Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ September
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! 

Silver Linings

This year has not been easy for us, both from a business perspective and for our family.

Like everyone, we have been confronted with challenges beyond our control or what we could have ever imagined. I would be lying if I said that it has been all plane sailing.

We have been running at around 1/3 of our usual capacity since 4th July, with all of the same overheads as usual – in fact, we have needed extra staff in order to ensure that all of our stringent COVID_19 Safety Measures have been implemented and adhered to. We lost virtually all of our private charter bookings for weddings and parties and so on and the recent introduction of the ‘Rule of Six’ has placed further restraints on what we are able to do. And of course on top of this, the summer season has been dramatically shortened due to the late start.

However, we pride ourselves on always looking on the bright side, never feeling sorry for ourselves and consistent unrelenting efforts to make the best of things. This is not something which is about to change.

Our team have been truly awesome, adapting overnight and really just getting on with it; feedback from passengers has been incredibly positive, with glowing reviews of our exceptional customer service and we feel tremendously proud of this. It has not been easy for our Crew or shore-based staff, with so many additional aspects to their roles. Our Crew have been allocating seating positions during boarding, operating a waiter/waitress-only service during cruises and have been wearing face masks throughout – not to mention the enhanced cleaning protocols which we have in place. Our shore-based staff have been busy updating our website and ensuring that everyone has been aware of exactly what to expect and the volume of enquiries has been understandably high. The measures we have in place have swiftly become the ‘norm’ and are generally perceived by the public to be expected when visiting an attraction but we are not afraid to admit the additional strain this has placed on our staff and our gratitude to them is immense.

The above photos are a symbol of what we have been faced with during this challenging time; they represent resilience, innovation, determination and forward-thinking. We have successfully adapted the way we run our business and have readily embraced new opportunities. We lost most of our private charter bookings as well as many of our special events such as regattas and air shows but in their place, we have introduced our highly anticipated Cruise Ship Sightseeing Tours. This has been our silver lining.

Jake is now at the helm of our family-run business and he could not be doing a better job. He is the calm, resilient, innovative, determined and forward-thinking driving force at every hurdle and his unwavering positivity is something to be admired. It is my privilege to do all of this by his side.

Cruise Ship Sightseeing Tours

Autumn Equinox 

According to the astronomical calendar, 22nd September 2020 marked the start of Autumn – when the leaves start to fall, temperatures drop and the days become shorter.

How the changing of the seasons can be upon us already, I truly have no idea. This year has absolutely flown and it feels so surreal. Our summer season has been so dramatically shortened and yet I feel that we have so completely made the most of it in every way possible. It has been wonderful, actually.

I’m sure you’ll agree, we have been utterly spoilt with the weather we have been blessed with this summer – I certainly haven’t felt the desire to travel abroad (aside from a few other obvious and topical reasons, that is). The demand for our diverse range of cruises has been unprecedented and we have adored showcasing Devon’s stunning East and South Devon coastlines as well as the glorious River Exe Estuary with our passengers. We have actually felt that the summer season has extended further into September than usual – staycation with the family has certainly been a top travel trend for summer 2020 – an undeniable blessing for those operating within the travel and tourism industry in Devon.

The week of the Autumn Equinox marked our last Day Trip to Torquay and Brixham for the year and we will soon see our final Jurassic Coast and Mini Coastal Cruises too. We are starting to notice the arrival of a number of bird species to the Exe Estuary for their winter migration and our Guided Bird Watching Cruises will be upon us before we know it!

Many of you may already be aware that the Exe Estuary is a designated Ramsar Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), owing to its prolific migratory bird life during winter. Thousands upon thousands of birds from the likes of Greenland, Iceland and Arctic Siberia make their home here on the calm and sheltered waters to have their babies and feed on the rich biodiversity found on the vast mudflats at low tide. As I watch the birds dancing triumphantly through the air at the mouth of the estuary and singing merrily, I can’t help but watch in wonder as I think about the epic journey they must have endured to get here. It’s no wonder they appear relieved to have arrived – a truly remarkable feat in my eyes. I am also reminded of the natural wonder which they represent – the natural world is evidently thriving.

