30th September 2022
We’re continuing on our journey to discover some of the most unusual jobs around the English Riviera and today we’re heading out to sea!
Say hello to Lynda: General Manager for the Western Lady Ferry Service.
Western Lady have been operating a wonderful ferry service between Brixham & Torquay for over 70 years!
I have been in the pleasure boat industry for 25 years now – starting as a sales clerk and slowly working my way to management. During this time, I gained my commercial boat masters’ license and had the pleasure of skippering the ferries in Dartmouth during the winter months.
It is a funny story how I came into the industry as I was popping down to visit my friend to see how her day was going at her kiosk (she worked on the boats as a sales clerk) and whilst I was there, she asked if I would look after the kiosk whilst she popped to the shop. Not having done the job before I gave it a go and started selling tickets left right and center (my father used to run a stall on Brick Lane market so this was second nature to me). Unbeknownst to me the company boss came up to me and asked who I was and I introduced myself and then tried to sell her a ticket… (awkward), and the rest as they say is history!
I have loved being in the industry for the last 25 years and couldn’t think of a better way to spend my working days. I truly believe I have salt water in my veins. My father spent time in the navy and my husband and son are trawlermen so I think we all are born water babies.
I truly love my job and, on my route, to work every day looking over Torquay harbour before the world has really woken up is the best feeling in the world. On a summer morning the sun is shining and glistening across the still waters of the bay and even the seagulls haven’t started calling to each other…. yet (bliss).
The first thing I will do to start my day at 7am is communicate with my skippers and senior deckhand on the conditions that are predicted for the day as our trips in the Bay are very much dictated by the weather, being sea faring trips. Once the decision has been made for the day my next job is to inform all land staff and the Dartmouth Steam Railway teams as well as update our live social media pages so all our hotels, B&B’s and other attractions are informed for their customers. There is a great sense of togetherness within the business community to help support each other and I have always felt this was a unique trait in the southwest.
At the end of my day, I will make sure all vessels have arrived back to their positions and that all customers have disembarked safely after a great day out. All my sailing logs and daily data will be finalized and all offices closed for the evening (until we do it all again tomorrow). The fulfilment in giving families a great day out and seeing the children excited to spend a day on the boats and steam trains is amazing. It’s knowing we are making long term memories that keep bringing people back, not just year after year but generation after generation, telling stories of when they were children and how they are now bringing their children, even grandchildren to experience the joy they did all that time ago.
These last two years during lockdown have been difficult for all industries and like everyone else we as a company had to learn to adapt. Departure points had to be reassigned as we had to have the distance between customers and also the number of passengers on our vessels were also greatly reduced to provide the space that was required by the government. I created a new tally system to accommodate this and it proved successful throughout the pandemic.
I think the most interesting part of my job is the customers and where they are coming from to visit us as well as all their stories regarding our wonderful boats over the decades, right back to when we owned the RML World War II vessels.
Our attraction has the best of both worlds regarding how you choose to view the fantastic scenery. Be it a sunny ferry across the Bay to Brixham or a cruise to Dartmouth enjoying the warm sun and wildlife with five-star commentary from our extremely informed skippers (who sometimes may drop a joke in here and there!). There is then the option of travelling back on our steam trains after the cruise taking in the spectacular views across wonderful Dartmouth with breath taking scenery back into Torbay.
I think the fact that the staff within the company are local to the area and have a dedication and love for the amazing place we live in reflects on how much passion is invested in the daily tasks to give visitors the chance to experience what Torbay and Dartmouth have to offer.
My proudest moment (if I had to choose just one out of many) would be the day I gained my commercial boat masters’ license. I really felt that by gaining this it would give me a much better insight into what my skippers do on a daily basis. The experience from having the responsibility of being a skipper helped in so many ways to becoming a better manager, which I am extremely grateful for. I gained a much better awareness of all aspects regarding our vessels and manoeuvring in varied weather conditions and what maintaining them entails.
Every day I wake up and enjoy putting on my uniform and epaulettes and think “I wonder who I’ll meet today….”