You may be asking who is Karen Dalton-Fyfe – the newish Harbour Master?
As I sit here about to press publish on our new website, I am reflecting on the last 12 months, I can hardly believe the journey I have been on. In March last year I sat down and wrote a CV for the first time in my life for my dream job. One that I could never have imagined, that I would actually be selected for. But I can almost hear you ask… how could that be my first CV? Well, I joined the Royal Navy (RN) in April 1997 as a spritely 20 year old, with a plan to serve just a few years and travel the world. But almost 25 years later, I have travelled to almost 60 different countries, charted the oceans and been the first and only woman hydrographer to have ever commanded a hydrographic survey ship, the Royal Navy’s largest hydrographic ship HMS Scott among others. So, having achieved more than I ever thought possible in the navy in record time, I felt that the opportunity to take over as Chief Exec and Harbour Master of Teignmouth Harbour Commission was something I could not let slip through my fingers.
Don’t get me wrong, it was one of the hardest decisions of my life, I still had another 12 years to serve, had been selected for promotion to the next rank and given the opportunity to work and drive a desk at the very heart of the Ministry of Defence, Government and within NATO… But I also at that time, had a wife and 5 year old son who were seeing less and less of me and my heart ached to be working closer to the sea again. So I took the leap of faith and accepted the offer from the Harbour Commission to be their next Harbour Master starting in Sep 21. Getting out of the military took a little time and I formally became a Navy Veteran in Dec 21.
For the first few months I have been a duck out of water, learning a new language that isn’t “Jack Speak”, ticking all the mandatory training requirements; Oil Spill Commanders Course, Level 2 Powerboat Course, I can drive a 13,500 Tonne Warship halfway across the world, but can I drive a rigid inflatable boat (RIB) around the harbour, apparently… yes and I have the certificate to prove it! Attending the Harbour Masters Association and South West Regional Ports meetings have given me the opportunity to meet other Harbour Masters and get to know my peers in this new civilian environment, so you will not have seen many major changes with my arrival. In the military it is traditional and advisable to take the first 6 months in a new role to get the lay of the land, try not to fix things that are not broken and find the areas that could do with a little tweak before stamping your own personality and I have tried to do that here. Unsurprisingly, I have inherited a very small but brilliant team of people, they manage to make the day to day running of the harbour happen with little effort or influence. Most have been here a decade or more and have the history, context and local knowledge to support me and the commissioners in making the harbour as safe and as efficient as possible. Take a look and get to know our Team and dedicated volunteer Commissioners on our website, under ‘Information’.
So what have I discovered over the winter?
Teignmouth Harbour is steeped in history, sits in a very competitive maritime sector, with very fine margins financially, with an ageing fleet of boats and liabilities that make investment in the future very difficult. But in terms of Safety and the Port Marine Safety Code we are compliant and working hard to ensure that all users of the Teign are given appropriate and fair attention. We have a close community that engages in the harbour business and have strong personal views, which is great and I am keen to harness this energy and engage, using social media and the new website as a focus for this. After all, we all collectively have a responsibility to ensure that we do our best for the Teign Estuary and make sure that it is the best it can be for future generations.
In consultation with the Chair of the Consultative Body we are looking to refresh the Terms of Reference to ensure that we engage with as many stakeholders as possible and establish where we would collectively like the Harbour to go in the future, particularly in the medium to long term. But more specifically with the Harbour Board of Commissioners, we are undergoing a strategic planning exercise. This will help us to articulate the opportunities and threats going forward, out to at least the next 10 years and where we think we should focus our efforts. As this matures we will do the same with the Consultancy Group and in time we should be able to pull together a strategic plan, that is both owned and supported by the local community.
Finally, I do not have all the answers and I welcome any thoughts that you may have. Please do not hesitate to get in touch using our email or the contact page and we will endeavour to include your thoughts and ideas in our plans and debates going forward.
Best wishes and happy sailing,
K S Dalton-Fyfe
Chief Executive and Harbour Master
Teignmouth Harbour Commission