In our rush to get Snark ready for our Winter Dining opening on the 14th October we haven't said much about the background to our arrival in Exeter and those involved.
We have been based in Dartmouth for the past five years. Our winter berth has been a tidal quayside up a muddy creek behind the naval college,. It had lots going for it, boatyard service on hand, amazing wildlife, quiet and restful, but and its a big but, much too remote for winter operations. As Dartmouth transitions itself into a cruise port there is less and less space for small traditional boat operations such as ours. We were well down the list of priorities for the harbour authority and made to feel a burden rather than an asset. So we were looking for a new winter base.
Last autumn I attended a National Heritage Ships conference at the SS Great Britain in Bristol. One of the speakers was Jon Bell from the Exeter Canal and Quayside Trust. He mentioned that they had been selected as a Heritage Harbour and as part of the development of the port they were looking for traditional boats to visit. A quick chat after the event lead to a meeting with him and the Exeter Harbour Master Grahame Forshaw at the Exeter Docks last December. There were lots of challenges to running an operation on the canal particularly pollution control and power requirements. But undaunted all parties set about resolving them. On our part we needed to treat our sewage output so anything entering the canal was safe and we needed to change our heating system from solid fuel burning to shore supplied electrical heat pump; both part of our long term sustainability plan. The problems with this were mentioned in a previous blog but these have been overcome and we have very nearly completed the installations and commissioning of the new systems.
The harbour has done their bit most effectively, installing a larger power supply point, heavier mooring rings and buoys and providing pilotage from Exmouth to Topsham, a temporary berth on the Topsham quay for us to lower the masts ( to get under the M5), a tow up the canal (the weed clogs water inlets) while Colin Acton, the canal manager sorted out bookings, helped manage our cranage operations , booked bridge and lock openings and generally made our arrival and berthing trouble free.
Our official arrival was on Saturday 23rd. as part of the Heritage Harbour Festival. We were greeted by the Lord Mayor in all his finery attended by his partner and mace bearer! (Every one should have one). Cannons were fired in celebration (I got to set one off ) and we hired Pete Canter's jazz band to perform on deck to promote our new business.
In the early evening we hosted a thank you reception on board for the key councillors, trustees, the harbour team and others from the various organisations who had contributed to our successful arrival. A great success if exhausting.
Sunday was Britannia's day (the arrival of the part restored east coast sailing smack ) supported by lots of shore side events. In the afternoon we hosted a poet Kim Squirrell with her partner Dave performing her lyric poem 'Rope' to a very appreciative audience.
This was the first performance event on Snark, to be followed by more as part of our Wednesday Pop-up series. More on that in future blogs.