We are fortunate to operate throughout the year and to witness this transition from one season to another – to watch as the estuary comes alive – is a real treat. As we head into October, there will be fewer private boats out on the River Exe as they are hauled out for their winter maintenance and storage, making way for the wildlife to thrive and we will relish the unique privilege of sharing it with them.

We love this time of year. It doesn’t mark the end of our season – rather, it marks the exciting beginning of the next.

Guided Bird Watching Cruises
A Post Card from Devon

Lockdown was an incredibly strange time for us all and I have remarked previously about how struck I was by all of your comments and interaction through the limitless digital world. Despite not seeing you for so many weeks and months, we felt connected via our digital platforms and it was a wonderful way to remain engaged and to feel less socially isolated.

A couple of days ago I was sent this photograph from a lovely lady via Facebook. It shows a beautiful embroidery of our Pride of Exmouth, cleverly crafted by the lady’s daughter during lockdown. The lady adores Exmouth and our boats and was really missing us during lock down and this just really touched me.

It is amazing to think that our business and our boats have become part of the scenery in Exmouth for so many people and that our existence touches on so many lives in different ways.

What a beautiful thing and what a lovely lady to have taken the trouble to send me the photograph.

Your thoughts, please! 

And finally, folks, we would really value your input with regards to Sail with Santa for 2020.

We are determined that we will be able to find a way to run these cruises in a fun and safe way but clearly, some aspects of the entertainment which we are able to offer will need to change, due to social distancing and other necessary COVID_19 Safety Measures.

We anticipate that on board capacity will of course need to be significantly reduced and that we will be unable to offer face painting or the Punch and Judy Show. We expect that table and chair seating may be a sensible option, enabling all family groups and individuals to be appropriately spaced apart and we are looking for ideas for entertainment for the children, which would not require people to get up and move around too much.

All ideas very welcome and if you are able to let us know by responding to this email then I would be most grateful.

We want to be able to provide the usual fun, festive and magical experience but as always, your health and safety and that of our staff is our top priority.

Thank you all for your continued support, I cannot tell you how much it means to us. We are so grateful for each and every bit of feedback and word of encouragement and look forward to many, many more glorious boat trips in the months and years to come.

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ August 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! 

Awesome August! 

Well, I think this is the first time I have ever posted my newsletter a day into the following month…indeed, August has been awesome and incredibly busy. So firstly, please forgive my lack of punctuality!

August. The month of summer holidays in full swing, ‘staycation’ like we’ve never seen before, absolutely sensational marine wildlife sightings, glorious sunsets and unforgettable memories made. Well, I don’t know about you but this ‘new normal’ doesn’t seem all that bad to me, after all.

So, I hope that you will enjoy reading about what we have been up to over the past month and what we look forward to as September is upon us.

Fish & Fizz Evening Cruise 

Our Fish and Fizz Evening Cruise is one of our Special Events, held twice a year and is always an incredibly popular choice amongst local folk and holiday-makers alike. The event was originally due to take place back in June but this was of course cancelled due to the pandemic and lock-down restrictions and so we rescheduled to 29th August. This year, due to the necessity for social distancing combined with high demand, we decided to use both boats.

The evening was a sell-out and we couldn’t have asked for better weather conditions. The northerly breeze made for a slight chill in the air but the sea was flat calm and Pride of Exmouth was able to set sail along East Devon’s magnificent Jurassic Coast.

The Krispies delivery vans arrived right on cue at 18:40, ready to distribute the goods as passengers started to board at 18:45. Each passenger was handed a glass of fizz as they boarded (orange juice for the young’ens) and seating was allocated as per our current normal, to ensure appropriate social distancing.

Captain Jake spent the evening with his binoculars at the ready; earlier that day we had been lucky enough to spot a Pilot Whale during our Jurassic Coast Cruise – I know, we couldn’t quite believe it either – and he was hoping for another sighting in the evening. We had no such luck and in fairness I think it would have been too good to be true to see it twice in one day but we did see a lovely display of coastal birds and we got nice and close to the thriving Kittiwake colony at Straight Point, which is always a real highlight.

