and warm mince pies from the local bakery included!

These cruises will be running every day throughout the festive season up to and including New Year’s Day.

Sailing Dates and Times

Tuesday 24th December @ 11am and 12:30pm
Thursday 26th December @ 2:15pm
Friday 27th December @ 11am
Saturday 28th December @ 12:30pm and 2:15pm
Sunday 29th December @ 2pm
Monday 30th December @ 2pm
Tuesday 31st December @ 12:30pm and 2:15pm
Wednesday 1st January @ 12:30pm and 2:15pm 

Adults: £10.00
Children: £6.00

(Inclusive of mulled wine and mince pies)

Festive Special River Exe Cruise Dates
MERRY CHRISTMAS, ONE AND ALL!

Well folks, that leaves me with just one more thing to say; from myself and all at Stuart Line, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and an incredibly happy New Year! May 2020 bring health, happiness, new adventures and everything that you, your friends and families may wish for.

Thank you all so much for humoring me and reading my newsletters throughout the past year. I hope that I haven’t completely bored you to tears and hope that somewhere along the way you have read something which you have perhaps found amusing or have been able to relate to in some way. I try to keep it an interesting read and feedback is always very welcome and gratefully received!

On a serious note though, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you from the bottom of our hearts, for your continued loyalty and support over the past year, for our blossoming family-run business. There have been enormous ups and downs both personally and professionally, as of course is the case for us all but it is a privilege for us to meet so many wonderful people throughout the year and share with you the wonders of the outstandingly beautiful area of the world in which we live. To call this ‘work’ seems simply ridiculous but we’ll take it! We truly cannot believe how lucky we are and it simply wouldn’t be the same without you, so thank you.

Love and warm wishes,

From Lauren, Jake and all at Stuart Line Cruises xxxx

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ November Newsletter!

November’s edition will include a round-up of the following highlights from this month as well as details of what to look out for in the next few weeks of festive fun:

  • Christmas Sell-Out!
  • It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!
  • All I want for Christmas…

CHRISTMAS SELL-OUT!

With our very first Sail with Santa booking received in February 2019, we are delighted to announce that CHRISTMAS IS OFFICIALLY SOLD OUT! Yep, you heard it right, all of our yuletide Special Events including Sail with Santa, two Live Band Nights, our Shared Christmas Boat Party AND the Christmas Day Swim, are all fully booked and have been since 15th November! That’s a record-breaker right there, so three cheers to you if you are one of the lucky devils who will be joining us!

However, please do not feel you have missed your chance and do not be disheartened, we do still have numerous opportunities for you to join us for one of our ‘Festive Special’ River Exe Cruises – these will be running regularly throughout the festive season, including Christmas Eve and Boxing Day and include a complimentary homemade mulled wine and a warm, locally produced mince pie, alongside our award-winning guided tour of the exceptionally tranquil Exe Estuary. A match made in heaven!

Festive Special River Exe Cruise Dates

IT’S BEGINNING TO LOOK A LOT LIKE CHRISTMAS!

With the above in mind, we are starting to become extremely excited for festivities to commence and we have officially finished adorning our vessels in their usual festive garlands, baubles and enchanting fairy lights. We are hoping to all go down together to buy our Christmas trees tomorrow – and yes, we do love a Christmas Tree-choosing family tradition just as much as the next family!

We are so grateful to our fiercely loyal, returning customers for their repeat bookings over the festive period and look forward to offering a warm welcome to those who are about to experience Christmas with Stuart Line Cruises for the first time – this is our family tradition as well as yours and we hope to make it truly magical.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS…

As you are probably aware, we are a small, family-run business. I’m not sure about you but this week I have found myself utterly bombarded with so-called ‘Black Friday Bargains’ and that’s before Friday had even landed – my email inbox, social media and everywhere in between; promises of irresistible savings, introductory offers and money off when you spend x-amount. Discount marketing lures both suppliers and consumers in and is, of course, tempting – we have to compete to keep up, right?

