For those of you who are new to this monthly sign-up, welcome! And for those who have been loyal readers for some time, welcome back to your favourite read of the month!
Well here we are again – I quite simply cannot believe that it has been almost a whole month since my last newsletter! Time feels particularly strange at the moment, doesn’t it? In one sense, we are living life in the ‘slow lane’ but on the other hand, there is so much happening in the world that it feels so hard – almost impossible – to keep up.
My focus this month remains very similar to last; I hope to provide an interesting and enjoyable read and that is really all there is to it. As usual, I will share some highlights and news with you but do not intend to bombard you and just hope that it will give you some different things to think about and another way to engage at this isolating time.
So, do grab a cuppa, get comfy and allow me – if I may – to steal a few moments of your day!
Lockdown Loyalty Card Launch!
Following overwhelmingly positive feedback when people were asked on social media if they thought this would be of interest, we are delighted to announce that this week marks the launch of our brand new scheme!Unique to 2020, the idea is to offer the opportunity for people to purchase a series of 10 boat trips at a hugely discounted price. The card can be purchased online and will be valid for one year as of the date that we are up and running again – whenever that may be. We will of course notify people of this, so that they know exactly when the expiry date will be!
Rather flatteringly, many people have told us that they consider our boats to be ‘icons of Exmouth’ – part of the scenery for over 50 years and we intend for this to be the case for many years to come. This scheme is our way of saying thank you to everyone for their love and loyalty over the years and is also an opportunity for people to demonstrate invaluable support of our family-run business at this time.
As a family, we truly believe that the gift of time spent together cannot be beaten on value for money and I think this is something that we are all realising more and more at the moment. Restrictions on who you can see and when – not being able to see your grandchildren or parents – are very hard to get used to for most people and time together is what many of us look forward to most of all.
My message to you is quite simple and comes from my heart:
We will get through this.
We will rise.
And when we do, we will smile bigger and laugh harder than ever before and we simply cannot wait to share those moments with you
So, from our family to yours, we wish you happiness, health and here’s to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Last time I wrote to you, Pride of Exmouth was still in the boatyard in Cornwall, where she spent around one month – double the time we had planned as there was no set rush to get back given the news of a change in national circumstances with COVID-19. It’s always a slightly nerve-racking but highly exciting moment as she is released from the shed, down the slipway and back into the water. Thankfully she floated, so at least one person had done their job properly! She looked gleaming in the sunshine and we were very excited to get her back into home waters.
Many of you may already know that we take great pride in the appearance and general maintenance of our boats – more than most! We like to ensure that they look immaculate for every occassion, from River Exe Cruises to Private Charters for Weddings. You may also be aware that Jake and the team continue to work incredibly hard – albeit within significantly altered ways of working – to get the boats looking and running immaculately well. It is our plan to be ready for business as usual at the earliest opportunity and the extra time which we find ourselves with at the moment presents the perfect opportunity to really do things with precision and even greater care than we usually have time for.
We have achieved a lot in the past month since my last newsletter. Perhaps most noticeable are the ‘cosmetic’ improvements – predominantly paintwork and varnishing. We spoke briefly about varnishing in my previous newsletter and you may be glad to hear that the steps in Philippa and Ian Stuart’s hallway have now made their way back onto the boat where further coats continue to be added every few days. I’ve lost count of how many coats they have had now but I imagine it must be nearing 10 and I think it’s safe to say they are looking pretty glossy!
In other news, Pride of Exmouth now proudly sports a brand new waterline – can you spot the difference between how it looks now to how it looked in the summer?
Works are ongoing and Jake and the team are currently working hard to get the paintwork completed before the rain arrives this week!
We tend to post a weekly ‘Maintenance Diary’ on our Facebook page so, if you’d like to keep up on a more regular basis then feel free to head over to our page.
A Poem a Day to keep Social Isolation at Bay
Following some truly wonderful entries to our little poetry writing competition last month, I have decided to publish all of the entries on our blog on our website, so if you fancy a nice read then head over via the button below!
I am sure – or at least I hope – that I am not completely alone when I say that the current lock-down restrictions have led me to some new hobbies! Some are great – running every day, for example, has made me feel much fitter, mentally on top of the world and marginally less guilty about devouring all of the baked goods which I keep producing. Cinnamon swirls, by the way, are an absolute DELIGHT and if you want the recipe, just let me know! Other hobbies however, are less productive and are really just a way to idly while away the extra time which I seem to have on my hands.