The golden glow at sunset was truly spectacular, with the light reflecting beautifully on the deep red Triassic rock as we turned to head back to the River Exe and at this point we started to play some relaxing background music. The atmosphere on board felt incredibly happy and relaxed and I really felt that people were having a great time – myself included!

Once we were back in the River Exe we were really starting to lose the light. Everyone on the upper open-top deck was offered a cosy blanket and the colourful fairy lights were switched on. The moon shone bright and the reflections on the calm and still water were so pretty. It was lovely to pass our other vessel, Tudor Rose, as she too meandered along the estuary and all of our passengers waved merrily to all of hers.

It really was a lovely evening and we felt so lucky to be on the water with two boats full of passengers who were all having a lovely time – there was a real sense that everyone was just so pleased to be out for the evening and having a jolly nice time.

We still have a little space remaining for this Friday’s Fish and Fizz Evening Cruise (around 10 spaces I believe), so if you think this sounds like your cup of tea, then be sure to book before the tickets sell out!

Book Now!
Marine Wildlife Sightings

Over the course of the past month, we have experienced more marine wildlife sightings than ever before during our cruises. Now, I am no marine biologist but I am sure there must be some sort of scientific explanation as to why we have spotted unprecedented numbers of dolphins so close to the shore in the waters of Lyme Bay. Does anyone know why this might be?

On Saturday, our Skipper, Crew and passengers were absolutely amazed to spot what we believe to have been a Pilot Whale just off of the East Devon coast, near Straight Point (pictured top left by one of our passengers – 13-year-old Jon). The large mammal was, at first, mistaken for a Common Dolphin, with a similarly shaped fin protruding from the surface of the water. As time went on and the mammal moved closer towards our vessel, it became apparent that it was certainly too big to be any breed of Dolphin and then it started blowing out water into the air, making a significant splash. The mammal appeared to be alone (they are generally known to stay in pods) and moved very slowly in the water, seemingly unperturbed by our presence and making an incredible spectacle for us all.

Later that evening, I came across a BBC news item, reporting that a large pod of Pilot Whales had been spotted off of the Cornish coast that same day by a fishing trawler – perhaps this one had become separated from the pod?

I would love to know more about why these creatures are here and would certainly love to be able to see one with my own eyes!

Cruise Ship Sightings

A somewhat comical reminder that we are indeed a small fish in a rather big pond!

This photograph was taken by someone on the shore at Babbacombe, as we sailed along the South Devon coastline en route to Torbay for our weekly day trip to Torquay and Brixham. There have been two enormous P&O Cruise Ships at anchor off of the South Devon Coast for a few weeks now – the Ventura and the Azura.

The Vetura and Azura are sister ships, both launched to break the mould for P&O Cruises’ ships – to be bigger, better and more family-friendly.

Ventura

Capacity: 3080 passengers
Crew: 1220
Sails from: Southampton
Sails to: Mediterranean, British Isles & Western Europe, Caribbean, Western Mediterranean, Baltic Sea – oh, and Devon!

Azura

Capacity: 3100 passengers
Crew: 1250
Sails from: Southampton, Barbados, Malta
Sail to: Caribbean, Europe, Western Mediterranean, Eastern Mediterranean – oh, and Devon!

As we sailed past, our Skipper could see the Captain of the Azura on the bridge. He waved up at the tiny spec of a person who seemed so far away and didn’t expect him to not only wave back but to also blast the horn, much to the amazement and excitement of Pride of Exmouth’s passengers! It was incredibly loud – exhilarating in fact and demonstrated a great sense of friendly humour from their watchman!

On the one hand, it is of course sad to see these ships redundantly waiting in the bay with nowhere to go – a sure sign of the challenging times which many travel companies currently face but on the other hand, it has been truly wonderful to see them and our passengers have absolutely loved being able to see something so awesome that many people may never have seen so close up before.

As with all things in life, opinions vary and some people love them whilst others do not but one thing is for sure and that is that they are a sight to behold and certainly not something you get to see every day! In my humble opinion, seeing these magnificent ships represents one of the many positive and fascinating things which has come about since the outbreak of the global pandemic and I am grateful for the opportunity to see them so close!

Well, folks, that’s about all for today but as always, we would like to thank you so very much for your invaluable support – every comment, email, review and phone call offering words of encouragement and support at this strange time mean the world and help us to stay positive and continue to do what we love.

