Dave Ridalls - Dartmouth
My Dartmouth - Dave Ridalls
How long have you lived in Dartmouth?
All my life! I was born in Victoria Road and have never lived more than three quarters of a mile from where I was born. My wife Sarah and I and our two boys William (7) and Thomas (4) are in Pathfields presently.
I went to Dartmouth Primary and Senior Schools before going to Churston for A levels and, although education should never be looked on as a waste of time, for me it felt a little bit that way, as I knew exactly what I wanted to do which was to go into the family business.
What was the family business?
Boats - it was all I had ever wanted to do. I’ve probably gained more education on the boats than I ever did at school. Dad and my uncle ran boats and that all started because my grandfather was a Trinity House Pilot and as such had to have a boat licensed to carry passengers.
So, when he wasn’t on a piloting job, he used to do boat trips and Dad who was a marine engineer and my uncle who was a shipwright got involved. My grandfather had moved here when he was four years old because his father was stationed here as the Chief Coastguard. So the family goes back a few generations in Dartmouth!
My Mum as well as Dad and myself were very heavily involved with the old red cruisers. When they retired I concentrated on my own ferry service running up river to Dittisham but always said that when Alex, the senior skipper, retired and with no disrespect to my other guys who were all brilliant, I would look to sell the service.
Two years ago when Alex did retire I made what actually was a very difficult decision and sold the ferry service and spent some time doing other boating things. Then the ‘Saltwind’ was put up for sale and I had always loved that boat and I had to have her!
What is ‘Saltwind’?
She is a 40ft Aquastar with a 600hp Scania engine. She had been Lloyd Saunders pride and joy. He had had her built using the best of everything and had always looked after her. She is a fantastic sea boat, very commercial, very heavy and all set out really well.
Everything about her is like the Brunel school of engineering, double it up and add a bit more! The fact that she was also on a swinging mooring in my favourite village of Dittisham seemed quite appropriate as my ferry service to there had paid for her!
I suppose it might sound selfish but I had always wanted a boat just for me…I had always been in an environment where we were running a fleet of boats and that’s great but it’s never just your boat, you obviously run them with paid skippers who always took great pride and care of ‘their’ boat…but I wanted a boat of my own, just for me.
What are you doing with ‘Saltwind’?
Angling trips, sightseeing, wildlife tours, it changes with the seasons and conditions. Back in June I had lots of charters with very serious anglers but during the summer holidays I’ve been doing a lot more ‘mackerel bashing’.
Today for example I had three families onboard with five kids and as youngsters don’t have the patience or such a lengthy attention span ‘mackerel bashing’ keeps them well occupied while the grownups tried more serious angling but they soon changed over to mackerel when they saw how successful their children were being.
I love introducing people to something they might not have tried before and I do find that the taster fun trips encourage people to come back for more serious angling. As locals we tend to take our wildlife somewhat for granted perhaps but from my ‘office’ I see the most wonderful creatures everyday and I enjoy sharing that with others.
I find most of my business comes by word of mouth and some from my website www.saltwind.co.uk but the best advert of all is the boat itself.
Why is Dartmouth special to you?
As a boatman it’s a fantastic place to have a boat as you can get in and out at all states of the tide, it’s a fantastically beautiful river and harbour and a great base for hopping down our exceptional coastline. If the weather is bad out at sea you can still go up river doing a bit of ‘Swallows and Amazons’ exploring the creeks.
Do you have a favourite view?
I have favourite views which change with the state of tide and the season. I love autumn on the river for its colours. When I’m fishing The Skerries…the sun setting over Slapton Lea and after a night at sea…the sunrise.
Will your boys be following the family business?
It will be entirely up to them! They’re a bit young to tell yet but William already loves being in my dinghy and driving it!
First published September 2010 By the Dart