Has anyone else been over-ambitiously waking up in the mornings, springing out of bed planning everything you intend to achieve around the house that day and proudly boasting about your intentions to anyone within earshot? No? Just me? The extra time which many of us have on our hands seems the perfect chance to really sort things out, get the home organised and tackle those projects which we have been putting off for weeks, months or even years (shame on you) and I for one have, so far, had many a grand plan!
So, let’s start on the dreaded spare room – the obvious place to start because at the end of the day, if you achieve absolutely nothing then really it doesn’t matter too much because you can just shut the door, pretend it doesn’t exist and nobody needs to sleep in there at the moment anyway! For many, the spare room is the room we can’t cope without but the room which is rarely visited and predominantly serves the purpose of allowing one to store hoards of redundant stuff, just in case one day you might need it for something obscure – maybe.
Until one day, during a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime global lock-down, you tentatively open the door to once and for all organise and sort it out. It’s undoubtedly overwhelming and before you can do anything, you have to step over piles of unorganised stuff, proceed to fall over, nearly break your neck and lie in a heap on the pile of stuff. (And by the way, I know I’m not alone here because I spoke to a very nice lady on the phone just yesterday as she wanted to purchase on of our Lockdown Loyalty Cards. We got chatting and she described an experience which sounded extremely similar, so don’t be afraid to fess up)! But in those following moments as you lay helplessly, wedged between a large box of disused folders and a bag of old clothes, foot perched on a stack of dusty shoe boxes, head almost underneath the chest of drawers (gosh, when did you last clean under here, by the way?!) and feeling like the world’s biggest fool, you spot a photo album.
And with a twinkle in your eye, that’s it. You turn the front cover, smile at the first few photos you see and the next couple of hours are history. Old memories – pictures of you and your siblings as small children. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable way to reminisce upon times gone by and an excellent way to waste a couple of hours. You might leave the room feeling like you have achieved absolutely nothing but that’s far from true. You’ve smiled, laughed, perhaps a tear or two – and above all, you’ve brought back happy memories, remembered how you got to where you are today and done something that you might not usually have time for.
So, above are a selection of old photographs which we have stumbled across when digging through the archives and I thought it would be a nice way for us to share a little bit of the history of Stuart Line Cruises with you – I hope it will be of interest.
Stuart Line Cruises was founded over 50 years ago in 1968, by Tony Stuart. His son, Ian, gained his Skipper’s License on his 18th birthday and worked alongside his dad, mainly running the fishing trips initially. Stuart Line Cruises’ boat trips used to leave from the seafront, near the clocktower and Tony Stuart became well-known locally for his cries of “30-minute trip around the bay! You pay on the boat!”.
So, starting from the top:
First up, we have an old photograph of Tony alongside young Ian – uniform rules were obviously a little more relaxed back then! They are perched on the gunwale of one of their first boats, ‘Exonia’. ‘Exonia’ was a fiberglass boat, comfortably seating up to 69 passengers and she stepped in to replace predecessors ‘Seacrest’ and ‘Mini’ in 1988 – both of which were wooden vessels – this fiberglass replacement was somewhat state-of-the-art and became the best passenger vessel on the beach! The next two photos are of ‘Exonia’ at work.
1994 saw an exciting time of change for Stuart Line Cruises, with the purchase of Tudor Rose, pictured in the background of the photo of Ian (bottom left). Ian and Philippa (Ian’s partner and co-owner of the business) wondered if she would ever run to her full capacity of 125 passengers but took the gamble and maintained that she would be the biggest vessel capable of working from Exmouth. The arrival of Tudor Rose really was the turning point for Ian and Philippa’s growing business, enabling them to work in summer and winter due to her covered and heated saloon and saw the introduction of the highly anticipated ‘Winter River Exe Cruise’ – which became popular with coach groups and holiday-makers. In addition, the onboard bar made her perfect for evening party cruises and in 1995 she provided a perfectly unique venue for our first ever wedding – the first of many such wonderful occasions!