I hope that you are continuing to enjoy our monthly updates and here’s to what the fun which the next month may bring!

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ July 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! 

Back to Business! 

It has been a good month, by Jove!

The past month has sailed by in a flash and I can’t quite believe that I am sat here on a rainy Saturday afternoon in my office, contemplating July’s newsletter content. It has come around so fast but you know what they say – time flies when you’re having fun!

July has been wonderful and overwhelming and magical all at once. We feel so fortunate to be back up and running again and are so indescribably grateful to each and every passenger and passer-by, who have shown nothing but encouragement and support towards us.

We have shared some truly memorable moments with you over the past month on some very special cruises indeed and I hope that you will enjoy reading about a few of them, which I am about to share with you…

Fantastic Jurassic!

Our Jurassic Coast Cruises have proven a real hit so far this season, with each one running at or near full capacity (our ‘new’ capacity, that is)! Now, I am quite aware that I tend to harp on unreservedly to anyone within earshot about how much I adore the Jurassic Coast and I do not apologise for this – the 250-million-year-old Triassic red cliffs near Orcombe Point are magnificent and the facts relating to their history and geology are mind-blowing – not to mention the diverse marine wildlife which appears to be thriving in Lyme Bay – Peregrine Falcons, Dolphins, Gannets and many other species. It really does sell itself but over the past few weeks or so, we have been blessed with near-perfect conditions – that’s clear blue skies, bright sunshine, crystal clear water, rare wildlife sightings and highly favourable wind direction, resulting in flat calm water – the cruises have been truly sensational and loved by all.

The global pandemic has hit many of us extremely hard, forcing us to face unexpected challenges which are beyond our control and mental health has been a very real concern for so many. So many people have missed out on time spent with their families or have had holidays cancelled but I can honestly say, with my hand on my heart, that with views like the one above right on our doorstep, there is no place we would rather be and it gives us nothing but pleasure to be able to share this with you.

Huge thanks to Red Zeppelin Photography and Videography for capturing this perfect moment near Ladram Bay, as we headed for Sidmouth last week.

Let the good times roll…

Last month I featured a little edit in my newsletter, entitled ‘Let the good times roll…’; I included details of some of our upcoming Special Events but these felt like a world away from what our ‘lock-down’ life felt like. So, I thought it may be entirely appropriate to use the same heading again, to update you on how the good times are rolling!

I would like to highlight one of our recent Special Events, which this time last month I was really looking forward to but seemed a distant dream and now stands out to me as my favourite evenings so far, since re-opening.

Of course, we were hugely excited for the Countess Wear Evening Cruise but it was hard to imagine what it would be like and I couldn’t help but wonder if it would be as enjoyable as before, given the new restrictions which we hold a moral responsibility to facilitate and enforce as best we can.

The Countess Wear Evening Cruise took place, as planned on Tuesday 21st July. This was our first Special Event of the summer season which had been able to go ahead as planned and we were overwhelmed by the number of bookings which came flooding in during the week and days leading up to it. We made the decision to run both boats for the evening; the weather was set to be glorious and it felt like an opportunity for a perfect summers evening, not to be missed.

I noticed the Spring Tide start to aggressively flood past the docks entrance and into the river about an hour before boarding time. For those who aren’t aware, we are only able to run this particular cruise on an exceptionally high Spring Tide, which is one of the reasons that it is so special!

As soon as we left the docks and started to head up river, the water was as smooth as ever and it was starting to transition into a perfectly tranquil evening on the Exe, as we meandered up in convoy towards Topsham. Daylight began to turn into evening at around 20:00 and by the time we headed under the main M5 motorway bridge past Topsham, the fierce evening sun drenched everything in its path in a vibrant orange glow.

It was absolutely beautiful.

The on-board atmosphere was happy and relaxed; the Crew worked tirelessly and energetically, serving passengers in their seats – local beer, crisp cold Sauvignon, light-hearted chatter and the occasional clinking of glasses all made for a cosmopolitan feel – perhaps the closest that most had been to being ‘on holiday’ for several months.

