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Volunteer Judi’s happy to help on the waterways

Published: 1 May 2024

Volunteer Judi’s happy to help on the waterways Volunteer Judi

Radio and television personality Judi Spiers is among a bunch of people who give up their time to help out on Exeter’s waterways.

Judi is now in her fourth year as a volunteer patroller with the Exeter Port Authority.

She helps out on a regular basis assisting Exeter City Council’s Harbour Patrollers under the watchful eye of Harbour Master Grahame Forshaw.

Judi is among a group of willing volunteers from a varied cross section of society. “We are a friendly bunch. We’re certainly a mixed one. We’ve ex-Marines, police, an IT specialist, a steam train engineer, former mayor and councillor, gas engineer and world champion powerboat racer.

“This year we’ve been joined by a former Greek radio yachting correspondent and a geographical and technical manager from the UK Hydrographic Office responsible for the maritime charts, who is so respected they have named a buoy after him!” she said.

The team maintain the area from a mile out to sea, past Exmouth, Dawlish, Starcross, Topsham, Lympstone, and up the canal and the quay to Exeter city centre.

“Not many people understand what we volunteers do, and seem to think we just cruise up and down, catching the rays, drinking tea, and looking for someone to stop for speeding!”

Judi says their responsibilities are numerous and varied but essentially making sure the environment is as safe as possible. That entails anything from clearing dead sheep, floating trees and rotting hulks, to safeguarding the gas pipes that run underneath the estuary bed, rescuing swimmers and untangling seals.

There’s also checking that the 45 navigational aids and moorings are properly maintained and enforcing byelaws, with particular focus on speeding vessels, and recording details of accidents or near misses for the Harbour Master to investigate.

“A lot of our time is spent speaking to people who are unaware of the 10 knot speed limit. Most, I have to say, respond really well but there are always those who don’t!

“It’s about making it safer for everyone, including the wildlife. Whatever it is anyone wants to do, we want to help them do it safely in the right place and to have fun.”

Harbour Master Grahame is full of praise for Judi and her fellow volunteer patrollers: “The work that the volunteers do for us is so important to keep the community involved in what we are looking to achieve in the safe management of the waterways.

“Volunteer patrollers are key in this plan; our staff team could not hope to cover our area of responsibility without the volunteer help and I’m very grateful for the time they give up for us and the commitment they show – even going out to sea when the weather isn’t so good!”

Grahame added: “We are looking to extend our volunteer base to include working with the Friends of the Exeter Ship Canal. They will be patrolling afloat, carrying out working parties in the canal later this year.”

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