Next, a photo of our next boat, ‘Maid of Exmouth’, purchased in 1997. This new venture represented a significant expansion for the business and due to her extremely shallow draft, her main purpose would be to sail up the River Exe to Topsham – whatever the state of the tide! Previously known as the ‘Maid of Wareham’ she served Ian and Philippa’s thriving business until 2004, when she was sold to a firm in Plymouth and renamed ‘Devon Belle’. At this point, Ian and Philippa had their sights set on bigger and better things and in 2003 they began to make plans for the arrival of their first bespoke, brand new boat, ‘Pride of Exmouth’.
Finally, I have included a photo of ‘Pride of Exmouth’ from 2003. She arrived in July, having been built down in Cornwall at a cost of £350,000 – by far the greatest investment to date. She was without doubt, the most state-of-the-art, modern passenger vessel of her time and built to European Class C Standards, was licensed to operate anywhere in the country. From there, Ian and Philippa Stuart alongside their son, Jake, have developed the business from strength to strength to what we are today. We continue to evolve, developing new ideas and cannot wait to see what the future holds; the past 50-odd years have been a blast and we look forward to the next!
And there you have it; a small snippet of our history.
I hope that I haven’t bored you to tears – all feedback is so very welcome and if there’s anything you’d like to read more about or something you think I am waffling on far too much about, then please don’t be afraid to let me know! Seriously, I just want to provide something interesting for you to read at this time, so don’t be shy!
So, my message to you is to try spending some time on something you don’t usually have time for or would usually disregard. It may take a few attempts but eventually you’ll achieve something (like organising that spare room) and in the meantime, you may stumble across something totally unexpected and precious.
For those of you who are new to this monthly sign-up, welcome! And for those who have been loyal readers for some time, welcome back to your favourite read of the month!
Following what has probably been the most extraordinarily strange month for everyone across the globe, my focus this month will be on attempting to engage you in matters and topics which I hope you will find interesting and find pleasure in reading.
I would love to provide something which may bring a smile and possibly even lessen the worry and fear of uncertainty which you may be feeling – although I know that is a big ask – even if for only a few moments or so. Perhaps I will mention something which will evoke a happy memory and spark a cheerful conversation between yourself and your partner, friend or child – either in person, over the phone or on a digital platform.
Either way, I hope that this will brighten your day.
So please, before you read along,
Go and pop the kettle on,
Maybe even grab a biscuit,
Make yourself comfortable – go on, risk it,
And allow me to steal, if I may,
What I sincerely hope will be a few well-spent moments of your day!
The show must go on!
Whilst we are not entirely sure what our timetable will be looking like in terms of boat trips for the next month or so, some things are still going on behind the scenes and one of those things is the ever-essential maintenance of our boats!
Many people have already expressed an interest in receiving updates on the progress of works so here goes…
As many of you may already know, our flagship vessel, Pride of Exmouth, set sail for Cornwall a couple of weeks ago and has been in an undercover boatyard there ever since. Essential, planned works are being carried out and we are of course incredibly grateful that it is possible for all people to work independently and at a safe distance away from each other. Good job she’s a big boat!
Nothing too major this year (no adding decks or lengthening projects like 2017) but essential maintenance such as anti-fouling the hull and re-painting are among the list of this year’s tasks.
To date, we have sandblasted the hull and bow deck – this strips back the finish to the bare steel so that we can then prepare to repaint and achieve the best possible finish which will both look great and last for a long time. In addition, a lot of painting is underway (the preparation for which is hugely time-consuming when done properly as Jake likes to ensure), the top deck toilet is being refurbished, the diesel tanks have been cleaned out, both propellers and shafts have been removed and sent off to be overhauled, the bow steps are being redone and there is a lot of varnishing in progress, to make the wooden steps look shiny and beautiful!
Incidentally, whilst we are on the subject of the wooden steps being varnished, this is a mildly contentious subject within the Stuart household at present and leads me on to a little aside…. Obviously wherever possible we are all working from home and in all cases, we are working independently. Ian has taken this very seriously and much to Philippa’s horror, has decided to convert the hallway at home into his new temporary workshop! Yes, as outrageous as it sounds! Anyone who knows Ian will know that he is currently in strict isolation and so it stands to reason that he saw this as a perfectly justified solution to the problem and has filled the space with workbenches, upon which he has meticulously balanced the wooden steps in neat lines. He can now complete the varnishing in isolation and in the warm meaning that the varnish should dry nicely – a win win situation all-round?! Well, maybe not in Philippa’s eyes but she’s very understanding/patient!
