Text and photographs copyright of Jim Shead.
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This article More than a Mooring - Nottingham Castle Marina is the copyright of Jim Shead - The eleventh of a regular series of articles on marinas and boatyards. First published in Waterways World August 2004.
Nottingham Castle Marina
This marina is situated on the short stretch of the Nottingham Canal that now forms part of the Trent Navigation and is only a mile from the city centre. It was developed in the early 1980s as part of the Castle Marina Retail Park by a company called Pimbrook Castle Meadow. They bought the land and built an ambitious development with the first Homebase in the country, a large Sainsbury's, the Holiday Inn, Currys, offices and 300 apartments. The marina was the focal point of the scheme and helped it meet planning requirements. For the first 6 or 7 years after it was dug out there was very little infrastructure to the marina other than the pontoons that were put in. Once the rest of the development was completed the owners set up a separate subsidiary company called Owlpower Limited to run Nottingham Castle Marina and over the last 10 or 15 years a considerable amount of capital has been invested in new road-ways, shower blocks, slipways and extra mooring berths to make it the busy commercial venture it is today.
Findlay Shakespeare has been there since 1997 when he started off by doing all the operational tasks involved in the running of the marina. Now he is the Director of the company employing an Operations Manager with 15 staff on a full time basis plus seasonal staff on a part-time basis.
When the marina was opened it was intended mainly for cruising boats with all the berths designed for 20-25 foot cruisers. From about 1989 to 1993 the company used to be main agents for Shetland, Viking and Atlanta cruisers but after 1993 the market for plastic died and narrowboats became a stronger presence with more people wanting to live on their boats. Since then they have been adapting their moorings to take longer boats and now have around 250 moorings. They are still continuing the process of updating the pontoons, replacing the old planking with new and installing electricity, water and telephone connections.
By 1999 the emphasis had switched and the brokerage business became more important. Whereas they had previously concentrated on the sales of new cruisers and second-hand cruisers they moved more into narrowboat sales. Currently they sell about 160 boats a year with a turnover of £1.8 million on brokerage, one of the largest parts of their income.
In August 2003 they introduced a range of new narrowboats called "Castle Class" and have been supplying about 1.5 boats a month since then and plan to increase this to 2 boats a month in October. They are made and fitted by South West Durham Steelcraft Ltd to Castle Marina's specification. Internal furnishing and carpets plus finishing paintwork and sign writing are done at the marina. These craft are supplied with a 12 month warranty and have no hidden extras coming complete with ropes, poles, plank, windlasses, TV, stereo-system, microwave, and everything needed else to set sail. At the time of writing they were offering 3 to 4 month completion times. The increase in boat sales in the brokerage business together with the recently introduced new narrowboat sales has stimulated the demand for moorings to the point where they are now full..
They also operate about 30 Canaltime boats, which they are contracted to moor and turn round. This together with the brokerage and private work done on boats means that a lot of boats need lifting in and out of the water. The Works Division are the people who do this and have two boat handling cradles that allow boats to be smoothly and easily moved from the water to anywhere on the site. One handler is for small narrowboats and cruisers up to 30 foot and the other for 30 to 60 foot narrowboats. These are used to lift out boats for surveys, power washing, blacking and anode replacement.
The marina has two polytunnels, one a fully enclosed 60 foot bay with lighting and heating and is used for boat repair and basic painting services (i.e. not an expensive coach finish job). They also offer a spruce up service for boats being sold - a little money spent on the right things can help to sell a boat in the same way as it does houses. There is also a well stocked chandlery selling a range of products and workshops that are rented to JDJ Marine for any engineering work that may be required. If a customer requires some service that is not available on site they can usually find someone to do it. Customer care is their aim and Findlay recognises the power of the towpath telegraph.
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