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The Castle Ferry at Stumpy Steps.


The Castle Ferry


DARTMOUTH FERRYMAN JULIAN DISTIN IS OFTEN TOLD HE HAS THE BEST JOB IN THE WORLD, CARRYING PASSENGERS BACK AND FORTH ALONG WHAT MANY CONSIDER TO BE THE MOST ENCHANTING STRETCH OF THE RIVER DART. The voyage between Castle Steps on the South Embank- ment, and Stumpy Steps near Dartmouth Castle at the mouth of the river, is renowned for being one of the most beautiful short river trips there is. As well as the natural beauty of the estuary, which is best appreciated from a boat, the ten minute Castle Ferry trip takes in a wealth of local history, from the ancient cobbled Bayards cove with its 500-year-old fort, waterfront houses that were once ware- houses and boatbuild- ing yards and the two impressive castles guarding the mouth of the river.


There is also an abundance of wildlife


to look out for including seals, jumping fish, the occasional kingfisher and even the odd dolphin.


Three Castle Ferries provide a continuous shuttle service between the town and Dartmouth Castle from Easter to Oc- tober, and at just £2 (£1 for children under 14) a trip this ideal family boat ride is superb value. Julian is the longest serving boatman currently working on the Castle Ferries, taking over the run from his father Jim Distin 23-years-ago. His ferry arrived in Dartmouth after


by Ginny Ware


the Second World War as a tender to a local house boat and was then bought by his dad and uncle who named it The Try It.


The pair sold the boat to Horace Williams, grandfather to local rowing stalwart Bungy Williams, who renamed the vessel after his Cornish honeymoon destination, Veryan Bay, on the Roseland Peninsula. Horace sold the boat to Alf Pyne in the 1950s, and her life as a Castle Ferry began.


..it’s genuinely one of the loveliest things you can do in Dartmouth, for the price of a cup of coffee.


Julian Distin on board his Castle Ferry, Veryan Bay.


Jim Distin, who was a crab fisherman, bought the boat back in the 1970s after an accident at sea which saw him nearly lose his arm while fishing off Dartmouth on his own in 1974. Al- though his arm was saved by successful early micro- surgery, Jim was unable to fish full time any more and when Alf Pyne decided to sell his share in the Castle Ferry run, Jim jumped at the chance to buy it. Julian took over the run in 1989 and says Veryan Bay is the perfect ferry.


He said: ‘She’s very long and thin and a fairly old boat. She’s not much good for anything else but this, which she’s perfect for.


‘She has been rebuilt and rebuilt to keep her in service. She has had 12 engines since she has been in Dartmouth.’ Julian says the Castle Ferry sells itself, adding: ‘The trip is on the loveliest part of the river, on a river that has the caché of being the loveliest river in England with one of the loveliest harbour entrances in the world.


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