So there you go, where there’s a will there’s most definitely a way!
Riding the wave…
Peculiar days, indeed. The feeling is surreal – almost apocalyptic but one thing is for certain and that is that we are all in this together – everyone is ‘in the same boat’ – so to speak. Despite wishing that I really was on the boat, I find it reassuring to remind myself of this at least once per day!
As I sit here in my somewhat make-shift office at home (and by that I mean that I am sat at my breakfast bar with my laptop), the sun is gleaming through my windows, the skies are clear and brilliant blue, I’m lucky enough to have a garden which is looking glorious, I’ve had several very pleasant long-distance encounters with my neighbours already today and overall, I’m feeling pretty positive. I also can’t help but think about what nice weather this is for boat trips but that’s besides the point and I must remind myself to focus on the positives, of which there are plenty!
And so, after my third snack of the day (it’s only 10am!), I begin to reflect upon the past couple of days, how it has made me feel and hope that in doing so, you may relate to it in some way and feel better knowing that you are absolutely not alone…
I have just got back from my daily run – my one form of exercise of the day and indeed, my one outing. I took my usual route but extended it slightly to compensate for my otherwise newly sedentary lifestyle as well as all of the additional (completely unnecessary) snacks I have been demolishing! I run reasonably regularly (though perhaps not as much as I should), however, I would usually be running with my dear mum and now I am running on my own. This new aspect is unfamiliar to me but none of us are strangers to new adjustments to our routines at the moment, right?
There were people out and about as you would usually expect but I didn’t see any groups or gatherings, only couples or people on their own. I was pleased to see this and much of my recently dwindling faith in humanity (queue sigh and eye rolling as I recount the brawl-like scenes at supermarkets posted on social media last week) was miraculously restored – people finally appear to be taking heed of the advice which we have been given! Hooray!
As I ran along with my loyal pooch I felt a huge sense of content and I am almost certain that I was probably visibly smiling to myself. There is no doubt in my mind that the beautiful weather is lifting spirits and it’s lovely to see so many other smiling faces. Every so often I catch the eye of someone as we pass each other; we smile a friendly smile at each other, say “good morning!” and ensure our 2 metre distance at all times. It feels like there is a mutual understanding and great sense of respect among people. They want to engage and show their empathy and support but at the same time, keep their distance. I am saddened by the necessity for this as the severity of the situation dawns on me but hugely encouraged by and appreciative of peoples’ responsible approach.
As I run along the seafront, I see young siblings larking around as usual on the golden beach (presumably during home schooling break times), parents looking after them, older folk are out for their usual brisk walks and I feel a strong sense of camaraderie. Every-so-often, people encounter someone they know – someone else making the most of the glorious weather and their one exercise allowance of the day. They chatter at a distance, make remarks about the strange situation we all find ourselves in and many laugh at small jokes, before moving on.
My sister is a doctor and so is her finance. They both work at a large hospital in Wales and are currently working on the ‘front line’, as it were – I am immensely proud of them both, by the way – now more than ever. They would probably be horrified at the thought of getting a mention in my monthly newsletter (sshh don’t tell them!) – why is it that the people who most deserve praise and recognition always seem to be the least keen to seek it? Although I don’t see my sister as much as I would like, we are extremely close, emotionally. She’s almost 2 years my senior, far more academic than I am and I have always looked up to and turned to her for advice – she’s always so reasonable, wise and level-headed. I am much more fiery and hasty to make (sometimes unwise) decisions – hey, we’re all different! Medicine is of course her area of expertise and so at this time, I have found myself turning to her and trying to follow every bit of advice which she has been kind enough to offer and apply it to my personal and professional life. She is extremely rational about the situation and I find great reassurance in speaking to her. She would never admit it but she is doing truly great things now more than ever and I find myself in awe of her resilience, determination and commitment to the greater good.
With this in mind, I must admit I have grown tired of reading peoples’ recent complaints on social media about ‘having to stay home’ – how bored they are and how difficult their life has suddenly become due to being confined to their homes. Of course, things aren’t easy for anyone and one should never make judgements about others’ personal circumstances but having even just a vague insight into what my sister’s shifts are like at the moment actually makes me grateful for the life I have, however disrupted it may feel. The nurses, doctors, therapists, catering, administration teams and everyone else who help to steer our NHS are courageously risking their own health and well-being and that of their families at home, to treat and protect others and I can’t quite believe how lucky we are to have them. They are the real heroes. ALL PRAISE THE NHS!
