Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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This article More than a Mooring - Sawley Marina is the copyright of Jim Shead - The tenth of a regular series of articles on marinas and boatyards. First published in Waterways World July 2004.
With a site of 26 acres, 23 acres of which is water, and 600 moorings Sawley Marina is the largest on the inland waterways. It is between Trent Junction, where the River Soar and Erewash Canal meet the River Trent, and Derwent Mouth, at the start of the Trent & Mersey Canal. This position with access to broad rivers and canals is reflected in the ratio of cruisers using the moorings, about 35% cruisers to 65% narrowboats, approximately three times the ratio found in a canal marina.
The history of the marina begins in 1962 when the Davison Brothers (Derrick, Keith and Raymond), who had previously built boats at Trent Lock, bought the site. They constructed workshops and a slipway for the construction of wooden narrow beam cruisers and narrowboats. It was not until the 1980s that the boatyard was turned into a marina by expanding into the gravel-working behind the original site. Later in the 1980s Sawley Marina Ltd was formed to develop the site and in 1999 it was sold to British Waterways. On the 1st January this year a new company British Waterways Marinas Ltd was set up as a wholly owned subsidiary of BW with 10 marinas and a five year plan to develop the company.
In charge of the marina is Rod Grant who has been there for 15 years, the last three as General Manager. After leaving school Rod worked in London's West End for 6 years before he joined Debenhams on a management development program. He worked with them for 12 years before joining Sainsbury's savacentre. After 2 years there he went into business with his brother-in-law. With a wealth of retail experience he then joined Sawley Marina Ltd to develop the retail side of their business. This is still a strong element of the business as can be seen in the large chandlery shop of about 4,000 sq. feet that stocks over 10,000 lines including outdoor leisure wear in addition to the normal boating items. This is not the only shop on site as the Doll's House Cottage Workshop is an independent business producing doll's houses, furniture and accessories and there is also a fully licensed restaurant which is run under a lease.
Boat sales are an important part of the business on both the brokerage side and more recently on sales of a new range of narrowboats and cruisers that they are developing. The narrowboats are commissioned from MCC Stenson Boatbuilders who build them a range of Gem boats in either semi-traditional or cruiser style, 31, 38, 50 or 57 foot, in a standardised range of quality build boats with a price of around £1,000 per foot. This has been very successful over the past 2 years and they are looking to extend the range with a 47-foot traditional layout to be launched at the Crick Boat Show. They are also planning a sail-away from MCC with various options as to the stage of completion right up to the 57-foot version, for people who may live aboard, with a kit of parts for the buyer to assemble. They have also pioneered the design of a 31-foot mid-cockpit in aluminium alloy that they have built by Sea-Otter boats and costs around £46,000. The take up has been fairly slow but they have now sold five of this unique design which is considered a success for the first year of the venture. There is a 41-foot version of this boat although up to now they have been concentrating on the 31-foot version. They are also in discussion with glass-fibre builders about narrowbeam cruisers.
For over two years the marina has been a base for Canaltime and now has a fleet of 55, which enjoy a high occupancy during the whole season. About 10 boats a day need to be turned round in three hours. There are two slipways, one in the boat repair yard and the other on the front that is predominantly used for launching customers boats, day boats or cruisers up to 23 or 24 foot. The boatyard has a crane for lifting larger boats. There is also a hard stand area at the front where a bigger crane can be brought in for larger craft.
The boat repair and service operation that is leased out to B & B Marine, a company run by Paul Baldwin. They do anything from the smallest job to a complete repaint of a boat. The repair yard doesn't have a dry dock but has a wet dock and hard standing for working on boats on the dockside. Another unit on the site is given over to the Derby & Sandiacre Canal Trust as head office and meeting room.
This is a marina that has everything you would expect of such a large site plus a few extras making it a one stop shop for boaters and an attractive place for all visitors.
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