As we approached the furthest navigable point of the River Exe, passengers waved to jolly folk in their waterside gardens and on their balconies, dining Al Fresco. The bright orange sun was blinding by this point and everyone on board appeared fixated to its beauty. I took loads of photos but they never quite do justice to ‘the real deal’.

We turned slowly at Countess Wear and there was a group of Kayakers and a large ballet of white Swans – people and nature enjoying the blissful evening as one. It was heavenly.

As we started to make our way back down the river, the scenery was just as mesmerising and many passengers faced towards the stern of the boat, with their eyes still fixed to the setting sun, as it narrowed into an orange dot and disappeared off of the horizon. By this point we were at Lympstone, sailing close to the orange cliffs on the high tide and the air became chilly. It felt sleepy and relaxed and people kept warm with blankets.

We arrived back to Exmouth Docks for around 21:30 and as passengers disembarked, they had nothing but praise and thanks for such a wonderful evening. This was reciprocated by our Skipper and Crew who also thoroughly enjoyed the evening!

Our next Countess Wear Evening Cruise will be on 19th August and this will be the last of the year. Let’s hope for an evening as perfect as this.

Countess Wear Evening Cruise
Thank you!

One of things which has struck me most about re-opening our family business, is just how understanding and encouraging people have been towards us. I often remark at how fortunate we are to be backed so firmly by our local community and we have honestly been made to feel that our neighbours and regular passengers have wanted nothing more than to watch us succeed in our ‘new normal’. We have felt overwhelmed by the support which people have offered, not only by booking their experiences with us but in their words of encouragement both in person and via emails, telephone calls and on social media – they have made it abundantly clear that they have been really routing for us and for this we are extremely thankful. Your support has filled us with courage, allowing us to offer the same warm welcome and memorable experience for visitors which we have built our reputation upon, whist feeling confident in our new operational procedures, making people feel safe and this is something which is clearly reflected in the feedback and reviews which people have taken the time to publish about us.

Whilst I am on the subject of thanks, I must also take a moment to mention our team of Skippers, Crew and shore-based staff because we quite simply could not do this without them. We are a family-run business and our staff have felt like a seamless extension of our own family – they have adapted and shown focus and determination to work towards a mutual goal for our business. We are still learning every day but thanks to their collaboration and dedication, we find ourselves starting to relax into our adjusted way of operating and we are delighted to report that it is working very well indeed.

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ June 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! 

Yes that’s right, dear friends – WE’RE GOOD TO GO!

We are thrilled to have been awarded with this quality mark from the official Destination Management Organisation (DMO), Visit England. This indicates that Stuart Line Cruises understand official guidance set out by UK Government and Public Health England in relation to COVID-19.

In addition, it is intended to reassure prospective visitors that we have carried out comprehensive risk assessments regarding COVID-19 across all areas of our business and that we have implemented appropriate measures and operational adjustments to ensure the health and safety of our visitors and staff.

I want to thank those of you who kindly responded to the extra email which was sent out this month (very naughty of me I know), by taking part in the survey which I invited you to complete. We were overwhelmed by the number of responses and your feedback has been invaluable in constructing our new COVID-19 web page and FAQs.

Right, now that’s the formal bit out of the way and what I really want to say is that we are incredibly proud that all of our hard work over the lock-down period has paid off, we are officially ready for business again and we are just really very excited indeed to welcome you aboard again! We are going to have a hoot!

If you’d like to ogle our new web page then please feel free, via the button below and do let us know if you have any other questions or concerns at all – our friendly team are on hand to help!

COVID-19
Ship Shape

I am sure that most of you are aware of much of the work which we have been doing throughout lock-down, in terms of maintenance and making sure that our boats are looking tip-top and raring to go. There is so much more to what we do than what is most visible day-to-day; we know that many of you love to see the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff and we love sharing this aspect of our business with you.

This week has seen further government announcements and in particular, the PM has addressed ‘The Visitor Economy’, offering more specific guidance for visitor attractions such as ourselves. This has been hugely reassuring for us and has allowed us to finalise our plans and adjustments for safe operation and with a more concrete time line, we have been able to complete lots of finishing touches aboard our vessels.