I can’t help but notice of late that there are a lot of people trying to do a lot of good things to help people and of course I fully support this – how could anyone not? I have been trying so hard to think of ways in which I can help too; I had a conversation with Jake in the office one late evening last week (that was before the new lock-down restrictions, of course), throwing ideas around and getting myself all worked up because none of my ideas seemed good enough. None of them seemed significant or extraordinary and certainly none of them compared to what my sister is doing.
Anyone who knows Jake will know that he’s not a particularly philosophical chap – what you see is what you get and in my eyes that’s a pretty good trait. He turned to me and he said “just chill, good things can be found in every situation and there’s an awful lot to be said for doing good things because you want to do them, not because you want to be seen to do good things.”
I didn’t think I was wanting to do something good to get praise or recognition but his words have led me to conclude that good things can come in all forms, scales and at all times. Nothing is too much or too little and what may seem small or insignificant to one person, could really mean the world to another.
And so, my search for something revolutionary and life-changing continues but in the meantime, I will keep doing my best to smile warmly at strangers, run with a silly smile on my face, share positive anecdotes with you and waffle on about it.
So please, at this terribly unsettling time, take the time to do something good, however ‘big’ or ‘small’ and take time to think about what you are grateful for. We are all in this together and together, we shall rise and when we do, we will smile bigger and laugh harder than ever before.
The power of language…
I am no professional writer – sure, English Literature was one of my stronger subjects at school (when you compare my grades to my appalling maths ones that is) but I really do love to write. I find the creative process of reflective writing to be thought-provoking and feel it brings a real sense of emotional connection between my personal and professional life.
To write and publish one’s thoughts, feelings and memories is a very personal thing but in times such as these, where physical interactions and encounters are so limited, there is great pleasure to be found in reading and writing. In a time when we simply can’t go out for many new adventures, eat at gorgeous restaurants or meet with friends, I think this presents the perfect time to reflect – take time to revisit amazing memories or experiences that you have shared with friends and family and talk about things which have made you smile and made your life feel fulfilled.
I am genuinely terrible at poetry but Jake’s granny’s partner is rather good at it. David wrote the above and gave it to me when we last enjoyed a Sunday Roast together. In his poem, David recounts his experiences and feelings whilst cruising the tranquil Exe Estuary and this got me thinking….
…let’s do a poetry competition?!
I propose the following guidelines for entries:
The theme is nature
You will not be penalised if your poem is not related to A) The water or B) Boats !!!!
There are no other rules – go wild and let your mind run free!
If you’d like to join in, please submit your entries to us via email. Jake and I will read every single one and our favourite will win a gift voucher to be used on one of our award-winning boat trips (once this all blows over – which it will, by the way)!
I hereby pledge that I too will write my poem and I will share it on social media. Come on don’t be shy, let’s engage in whatever ways we can, have fun and share a smile or two!
The last of the bird watching cruises went exceptionally well with plenty of birds on view for the visitors to see. The dependable Slavonian Grebe was on show off Starcross accompanied by Great Crested Grebe. 10+ Shag with 20+ Cormorant in breeding plumage with what looked like 2 Continental Cormorants in amongst them. Good numbers of Turnstone showing well around the Warren Wildlife Refuge area seen going upstream and again on the return trip. 6+ Greenshank, Several Little Egret and good numbers of Redshank seen around the River Kenn confluence with a 10+ Widgeon off Exton. 150+ Bar-tailed Godwits 300+ Black-tailed Godwits around the Clyst Confluence and Turf Lock area. Our first Avocet was seen near the Starcross Sailing Club with 12 Avocets seen in total. These few birds were a real treat for many who had never seen an Avocet. 150+ Redshank, 8+ Ringed Plover, 25+ Sanderling, 15+ Grey Plover 100+ Knot, 300+ Golden Plover, 200+ Dunlin, all very flighty around Turf towards Topsham but no Bird of Prey seen. A total of 20 Merganser seen and great to see 2 drake Goldeneye with a flypast by both at the Topsham end of the estuary. Plenty of Gulls about with good views of Great Black-backed Gull and Common Gull in good numbers. It was also pleasing to see plenty of DB Brent Geese, and hearing and seeing good numbers of Curlew across the estuary. At least 200+ Oystercatcher seen on the return trip back to Exmouth. All and all a great dry afternoon was had by all on the Tudor Rose. The dates are now available for next seasons Guided Bird Cruises so book early to reserve your place for this great winter spectacle.
