Having a Blast
Written by Gill Bendall
Holidays are all about down-time, but if you’re after something a little different during your self-catering stay in Southwold, head down to the Harbour and embark on some adrenaline-fuelled fun.
Based on the Blackshore just upriver from the Lifeboat Station, Marcus Gladwell heads a group of highly experienced skippers who offer a range of high speed tours of Sole Bay and beyond on board Coastal Voyager, a nine-metre, 400hp RIB (rigid inflatable boat) which was built in New Zealand in 2001.
“I was running a traditional charter sailing vessel when I had Coastal Voyager built,” he says. “The hull is based on that of a New Zealand Coast Guard vessel and, given the conditions they have to encounter on a regular basis, it was the right choice for our purposes. We have run other boats and a powerboat training school, but nothing has endured in the way that Coastal Voyager has.”
When not speeding along the coastline or blasting out to Scroby Sands – one of the UK's first commercial offshore wind farms – where passengers can see the grey and common seals that bask in the sun there, Coastal Voyager offers more tranquil trips on the River Blyth. A complete contrast to the hustle and bustle of the town centre and beach, these provide an opportunity to enjoy – often at close quarters – the varied wildlife that enjoys the tranquility of the tidal waters and marshlands beyond Southwold Harbour’s famous Bailey Bridge.
“The river trip is great for bird watching and, due to the isolated location and the lack of access, we more often than not have it entirely to ourselves,” says Marcus. “We see lots of seals on the Scroby Sands seal trip, which is amazing, but we often get really close to seals on the river trip too.”
An area protected by Natural England, the River Blyth is home to many important birds and insects, and visitors will often spot Marsh Harriers, Heron, Cormorants, gulls, osprey and many types of wading birds. Towards Blythburgh resident seals may be seen sunbathing on islands of mud. “The waters off Southwold have rich supplies of fish that are not under commercial pressure – herring have not been fished for in this area to any extent in the last 40 years – and these and other fish are an abundant source of food for many birds and mammals,” says Marcus. “We have seen an increase in Little Egret and Kittiwakes and a 400 per cent increase in seals in the last 15 years.”
Popular with passengers of all ages, Coastal Voyager trips have become something of a family tradition for many. “Our record customer came on 28 trips as a teenager before we lost count,” says Marcus. “She then had a family and arrived with her children, and is now working with the team and training to be a skipper!”
It’s a passion Marcus clearly shares. Describing himself as ‘hopelessly addicted to the sea’, he has sailed around the world twice and spent two seasons above the Arctic Circle. But even this ‘salty sea dog’ thinks Southwold and its waters are something really special. “I never get bored, and am constantly surprised and amazed by what I see here,” Marcus says.
• Book a trip on Coastal Voyager in person at the firm’s Blackshore office, by calling 07887 525082 or via email: email@example.com. A full refund will be given, or trips will be rescheduled, if adverse weather or unforeseen circumstances force a cancellation. Gift vouchers for trips have a two-year expiry date and make a great present for those celebrating a special occasion while in Southwold – especially popular is the Drive of Your Life trip that offers the chance to experience being behind the wheel of Coastal Voyager