This week we set Pride of Exmouth and Tudor Rose high and dry on Shelly Beach. Aside from being an impressive spectacle as they sat side-by-side, drawing lots of attention and keen interest from passers-by, this gave us the opportunity to pressure wash the hulls of both boats, check the propellers and anodes and some other general checks. Having not been in operation for so many weeks this was an important thing for us to be able to do, to reassure us that they are both in mint condition – which they are, by the way!

In addition to this, we have had new sign writing done on both boats, making them look lovely and smart. The signs are now more in-keeping with our current branding and stand out from afar – we hope you agree!

Office-based operations have also been very busy (aka yours truly – can’t be giving Jake all the praise!!), with a particular focus on making sure that our marketing materials are looking beautiful – all-new posters are out and we have made some new a-boards, as seen above! We have also had brand new boards made for the windows in our Marina Office which we are delighted with!

Back to Jake, he has been working hard to get our trusty tender back on the water. We have had to buy a brand new outboard engine due to the previous one giving up the ghost and there have been some structural alterations to ensure that we don’t get the same problem occurring again! Jake is actually out painting the decks as we speak and we are hoping that this will be completed this week.

Let the good times roll…

Two of our most highly-anticipated Special Events have some unexpected space, as a result of some cancellations from coach groups due to COVID-19.

For anyone who has been lucky enough to join us for an Exeter Canal Cruise or Countess Wear Evening Cruise in the past, I am sure you will agree that these are both a real treat and are not to be missed.

Most of the spare spaces have been snapped up already but if you’d like to join us then hit the links below before it’s too late!

Exeter Canal Cruise
Countess Wear Evening Cruise
We can all get by with a little help from our friends!

We are very fortunate to have been members of Devon’s Association of Top Attractions (DATA) for some years now. The organisation is (as the name suggests) comprised of all of the top attractions in Devon and we have all kept in touch with each other throughout this incredibly strange chapter in our lives, sharing insight and ideas and offering moral support to each other. We all face similar challenges as we prepare for 4th July and it has been hugely reassuring to feel that we are not alone!

Now, as we are getting ready to welcome visitors again, we would like to invite you to take part in DATA’s survey – the feedback from which, will assist ourselves and many other attractions in their plans for re-opening.

As a big thank you, every completed survey form will be entered into a prize draw to win one of three 2021 family tickets to visit one of Devon’s Top Attractions and the lucky winners get to choose which attraction they want to visit. Just fill in your email at the end of this survey to be entered.

Take the Survey
Well, that’s all for today, folks!

That just leaves me to say that I sincerely hope that yourself and your loved ones are well and we very much look forward to seeing you again soon. I could absolutely burst with excitement!

Your thoughts, please! 

As we busily prepare ahead of re-opening on 4th July 2020, post-lock-down, there is of course a lot for us to think about in terms of ensuring that we are able to operate safely.

We already have lots of ideas and are keeping up to date with latest government advice, which is issued via various associations which we are members of but we would really value your thoughts. We hope that your feedback will assist us in planning our re-opening and the sorts of measures which we will have in place to ensure safe operation and the protection of passengers and our staff.

We are very much looking forward to welcoming people back on board but ultimately, our primary concern will be ensuring that people can enjoy the amazing experiences which we offer, whilst feeling confident and safe to do so.

Please complete our short survey below

 

Complete Survey

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ May 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! 

First and foremost, I hope that you are keeping safe and well?

Thank you for allowing me to steal a few moments of your day to let you know what we have been up to and what we are most looking forward to as we prepare for the highly anticipated ‘unlock’.

I would like to say a huge thanks to Jedd Clay, who very kindly sent the above photo of Pride of Exmouth sat on her mooring, which he took recently whilst out walking. As well as being beautiful and bright, the photo is also incredibly poignant, depicting the current period of time which has been both surreal and overwhelming. Whilst the boats have been predominantly sat on their moorings like this for many weeks now, we have been steadily preparing to re-open, with unwavering optimism and we are incredibly proud to be in a position now where we are ready to ‘hit the ground running’ as soon as we are given the go-ahead and have the appropriate measures in place.

So, without further ado, I hope that you will find this month’s newsletter interesting and that gaining an insight into what we have been up to will suitably while away some time and insight some excitement for July!