Perhaps not. Our approach may appear revolutionary in the current climate but the reality is, someone has to pay for these bargains and for many businesses, this forces them to underpay their staff, inflate prices for existing customers and disregard supplier quality standards – a sacrifice we simply aren’t willing to associate with. Since starting our business in 1968, we have consistently offered value for money – we believe our product to be high-quality and we don’t charge more than we need to. Simple and fair.

You will notice that you won’t find any Black Friday discounts here at Stuart Line Cruises which may feel like we are being somewhat mean but we feel the reality is quite the opposite. Our focus has always been and will continue to be, providing an experience that is good enough in every way for people to want to return – looking after and therefore retaining our existing customers and absolutely never offering something to new customers that is not available to existing customers.

Happily, feedback has always been, on the whole, extremely positive – turns out, most people are willing to pay a fair price, comprised of running costs, efficient customer service and a memorable, unique experience, with respect for people and our precious environment within which we operate.

With all that in mind, I’m sure you’ll agree the build-up to Christmas can be overwhelming, expensive and totally stressful if, like myself in previous years, you fall into the trap. It has been predicted that over the ‘Black Friday Sales’, Britain is expected to spend billions – vast sums of money will be spent on things which people may not have planned to buy and may not even need, on presents for friends and family who may not even want or like their gift – perhaps they will even be returned or unused – a little something I like to call ‘The Christmas Present Pandemonium’. The fact is, there seems to be so much pressure and this is crazy, right?!

Don’t get me wrong, I adore Christmas – the food, the decorations, the preparations and the gorgeous aromas that fill the house but to me, Christmas is about love, laughter, family and friendships – spending precious time together and reminding your loved ones just how much they mean to you. Christmas, for me, is a time for close family who I don’t get to spend enough time with throughout the rest of the year and to catch up with cherished friends who, again, I simply don’t see often enough.

My family, for the first year ever, have decided that we will not be exchanging presents this year and I am really excited about it. If you proposed this to me 5 years ago, my sister and I would probably result to a childish grump for several days, thinking it simply wouldn’t be Christmas without presents. But this year is different. Instead, we will all be spending the day together; in the morning we are going to take part in the Exmouth Christmas Day Swim (and yes, I do think that those who have booked themselves onto our warm Christmas Day Swim Cruise with mulled wine and mince pies are FAR wiser and no doubt this will reinforce to me that next year I should volunteer to work on the boat but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it, right?!) and in the afternoon, will each bring something to the Christmas dinner table – I’m on the turkey, mum is doing the red cabbage, my sister is bringing a board game, dad will no doubt oversee operations with a large whiskey and so on – we will all have our part to play. That is truly all I want for Christmas.

Simplicity at its’ finest and the older I get the more like heaven this sounds!

So here’s the thing, I’d be pretty rubbish at my role in marketing if I was promoting a zero spending approach this festive season but what I would like to do, from the bottom of my heart, is to encourage you to think carefully before spending your hard-earned cash on materialistic gifts, potentially losing sight of what it’s really all about. I’ve shared my plans with you, in the hope of reminding you that you do not need to spend unreasonable sums of money in order to have a good time. Go back to basics, use your precious down-time with your families and friends wisely and consider investing in quality time together, either now or over the coming year – have fun, relax and cherish each other’s company.

Incidentally, Stuart Line Cruises’ gift vouchers are financially inexpensive but enormously good value, offering the gift of time together. They do not have an expiration date and can be used towards any of our cruises – perhaps you’d use yours for a Cream Tea River Exe Cruise with that friend you haven’t seen for ages, a Countess Wear Evening Cruise with your lovely mum or a Live Band Night to boogie the night away with your partner!? Whatever you choose, I am sure you will have a truly memorable time.

I warmly wish you a very merry, happy and relaxed Christmas!