Biz Extra

Marine Matters: boatfolk General Manager Jon Eads tells us about expansion at Portland Marina

By Gallagher Marine [email protected]

Published: January 7, 2024 | Updated: 7th January 2024

Welcome to the latest Marine Matters from Gallagher. This month we get to meet Jon Eads, Area General Manager of boatfolk, which runs Portland and Weymouth Marinas and learn about the growth and expansion at Portland Marina in Dorset.

Jon, tell us a little about yourself

I was born and bred in Poole, me and my wife Elizabeth have 3 grown up children – Thomas, Samuel and Rosemarie.

I’ve worked within the marine industry all my life, starting out at Southern Oceans Shipyard at Poole Quay at the age of just 16. I went from shipyards and luxury yacht building into marinas in 2008. I’ve previously worked as Director at Salterns Marina and MDL Marinas. I joined boatfolk in 2020.  I was also President of British Marine between 2008 to 2010.

Tell us a little of the history of the Portland Marina site

The site has lots of history, with US troops embarking here for D-Day and it’s part of the Southwest Coastal footpath to the famous Portland Bill.  Building a marina had been talked about for a number of years. It was a former naval base and had the helicopter operations based here. When the navy left the area, the South West of England Regional Development Agency (SWERDA) started looking for people to develop the site and take the area forward.

The marina was initially established in 2009 and had a pretty auspicious start as the venue and host for the 2012 Sailing Olympics. Between the Marina, Portland and the national Weymouth Sailing Academy, it had the eyes of the world upon it for a whole month. It’s where Ben Ainslie won his 4th gold medal in the Finn class.

When did boatfolk get involved?

boatfolk originally developed Portland Marina in 2009 under its previous incarnation, Dean & Reddyhoff. Since then there has been significant growth and development of the site.

boatfolk owns and runs 11 marinas in stunning locations around the UK coastline, including Portland, Portishead, Conwy, Haslar, Bangor, East Cowes, Rhu, Penarth, Weymouth, Deacons and Royal Quays Marina.

At Portland Marina, what sets us apart is that there are very few marina sites in the UK where the architects started with a blank sheet of paper. Most marinas and boat yards have evolved over many years, whereas here, as the architects were starting from scratch they could plan strategically, and look at things  from an end users point of view…this means the car park is in the right place, as are the restaurants, the drystack, chandlery, fuel dock etc.. They definitely achieved what they set out to.

Tell us about the recent growth of the business

Since I arrived here the business has moved in to a busy but extremely positive period of growth.  The expansion and development has been phenomenal. Back in 2020 we were just doing marina berthing operations and the boat yard consisted of lifting and storage, with just 2 members of staff undertaking minor boat repairs.

Business is now really booming and in the last 3 years our turnover has increased by 50% each year. This growth looks set to continue as we have additional, exciting plans for the marina. We now have 36 full time staff, not including the hospitality element, which adds an additional 40 or so staff members during peak season.

What are the different divisions that you now offer?

boatcare – a full service boat yard

The facilities that have been added in recent years have allowed us to create boatcare, a boat maintenance and repairs division and we are now employing 16 people in this area.  We have skills across all of the various aspects of boatcare; from marine engineers, and carpenters, to electronics specialists, and have the capability to do all the jobs that people need to keep afloat.

boatpoint
boatpoint is the boat sales division of boatfolk, with eight offices across the UK, including at Portland Marina. Selling more boats than any other UK broker, boatpoint offers a vital brokerage and new boat sales service to the Marina, allowing the Dorset community to buy and sell boats with ease, with unique access to the berthing and boatcare services available through the boatfolk family

Property

We offer commercial rental space, including offices, boat sheds, light industry through to light retail. Lease renewals have been very good, with excellent take up but we still have some limited opportunities available. We’re trying to keep everything marine related.

boatfolk bars

We now have 2 restaurants on site, both owned and operated by boatfolk bars. In just the last year we’ve invested £1m in these newly refurbished outlets and in July 2023 we opened;

  • The Kitchen – a coffee shop offering snacks and lunch
  • Salt – A bar & restaurant, offering everything that you’d want. In the summer it’s super busy, from dawn to dusk!

This is a crucial part of our strategy to create vibrant destinations, open to everyone, from visiting boaters to the local community.

Beyonder –
Beyonder is boatfolk’s boating subscription business, making it easier for people to get on the water without the hassle and cost of boat ownership. .  Beyonder members simply pay a monthly fee for anytime access to one of a fleet of brand-new boats. Beyonder allows you to simply get in and go, with all of the boring bits taken care of by someone else, from cleaning to repairs and everything in between.

Has the arrival of Bibby Stockholm impacted you?

We were initially worried by Bibby Stockholm’s location but the barge itself is in Portland Port, which is the commercial port and is nothing to do with us. It has attracted a lot of negative press, for all the wrong reasons.  The reality is that it has not caused us any issues.  Everyone is working together to make it work.

To find out more, visit https://www.boatfolk.co.uk/portland-marina-dorset

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