Seafaring Penny takes on Sidmouth shop

WHEN Penny Newland sold up her Sidmouth shop nearly five years ago, she never thought she would be back in town preparing to take on a new business venture.

WHEN Penny Newland sold up her Sidmouth shop nearly five years ago, she never thought she would be back in town preparing to take on a new business venture.

Penny, 43, had planned to take her professional yachtmasters qualifications to change course in her career, but an accident at sea put paid to her sailing dreams.

She was on a square rigger heading for France when a Force Eight gale, gusting Nine, hit.

"It was all hands to the pump," said Penny. "I was knocked down in the storm, I pulled on a rope and blew out discs in my spine.

"We were halfway across the English Channel and I just couldn't get off, but I carried on sailing to France and back.

"It was minus seven, you know it is cold when the ropes freeze to the deck in the salt water."

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In terrible pain, she endured another 18-20 hours on the ship then drove home before passing out and being admitted to hospital for a disectomy operation.

"The yachtmasters cost �8,500. I lost that and while that was heartbreaking I had booked my passage back to the Bay of Biscay and back to South Africa [where she had previously been] which I had to cancel. I had to rebuild my life.

"I've done a lot of different things but putting my back out was not in the plan. I gave up everything to go sailing."

When she bumped into Jo Johnstone of No 83 for Cards in Sidmouth High Street, she grabbed the chance to take over the shop.

Jo was one of her customers in Country Bloomers before she sold it and when Penny learnt she wanted to sell up, offered to take over.

"I just want to be back in business, this is where I should be. It would be a shame to see the card shop go. Jo worked so hard at it and has a lovely selection of cards. It would be another loss to the town."

Penny will expand the sales area inside the little shop so she can extend the range of cards available and opens on Thursday (October 1).

It is a far cry from her sailing adventures, especially the one she managed to South Africa before her accident, when she had a close encounter with great white sharks while on a shark watch.

"I was on a big research boat, a rigid inflatable, counting and photographing great white sharks and dolphins and also watching their behaviour," said Penny.

"We were at Diaya Island on the East Coast, where they filmed the real sharks in Jaws, 800 yards from a tourist beach.

"I went down in a shark cage, it was the scariest thing I have ever done, their eyes are just ice cold.

"I should have known what to expect seeing the faces of tourists who had come back with faces as white as a sheet."

There were three shark attacks in the few weeks she was there, including one of a woman who had been swimming off the same beach for 20 years.

"All they found was her red swimming hat," said Penny.

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