Nice even light for my final cruise of the season. After a tip-off that there was a Spoonbill somewhere on the Exe (thanks Derek!), we had very distant views of it from the boat, feeding off Mudbank Lane, Exmouth. Other highlights included – near Turf – the overwintered male Ruff with large numbers of Black-tailed Godwits (1000+), 1-200 Bar-tailed Godwits, several hundred roosting Golden Plover, about 180 Knot and maybe 20 Sanderlings scattered along the riverbank. Two drake Goldeneye were in the mouth of the Clyst (one later flying upriver at Topsham), the Slavonian Grebe was at Cockwood and scattered up the estuary were about a dozen Great Crested Grebes, 8 Shags, 20 Mergansers, 6 Ringed Plover, 5+ Greenshank and large numbers of Black-headed and Common Gulls, but surprisingly no Avocets – an early departure after a mild winter? Oh well, they’ll be back again in time for my next birdwatching cruise in November!
Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ February Newsletter
For those of you who are new to this monthly sign-up, welcome! And for those who have been loyal readers for some time, welcome back to your favourite read of the month!
This months edition will include a round-up of the following highlights from the fabulous month of February (which has flashed past our eyes!), as well upcoming Special Events to look out for in the coming weeks and months:
Sailing year-round, come rain or shine!
Flying the flag for Devon
The Personal Touch
Upcoming Special Events
Sailing year-round, come rain or shine!
What little difference a day makes.
Stuart Line Cruises are lucky enough to be able to operate year-round, whatever the weather. People are sometimes surprised to hear that we are unaffected by adverse weather in the calm and sheltered waters of the River Exe but the past couple of weeks have truly proven this theory!
Our Guided Bird Watching Cruise on Sunday 9th February, amidst the wrath of Storm Ciara was truly glorious. Our flagship vessel, Pride of Exmouth is modern and comfortable, boasting a spacious heated and covered lower saloon deck. There was organic soup a-plenty and the hot Chunk of Devon pasties a real treat to warm the cockles.
Although manoeuvring the vessel was challenging at points for our highly competent Skipper, Jake, there was a real sense of adventure and the bird sightings were magnificent throughout. In particular, it was wonderful to see a Peregrine gliding over the mudflats near Turf Lock and of course the ever-graceful Avocets at Topsham.
Flying the flag for Devon!
Out and about with Lauren We are proud to attend numerous national and international travel trade exhibitions throughout the year, both alongside Devon’s Top Attractions and Visit Devon and also independently. This year, we are particularly excited to be attending ‘Explore GB’ in Belfast, where we will be meeting with group travel operators from across the globe, to tell them all about how wonderful Devon is!
(As you can probably tell, we have a pretty good working relationship with each other and like to draw as much attention as we possibly can – work that’s fun, gets done!)
The Personal Touch…
I have been lucky enough to have been part of this blossoming family business for around 6 years now and have recently taken on the official role of marketing director as of this year. I am learning a whole new side to Stuart Line Cruise and to be honest I absolutely love it! How many people do you know that can say they genuinely look forward to each working day? Obviously that sounds horrendously ‘cheesy’ but what can I say? This isn’t a Monday to Friday grind and it isn’t a 5pm sharp exit from the office. It isn’t a set routine and there is so much that I am yet to learn – I am kept on my toes and every day is different and every day, I manage to find fun in what I do. And that really is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Life is too short not to have fun.
Which leads me on to my main point here…
(Incidentally, I had thought that January and February would be quiet times when I took on this role – time to reflect, take things a bit easy and slowly get to know the role but I was quite wrong and I would like to share with you one of my most recent (very positive) experiences).
Reflection is fundamental – in every day life, in business and in leisure and it’s an ongoing process. We reflect subconsciously in our thoughts and actually, this monthly edit presents to me the perfect opportunity for me to reflect. It can be applied to friendships, relationships and all areas of professional life – we are never perfect and nothing is ever flawless but we must want to improve. This progressive movement is what makes us grow and is how we can ‘be better’ in ourselves, what we do and how we work.