Absence makes the heart grow fonder…

…and time apart merely strengthens the heart.

We are hoping to be back up and running from 4th July 2020.

Yippee! It feels oh-so good to write those words and even better to say them out-loud – and yes, I may have just actually said that out loud to myself in my seafront booking office (definitely remaining sane at all times during lock-down..)!

We are under no illusion; things are likely to be adapted and it is likely that operation will be different to usual – how? We haven’t yet been told but we are ready to embrace what is required of us in order to get back out on the water with you and can’t wait to recommence provision of extraordinary and fun experiences which so many of you know and love.

I have spoken before about the most overwhelming support which we have experienced since the start of this strange and unexpected chapter of life. The emails, the comments on social media, the phone calls and the most friendly and heart-felt conversations from people – familiar faces and complete strangers – passing by my office window whilst on their daily walks. So many people have taken the trouble to ask if we are OK and to let us know how much they are missing us and that they can’t wait to get back out on our boats.

We have, of course, been forced to cancel a number of Special Events, regular sailings and Private Charters which is heart-breaking on all accounts but made so much less devastating for us by people asking for credit notes and transferring to more suitable dates. As a small family-run business, this really does mean the world – we are incredibly grateful to have such a wonderful community surrounding us and in return, we have tried to offer as much flexibility for people to re-book as we possibly can. There has been a real sense of camaraderie and working together to achieve an outcome which is as good for everyone as it possibly can be.

We are currently taking bookings from 4th July and you can view our online timetable via the button below!

Timetable
No rest for the wicked! 

Following last month’s maintenance update which focused primarily on Pride of Exmouth’s exterior paintwork which we have been working on, I thought it was about time I updated you on some other aspects of general maintenance within our business – some of the behind the scenes stuff which goes largely unnoticed on a day-to-day basis but which keep things running smoothly and safely.

General maintenance is an ongoing process and we have used this time to ensure completion of jobs that we don’t usually get time for, most of which are non-essential but have really improved the way things look and run.

I refer largely to Pride of Exmouth’s departure point; we have serviced and repainted the crane which, although doesn’t get used very often, comes in handy for transferring life rafts onto the boats and various other essential jobs throughout the year. In addition, we have designed and installed a new fendering system for the ‘pier’ and although this will not really be visible to many people as it is down over the edge, is essential in order for us to land safely and without risk of damage to the boats (particularly handy when Jake is at the helm! Only joking, we all know he’s the best in the business)! We have crafted new wooden blocks with stainless steel runners so that they slide up and down with the tide – clever, eh?

Odd jobs on board have included fitting new ceiling panels on Pride of Exmouth to replace damaged ones and also fitting the newly varnished and extremely shiny wooden stern steps.

We hope you’ll agree that the boats and departure points are all looking really smart and we can’t wait for you to hop aboard to inspect it for yourselves!

The best is yet to come…

And finally, I just wanted to share with you this glorious sunset because if this situation has taught me one thing in particular, it is just how lucky I am to be able to admire stunning scenery like this every single day and how incredibly important it is to count your blessings and focus on the good things – there are always plenty, it’s just that sometimes you have to look slightly harder than others to find them.

July is set to be an exciting month for us, with two of our favourite Special Events, the Exeter Canal Cruise and the Countess Wear Evening Cruise due to take place – the first of the year for both. Incidentally, we do still have some space on the Exeter Canal Cruise on 28th July, which is most unusual but is due to coach firms sadly having to cancel their spaces.

So to conclude, my message to you is this: hang in there – the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to glimmer through the cracks and there is a real sense of optimism in the air. But don’t get ahead of yourselves; keep being sensible – the virus has not suddenly disappeared and we must all remain vigilant, behave responsibly and together, find a new ‘normal’.

Exeter Canal Cruise
Countess Wear Evening Cruise

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ April 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! 

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.

Find Out More

Our very own Rainbow of Hope 

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!

Blog

Golden Oldies 

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.

Take care, stay healthy and be happy.

With all our love,
The Stuarts X

Welcome to Stuart Line Cruises’ March 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!

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.

Derek Carter

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!

Dave Smallshire