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Blackness Marines boat storage, maintenance and launch facility is set in an idyllic part of the River Dart. Their business model makes it easy for clients and visitors to get the most from their boating. Here Becky Fry explains more about what they do and how the yard came about…
It started life as a diversification project to underpin the family’s farm. When the farm began to struggle following coming out of dairy, David and his parents has the brainchild of a boatyard. Following the lengthy process to planning permission, approval and acceptance of an RDA diversification grant (without which the project wouldn’t have been viable) the project's construction began in 2006. What began with a slipway and a bit of boat storage soon met demands and snowballed into the fully fledged yard it is today, providing dry stack membership packages, self-launch memberships, secure year round boat storage and marine engineering, maintenance and rigging.
Having identified gaps in the market, we invested into infrastructure onsite helping facilitate availability of quality facilities on the River Dart. Boaters aren’t all based locally and struggle to regularly check moorings. Knowing how popular dry stacking was elsewhere we began offering this, as we are tidal there are constraints, with support an SDLAC grant and permission from Dart Harbour we installed a pontoon. Our dry stack now gives complete peace of mind when the boat isn’t in use, with the added comfort of marine engineering and maintenance onsite.
Secure storage is still the backbone of what we do, with increasing numbers each winter we have invested in galvanised yacht cradles, smart power meters and water points around site so our storage is very user friendly. The yachts here have a variety of works undertaken by a comprehensive range of contractors offering everything from polishing to electronics and GRP repair. Our designated covered storage barn is popular as provides a clean and tidy environment to get the job done which in turn keeps costs under control being out of the unpredictable British weather!
We presently have a team of seven, and the experience amongst everyone is superb. Our dry stack and yard supervisor handles day to day operations and maintenance schedules, and is passionate about customer service. Our yard operative, also very experienced and passionate about boats can be found on his local mooring tinkering with his own yacht. Our Volvo-trained head engineer has over 30 years’ experience; perfect for the huge range of boat engines we maintain. Three of us cover service coordination, marketing, invoicing and all in between in our office. Our professional, friendly team is more like family which is reflected in the nature of our approach. We are always keen to hear from anyone interested in working with us, roles are varied and never the same day twice!
David’s been into boats all his life. He has assisted on the family farm since leaving school and continues to be a right hand man on the arable side of operations such as cultivations, drilling and the harvest of course! He particularly likes the strategic planning of the businesses and how they can be futureproofed whilst staying true to our roots. He worked at Simco Marine in Totnes prior to Blackness Marines set up, and has always had his own boats for use in spare time.
I was a yacht broker way back when, prior to a stint in the Harbour office at Dartmouth. I love the customer facing elements of my role, helping people get the most from their boating through business development ideas and being an independent yard the freedom this gives us to manage it. It’s great seeing our services and the hard work behind them being well received.
Our USP is definitely location and range of facilities. Far enough away from the hustle and bustle of Dartmouth yet perfectly located half way up the river to enjoy the splendour in between. With two families living onsite it gives added security as there’s always someone a round onsite.
It’s not just the storage, dry stack and self launch, but our pontoons also host 34 dinghy pontoon slots helping the harbour authority deliver convenient access to the moorings on the Cornworthy/Stoke Gabriel reaches. These have proven popular as parking is included in the annual fee and use of the customer facilities onsite makes it more than just a dinghy rack slot. It’s important to us to help provide access to the river for a variety of users thorough the varied solutions we provide.
I think the scale of the yard surprises people, during its development we have been mindful of the surroundings and we are now fairly well hidden in the environment. It’s wonderful to see how the landscape architecture has worked so well from an aesthetic angle whilst providing excellent habitats for wildlife as a bonus! Be it seals basking on the pontoons or the countless birds thriving amongst the woods created on our adjacent land. Cattle still graze the adjacent fields too which is a nod to our roots.
With parking restrictions in the towns there’s a lack of trailer parking and its frankly a relief for visiting boaters to find us with a solution, they don’t need to launch with an audience either, its just a bit calmer here. One visitor commented we are “the darts best kept secret”, arrived as a visitor a few years ago and are now a Drystack member.
We hope to further enhance the engineering side of the business, recruiting a n apprentice and also get other outfits based here as demand grows. Also tapping into the recreational SUP and kayaking in the future. It’s vital to continue to understand the needs of all boaters. Be it a 12ft tender or 40ft yacht, we provide the same level of personable service to all at Blackness Marine.
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