For adventurer John Simcock, there’s nothing quite like the view of the white Sussex cliffs from the sea. Thanks to Sussex Boat Trips, his award-winning sea-safari and boat-excursion company, that’s something he gets to enjoy frequently.
A true man of the sea, John is an advanced powerboat instructor, and he also volunteers as a navigator with the Newhaven Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Living just up the road in Seaford, John spends many hours on the water and feels privileged to be able to witness all the wonderful wildlife the area has to offer.
Sussex Boat Trips is exactly the kind of marine business Newhaven Enterprise Zone is hoping to attract as it builds on the town’s reputation as a hub for the marine industry.
We caught up with John to find out what he loves so much about Newhaven.
What’s Newhaven’s best-kept secret?
Few people have discovered the incredible views from the Newhaven National Coastwatch Institution lookout tower on Castle Hill.
From there you have panoramic views across Seaford Bay in the east all the way to Brighton in the west.
What’s your favourite place in Newhaven?
Newhaven Marina. Not only is it the perfect location from which to start our boat trips, but there’s always so much happening.
If you’re a fan of wildlife there’s a lot to see within the marina itself. We have resident swans, egrets, a huge variety of gulls, even a kingfisher.
As a volunteer with the Newhaven RNLI, being in the marina also means I’m never too far from the lifeboat station should the crew be needed in a hurry.
What’s your favourite place for lunch in the town?
I like The Hope Inn for the Sunday roast. It’s in a fantastic location – you get to sit next to the mouth of the river and watch all the vessels coming and going.
What’s it like being based in Newhaven?
The positive vibe at the marina is fantastic. There are established businesses mixed in with those like ours which are relatively new to the area. The support we’ve received has been tremendous.
What made you decide to set up Sussex Boat Trips?
We had been living in France but decided to move back to Seaford to be near family.
I was still running a business out in the French Alps transferring people from airports to ski resorts like Courchevel and Meribel and travelling between France and Sussex, but then Covid and Brexit happened. I knew I wanted to work for myself and I love being out on the water.
Growing up, my family were into dinghy sailing. But after I fell overboard and got trapped under a dinghy, I decided I didn’t want to sail and instead I decided to learn how to work on the rescue boat. I took some training courses and by the age of 16 I was teaching members of the sailing club how to rescue. I also went on to train at Warsash Maritime Academy in Southampton. So during the lockdown we commissioned a custom built boat and Sussex Boat Trips was born! I loved working in the mountains, but it’s wonderful to return to the water again.
What’s next for Sussex Boat Trips?
There’s a real desire for outdoor activities that several generations of the same family can enjoy together. We’re continually developing new trips, giving those wanting to return time and time again the opportunity to experience all that this amazing coastline has to offer.
What’s your favourite Sussex Boat Trip tour?
It has to be our trip to the Rampion Offshore Wind Farm. In the two hours we’re out at sea, it offers so much adventure as we’re so far from civilisation. The boat provides an incredible platform from which to get up close to the turbines.
What kind of feedback do you get from passengers?
The places we visit create lasting memories for our customers, who often share their experiences online. The photos they take and the reviews written have given us a five-star rating on Google and TripAdvisor.
At the end of our first year, Visit England noticed, and we ended up winning the Beautiful South Tourism Awards 2021/22 New Tourism Business. We were bowled over!
What makes Newhaven a great place to base a business?
We looked at several venues along the East Sussex coastline, but Newhaven scored highest for us.
The rail links make the town so accessible. We also benefit from major bus routes to Brighton and Eastbourne, and the road network loops us into the wider infrastructure. Those wishing to visit by bike can enjoy the newly developed cycle paths in a variety of directions. The obvious deciding factor for us was the access to and from the port, however.
What would you like to see happen to Newhaven in ten years’ time?
Newhaven has so much potential and I’m positive the recent funding pledged by the Government will help the town as a whole to regain its identity.
I love to walk along the river between Denton Island and the West Beach car park. There’s always so much to see. We’re extremely keen to find out whether the recent plans for the development of the marina complex come to fruition. Permission to build a series of apartment blocks has been granted along with a redevelopment of the marina itself. If the project goes ahead, we’re convinced it’ll bring increased prosperity to the town.