Among a whole host of trade events, networking opportunities and conferences this past month, I had the pleasure of attending a tourism conference at West Point. This was organised by the South West Tourism Alliance, of which we are members and aimed at local business – attractions, accommodation providers etc. A charismatic, incredibly funny and rather theatrical chap named Geoff Ramm was one of our guest speakers and delivered his animated signature talk on ‘Celebrity Service’. Geoff is actually something of a celebrity himself and delivers these seminars all over the world to some very significant global companies. One thing in particular really captured my attention; his talk was, as the name suggests, focused around how to deliver extraordinarily good customer service – how to transform this service from acceptable to exceptional.
Geoff centred this concept around the theme of ‘personalisation’ – that is, making people – customers – feel truly valued. Now, there are of course many ways in which you can do this and I have no doubt that each listener went away and formulated their own interpretation of how this could be applied to their organisation but for me, this appears really rather simple.
Be friendly. Smile. Engage. Be interested. And most of all, have fun.
These attributes are contagious – infectious – and to my mind, an encounter with someone – be it from an attraction, accommodation provider or whatever else – which focuses on building a rapport based on friendliness, engagement, interest and fun is the key recipe for making someone feel truly valued.
As you are probably aware, we are a very small family-run business and I really hope that your previous and future encounters with Stuart Line have been at least one or maybe even all of the above. I hope that something about us or the experience we offer, has made and will continue to make you smile and provide fun.
I would like to invite you to offer some feedback for us, if you would like to. We welcome your thoughts and strive to always be the best we can possibly be.
We are hugely excited for our ever-popular Mother’s Day Cream Tea Cruise this coming month.
Treat your family to some much-needed time out together on the water, to include a deliciously local Devon Cream Tea with oodles of cream and lashings of jam, with warming tea or coffee or perhaps even a little fizz!
These cruises are selling out fast so don’t forget to book your space soon!
Reminisce as you travel through time along the oldest working ship canal in Europe, with a choice of departure from Exmouth or Exeter. Sailing through two working locks and the Countess Wear swing bridge, this cruise presents the perfect opportunity to explore the historic quayside of Exeter and enjoy a spot of lunch at one of the many independent eateries.
These cruises are hugely popular and always over-subscribed. Some are already full but there is still some space so get in before all spaces sell out!
Yet another great Cruise this afternoon with several highlights unfolding as we made our way up towards Topsham. Everyone was invited to find the Slavonian Grebe around the Cockwood area but the bird was found further towards Starcross where it was fishing with a pair of Red Breasted Mergansers a pair of Great Crested Grebe and two female and a male Golden Eye a great little find. Several Turnstone has also been seen is this area during the last couple of cruises but today the visitors were treated to 120+ Turnstone feeding together a little further north. 6 Greenshank were seen together near the River Kenn. Several Grey Heron were seen at their nesting site and the first of the Avocets were seen near just before the Clyst confluence. Good numbers of Curlew were seen throughout. Another highlight for the visitors Bar-tailed Godwits were in very good numbers with at least 150+ seen close to the boat in two groups. Great Crested Grebe were seen in both winter and summer plumage. The confirmed Common Seal was on a sandbar near the Clyst confluence and Black-tailed Godwits were first seen in good number with over 300+ seen all along the channel to Topsham. In the fields at Powderham Marsh 300+ Dark Bellied Brent Geese were seen feeding and on the estuary mud both sides of the channel were good numbers of Dunlin, Knot and Grey Plover. Always fantastic to see Sanderling 6+ was seen opposite Turf Lock. On the Exminster side 300+ Golden Plover were seen roosting. As we entered Topsham waters good numbers of Redshank and again a few Teal were seen on the edge of the river. The final highlight was 100+ Black-tailed Godwit several in their breeding plumage flew very close the boat which is always a privilege to see.
