Tribute to ‘charismatic and incredibly generous’ Ian Stuart
- Credit: Stuart Line Cruises
Tributes have been paid to Ian Stuart, of Stuart Line Cruises. Here Lauren Clark, partner of Ian’s son Jake, writes on behalf of the Stuart family
Ian Stuart was born in Exmouth on 1st August 1964 and very much did his own thing from a very early age.
Stuart Line Cruises was founded in 1968 by Ian’s father, Tony Stuart. He operated a small wooden 52-seater boat called ‘Seacrest’ from Exmouth seafront.
Having spent his childhood pottering about on boats, Ian Stuart gained his Skipper’s ticket on his 18th birthday, enabling him to work alongside his dad, running fishing trips out to sea whilst Tony continued to run the shorter sightseeing trips
Ian met his wife Philippa when he was 20 years old who went on to purchase the open-top ‘Mini’ at a cost of £2,500 in 1985. The couple ran ‘Mini’ together, with Ian at the helm and Philippa in charge of ticket sales.
Ian took over his father’s business in 1992 and in 1994, Ian and Philippa purchased ‘Tudor Rose’ which boasted a covered and heated saloon, enabling them to start working throughout the year. The first wedding was held on Tudor Rose in 1995.
It was not long before they started their famously spectacular Sail with Santa and Guided Bird Watching Cruises during winter – both of which still run today.
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Ian was charismatic, good-humoured and incredibly generous by nature – character traits which carried him throughout the progression of his career. He was a straight-to-the-point, get up and go-getter, no-nonsense sort of man who worked incredibly hard for everything that he had.
The brand new ‘Pride of Exmouth’ arrived in 2003, at a cost of £350,000.
She was without doubt the most state-of-the-art passenger boat of her time, licensed to carry up to 250 passengers and built to European Class C Standards, licensed to operate anywhere in the country - yet another enormous turning point for the now very successful Stuart Line Cruises.
Ian was a shrewd businessman with a sharp eye for new opportunities. His passion for Exmouth and the growth of its economy became increasingly apparent as his career progressed and he was wholeheartedly unafraid to go against the grain.
He was an active member of the Exmouth Chamber of Commerce, donated generously to numerous local charities and gave a vital voice to many environmental matters.
As the business evolved, Ian started to recognise the group travel market within the tourism industry and its potential impact on his year-round business, voicing its importance across Devon.
Ian truly believed that we are stronger together and worked tirelessly within the industry on a national and international level, investing in opportunities to speak to operators directly and remain at the forefront of the industry.
In 2010, Ian was diagnosed with throat cancer. He underwent gruelling treatment and having earnt his Skipper’s ticket at the age of 18, his son, Jake stepped in. Jake had been involved in the business part-time throughout the majority of his life by this point and business continued as usual.
In time, Ian made a full recovery and playfully toyed with the idea of retirement but the business was his life and he couldn’t stay away for long. Ian went on to live a further nine full years, during which he worked in partnership alongside Jake, who shared Ian’s passion for the water.
Ian’s family were devastated when he was once again diagnosed with cancer in 2019 - Ian’s illness was terminal.
Ian filled the last year of his life with a mixture of work, leisure and quality time with his loving family, whilst receiving palliative treatment and fought his illness with great stoicism.
His optimism was unrelenting and he bore his final illness with courage and dignity, which is testament to the quality of this remarkable man.
Ian died at the age of 56, following a wonderful week away with his wife, Philippa, during which he sat comfortably with an uninterrupted view of the sea and was thrilled to see ‘Pride of Exmouth’ sail past with Jake at the helm, during his Jurassic Coast Cruise.
He defied the odds in surviving as long as he did, in true spirit of his character and he leaves behind a great legacy which will live on in Stuart Line Cruises for years to come.
Sail on dear Ian. Fair winds and following seas.