Ffion and her team at Falcon Boats get ready for the new season.
As the long grey winter finally draws to a close, Pembrokeshire’s many seasonal businesses are gearing up for the brighter days ahead. Ffion Rees, skipper of Falcon Boats, took some time out from her preparations to update us about plans for 2019. Getting the boat ready, finalising marketing and website updates is keeping Ffion busy and she is keen to get back out on the waters around Ramsey Island for the 2018 tripping season. Falcon Boats will be able to take bookings online this year, which is great news for visitors who suddenly realise the following day is forecast to be bright and can book those last-minute places to explore Pembrokeshire’s unspoilt waters. There will still be the little ticket booth next to Oriel y Parc too so you can find out more about which trip is for you before you book your seat and make your way down to St. Justinian’s to get aboard. Ffion can usually fit everyone in to the trip they hope for, but if there are too many people, she links up with Thousand Islands to see if they have a spare seat on a trip – it is really important to both companies that visitors are not disappointed and get to have an enjoyable experience out on the water.Such lovely people come to spend their holidays here in West Wales, that it is very rare that people do not turn up for a booked place.
Keep an eye on the Falcon Boats website for a very special trip to launch Ffion’s book in the company of the island’s wardens, Greg and Lisa. This trip will include a talk and walk on the island and a chance to meet the team. Ffion loves to offer bespoke trips such as those for photographers and linked to other local tourism providers like Newgale Lodge and the Bug Farm. As a member of the Sea Watch Foundation, Falcon Boats also often take out researchers, marine biologists and scientists such as those doing postgraduate studies of cetaceans (dolphins, seals and porpoises) and is licensed to approach the animals in close quarters.
The regular trips on offer depending on the weather and time of the year include the Ramsey Island trip, a longer trip out to Grassholm , which is the world’s fourth largest gannet colony and to see plenty of other creatures on the sweep back to St Davids. Evening trips out to the Bishops and Clerks rocks give visitors a chance to sit and experience the evening homecoming of thousands of shearwaters. Every trip out with Ffion and crew is unique – seasonal changes, the conditions and what wildlife puts in an appearance mean that you can go out and see new wonders again and again! Ffion loves being a small independent operator as she can respond to the daily changes, the particular interests of those on board and take advantage of this flexibility.
Easter may well include the end of the seals malting season, when many seals will be close to the island. A little later a highlight is the profusion of wild flowers on the island in Spring and Summer, seabirds all through the seasons and the autumn seal pupping.
The team at Falcon Boats includes Pete , Tansy, Angie in the booking office, Lisa and Mike – what they share is a love for Pembrokeshire and life on the water and they are always developing their experimenter, updating training and sharing their passion with locals and visitors. And in the winter? Ffion works away from the area for a while to have a change of scene and use her expertise , particularly in boat safety.
What can beat being out on the water on a beautiful day watching dolphins with a boat full of people screaming with delight!
Ffion also feels privileged to share her knowledge and enthusiasm with young people and is aware that a trip out from this peninsula can have a life-changing impact on the aspirations of those who discover the wonder and excitement of seeing wildlife close up. Parents have also pointed out to her that to go out on a boat with a female skipper and crew has a great impact – as positive role models for young girls. We talked about how many more opportunities there are now for careers and study in marine conservation. Ffion is hoping to do some work next winter out in the Antarctic ( safety work and some lecturing too) and could not ever foresee a time when she would not want to be living, learning and sharing her love of the environment and the oceans. It is good that children now seem to have greater awareness now of the need to protect the natural world and the crew are often able to help and inform them with their projects and school work!
The other huge change since Ffion started out is the increased development and focus on health and safety with training focusing on the effects of cold water on the body and how people may react in an environment alien to them alongside all the training about crewing the boat, the waters, equipment etc. Boat trip operators like Ffion take great care to ensure that their passengers have an enjoyable and exhilarating experience, but any risks are kept to an absolute minimum. Of course, the sea and the weather are unpredictable, but the rib boats used are very stable and crew can adjust speed and route if the weather does change unexpectedly. It is very unusual for anyone to get seasick going out on the ribs, but on the offshore longer trips when they stop and bob about for a while watching wildlife, the motion can occasionally affect a few unlucky people. Ffion is fortunate never to have experienced seasickness, but she keeps an eye on passengers and would turn back early on in a trip if someone became really unwell. My daughter is very prone to motion sickness, but has been on lots of trips out from St Justinian’s and been fine every time.
Ffion is planning to have a blog on her website this year to keep everyone up to date on sightings and events and we will be following Falcon Boats throughout the season too. Trips should start again at Easter and there will be some extra special occasional new options such as a longer trip down to see puffins on Skomer – everyone loves puffins!
Well-behaved dogs are welcome on the shorter trips and the crew will help anyone with disabilities get aboard , so if you can get some help down the steps at St Justinian’s then the crew will ensure you have a wonderful trip out on the water. The earliest trip starts at 9am, with the crew down getting ready from 8am, and the latest one would be one of the evening trips during the longest days or summer. Evening trips are very popular with photographers to capture the fabulous sunsets and the latest one gets back about 9pm.
Whatever your particular interest I would recommend you put a trip with Falcon Boats on your must-do list this year!