Nice light (but a brisk wind) for the birdwatching cruise this afternoon. One of yesterday’s Grey Seals was still lying on a low vessel off Dawlish Warren, and was still there on our return. As usual, ‘Herbert’ the Slavonian Grebe was close to 3 Goldeneye (1 drake) and several Red-breasted Mergansers and Great Crested Grebes off Cockwood, with several hundred Brent Geese nearby waiting to resume feeding on Starcross golf course. There were some smart Cormorants and Shags sporting their breeding plumage around and on Bull Hill. Several Greenshanks and the first Avocets were around Powderham and further on 30+ Pintail off Lympstone Marines Camp and a Harbour Seal was hauled out. Masses of Black-tailed Godwits and 15 Ringed Plovers were feeding on the mud at Turf, while about 800 Golden Plovers were roosting in a tight flock. Grey Plovers, Knots and a surprising number of Sanderlings (10-15) were seen on the way to Topsham, with masses of Dunlin, Redshank and both godwits, with a fair scattering of Avocets for good measure.
Today’s Bird cruise was a good on with dry, a bit breezy with glimpses of the sun and good numbers of birds to see throughout from the marina to Topsham and back again. Also to please the visitors were two adult Grey Seals seen on the Mussel harvesting vessels and a juvenile Grey Seal on a mudbank opposite the River Clyst confluence further up the estuary. Good numbers of Red Breasted Mergansers were seen throughout the estuary with close-up views near the boat showing off their amazing head plumage. The Slavonian Grebe was on show near Starcross with a small number of Great Crested Grebe in the same area. Several Turnstones were seen to amongst the seaweed and rocky bits between Cockwood and Starcross. Several Greenshank were seen near the River Kenn confluence our first Avocets were seen in this area to. Dark Bellied Brent Geese were in good numbers around Starcross with up to 300+ birds seen along this stretch in flight and along the waters edge. 200+ Pintail and Widgeon was seen around Exton and the Clyst Confluence. As we approached Turf Lock a few Ringed Plover, a couple of Sanderling Grey Plover, Avocets, Dunlin, Redshank, Knot, Bar-tailed Godwit were seen in good numbers on both sides of the channel all the way to Topsham with a mixed flock of Black-tailed and Bar-tailed Godwits were at the waters edge. As we approached Topsham the visitors were treated by 200+ Black-tailed Godwits fly over the boat heading downstream, this is always a great spectacle. On our return back to Exmouth nice flocks of Dunlin, Godwits, Widgeon, Knot and a few Lapwing finished off a great Stuartline bird cruise with the visitors very pleased with their sightings.
A passing cold front brought strong wind and rain showers at first, but later this turned to some welcome sunshine. A Red-necked Grebe was diving with Red-breasted Mergansers near Exmouth and the resident Slavonian Grebe, the first of several Great Crested Grebes and three Goldeneye (one drake) were seen off Cockwood. Several Greenshanks were in evidence between Starcross and Powderham, where Herons were getting blown around in the heronry. The first Avocet was also at Powderham and surprisingly few were seen until Turf, where the mudbanks held 15 Ringed Plovers, a large flock of Black-tailed Godwits and maybe 50 each of Grey Plover and Knot. A few Golden Plovers flew around: most were presumably with Lapwings in the flooded marshes. A couple of Sanderlings were with Dunlins and other waders seen along the river channel towards Topsham, where unusually Bar-tailed Godwits dominated the godwit flocks.
Well, what an exhilarating and enjoyable cruise we all had today thanks to Skipper Jake and the Crew Lauren and Craig. With some birds keeping their heads down sheltering for the strong wind there was a good diverse number of birds throughout the estuary to be seen by the visitors. Still with us the Red-Necked Grebe was fishing off Shelley Beach, the Slavonian Grebe put in an appearance off Cockwood and several Great Crested Grebes were fishing the lower reaches. Turnstones were seen in flight and feeding around Starcross. Bar-Tailed Godwits and Greenshank were seen feeding near the Ken confluence. Shelduck were out in numbers along with a few Widgeon and Pintail off Lympstone. With a guest appearance of Mike Langman as assistant spotter we picked out Grey Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and our first Avocets near the Clyst confluence. A Peregrine Falcon put in an appearance low over the mudflats heading towards Powderham Marsh then turned towards Stracross. A large flock of mixed Godwits mainly black-tailed were viewed further up the estuary and stayed as we cruised by. Avocets and mixed Gull flocks were seen all the way to Topsham with plenty of Red Breasted Mergansers seen along this stretch. A small flock of Lapwing finished off this memorable afternoon cruising.