Biz Extra

Lifeboatman Tom Greasty and his Swanage Sea Fishing and Dee's ambition to row the Atlantic!

By Staff Reporter [email protected]

Published: February 28, 2021 | Updated: 1st March 2021

Welcome to the latest Marine Matters from Coleman Marine Insurance, a Gallagher company.

This month we meet Tom Greasty of Swanage Sea Fishing.

Tom is a client of Coleman Marine’s Commercial Craft Team and long-standing member of the Professional Boatman’s Association.

We also feature Account Handler Dee Barron, who works in Commercial Craft at Coleman Marine, in our monthly Q&A.

If you would like to find out more information about our business and its services, please contact us on 01202 497410 or visit our website for more information by clicking here.

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Tom Greasty, Director, Swanage Sea Fishing and Deputy 2nd Coxswain, Swanage Lifeboat

Tom Greasty, 38, Director of family-run Swanage Sea Fishing, has fishing in his blood.

Married with two young boys, Lawrence, five, and Oatis, three, Tom’s wife Charlotte also works within the business, looking after the accounts and marketing.

How did you end up running Swanage Sea Fishing?

I have always been angling mad, it’s a genuine passion of mine.

As a boy I relocated with my family from Surrey to Swanage when I was eight years old. At the time I didn’t want to move here but nowadays I can’t stand to leave the place!

Up until the age of eight I’d only done freshwater fishing with my dad and grandad.

I loved the change to sea and shore fishing. I even trialled for the England Junior U-18 angling team.

I bought my first boat, ‘San Gina’, pictured right, at the tender age of just 16 when I left school and started up Swanage Sea Fishing.  I’d been working on the same boat during school holidays and weekends since the age of 13.

I couldn’t fully skipper the boat until I was 18 and had achieved my qualifications. The boat’s former owner, Gerry Randall, stayed with me during that time as skipper.

In 2006, I bought my second boat, called ‘San Gina 2’, pictured left, which runs alongside the original San Gina under the name of Swanage Sea Fishing. In 2019, I bought my third wooden boat called ‘Three Wishes’. It’s a former potting boat which I’ve converted into an angling tripping boat.

Tell us a little about the business

Swanage Sea Fishing offers a huge range of activities which include fishing, bird watching, wreck fishing, inshore fishing and geography field trips. We do anything to do with getting out on the water.

Our fishing trips could vary from a 1½ hour mackerel fishing trip to a 12-hour shark fishing trip. We’ve caught sharks just half a mile from the coast.

When bird watching we see a brilliant mix of sea birds including puffins, guillemots, razorbills and peregrine falcons. Dolphins and seals are regularly spotted.

Sightings vary so much, you can never guarantee what your customers will see. One year, there was a dolphin that used to follow me around the bay for on and off for the whole season. Wildlife can turn up when you least expect it.

One of the best things about my job is welcoming newcomers who’ve never fished before and achieve their first catch.

I particularly love engaging with kids, teaching them how to fillet and gut fish and learning where their fish comes from. It’s very satisfying to see them getting away from their computer screens and enjoying nature.

I even get huge satisfaction from seasoned anglers who might fish their personal best catch. It’s great to witness their joy!

On a nice day you can’t beat the office. You’re out at sea, doing what you love doing in the best office in the world…there’s nowhere better to be. I also love the mix of people that I meet from all walks of life. No one day is the same, there’s always new stories and people to talk to.

How have you coped in lockdown?

To be honest, it’s been a bit of a nightmare, not knowing what was happening was the worst. Having built the business up over 20 years and knowing that Covid could have wiped it out was incredibly worrying.

During the summer, when we could operate, we were very busy. We had reduced numbers and carried just five passengers, compared to normal trip numbers of ten.

We did find that regular customers would rather pay extra to have a smaller number on the boat. Business has changed in that aspect and in how it will run in the future: reduced numbers, more expensive trips.

In Lockdown 1, I tried other things – I also have a commercial fishing boat and went out on that. Initially I was worried that I would struggle to get rid of the catch.

However, with people not dining out they were prepared to spend more at the fishmongers in Swanage and demand was high. The commercial fishing didn’t make up for the loss of earnings on the angling side but I managed to keep my head above water

I’d catch all sorts of fish…bream, sole, plaice, mullet. In spring, spider crabs arrived inshore by the thousands, literally. They can ruin the nets – I suppose it’s Mother Nature’s way of stopping you from fishing.

The Professional Boatman’s Association (PBA) worked very hard during lockdown to help the industry.

Because, as charter boats we don’t own any rateable business premises, we weren’t eligible for financial assistance.

However, due to the PBA’s successful and persistent lobbying, in the end the local authority decided to allocate support funds to charter and commercial operators in our area. I’m so grateful for this.

Without that funding I would have lost my business. During lockdowns, there are still many costs to be paid out for maintenance, insurance, operating costs etc.

Tell us about your role with Swanage Lifeboat

I am the Deputy 2nd Coxswain of Swanage Lifeboat. It’s a massive commitment. We train every Wednesday evening, which has gone on to Zoom now.

It’s a voluntary role – I’m a Helmsman on the inshore lifeboat and Deputy 2nd Coxswain on the all-weather lifeboat.

We had the busiest summer ever in 2020 with call outs, it was crazy busy.

Everyone flocked to the coast. A lot of people on the water who get into trouble do so as they don’t understand the risks.

Paddleboarders can get caught out by the off-shore breeze and get blown out to sea. I imagine we’ve got a very busy 2021 ahead.

How often we get called out can vary so much…we can go a whole month without a call out and then we can get three in a day.

Being a volunteer is a big ask. when I’m covering as Coxswain I can’t leave Swanage or have a beer.

The boats are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

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Q&A with Dee Barron, Account Holder, Commercial Craft within Coleman Marine Insurance

How long have you been in the business?

I started my career in insurance in 1985 so can proudly say that I’ve been in the business way before many of my colleagues were born!

What’s your marine career background?

Of the 36 years, five years specialising in marine insurance (I joined the Coleman Marine team in 2016)

What’s the best thing about your job?

Definitely about building sincere and long-lasting relationships with clients and being a hand to hold through challenging times.

I’m also a bit of a ‘water baby’ and having been a sea rower for over 18 years, I’m familiar with a great deal of the South West coastline and can strike up some good sea stories with many of the people I deal with.

Use three words to describe yourself

Creative, empathic, worrier.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Once I decided I’d never make an opera singer or vet, I stuck with French and really wanted to be a French language translator. After university, in the early eighties, unemployment was rife and out of desperation, I took a ‘temporary job’ with an insurance company in Southampton – and the rest is history!

Alas, my mastery of the French language has diminished since those heady days leaving me with ‘mange tout’ and ‘ou est le poulet?’ in my pathetic little armoury.

Who do you most admire?

This is such a difficult one to answer as I tend to admire anyone who achieves amazing things against all odds and may not receive any publicity or the publicity they deserve.

In my ‘little group’ are Tracy Edwards who skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race in 1989, Greta Thunberg, the young, Swedish activist and most recently, Kiko Matthews. I’ve just finished reading her book about her world record solo transatlantic row and she is truly inspirational.

Tell us something about yourself that we don’t know

It is my burning ambition to row the Atlantic at some stage in my lifetime but not solo as that would worry me too much!

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