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