‘A machine - and it’s running all the time’

Endeavour Quay, Gosport - pictured is the Abu Dhabi  - Volvo 70''''Picture: Paul Jacobs  (131991-3)
Endeavour Quay, Gosport - pictured is the Abu Dhabi - Volvo 70''''Picture: Paul Jacobs (131991-3)
Jacquie Shaw of the NMRN

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Walk past Endeavour Quay and you could easily miss the scale of the work going on at the boat yard.

A misleadingly small number of staff manage the yard, built on the site of the famous Camper and Nicholson boat builder’s yard, off Mumby Road in Gosport.

It is here, beyond the yard’s easily-missed entrance, that Endeavour and its nine tenants reside.

Experts busily work on a range of craft, from pilot boats to Ran, a 72ft racing yacht owned by billionaire co-founder of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom.

It was one of many boats at the yard being prepared to compete in the Rolex Fastnet Race last week.

But yard manager Tim Newell is keen to point out that despite being the temporary home of a billionaire’s yacht, Endeavour Quay is there for the average boat-owner too.

Walking around the site Tim is stopped often, with staff from businesses and skippers keeping him up to date with their work.

He refers to the yard, which sees more than 250 boats a year arrive for maintenance, as a machine – and it’s his job to keep it running smoothly.

‘Working in the yard at any one time, we have between 40 and 60 people a day on an average or up to 70 when it’s busy,’ Tim explains. ‘Because we’ve got a mix of tenants here, there is a good atmosphere and there’s a friendly rivalry between some of the businesses.

‘In some areas they do step on each other’s toes and that creates a bit of an atmosphere – a rivalry.

‘Where we’ve got these international crews here, there’s a great atmosphere.

‘We’ve got people working here from South Africa, New Zealand, America and Europe, all working in the yard.

‘It’s a machine and it’s running all the time.

‘And I’m just making sure it’s fully in service and the oil’s topped up.’

Endeavour earns its crust by renting out units to a range of firms involved in the marine industry, including sail-maker Kemp Sails, You Boat Chandlery, Kiwi Marine and defence firm Babcock.

It also has three large boat sheds, with a combined floor space of 2,000sqm.

Tim adds: ‘Endeavour doesn’t do any of the boats when they’re here.

‘We rely on businesses based on-site, or the skipper to introduce their own contractor.

‘We don’t charge contractors to have access to the site.

‘We mainly do refits and repairs here, we don’t do new builds.

‘We have two income streams, the rent we gain from the tenants that are based here, and the other side of it is the lifting boats out.’

And lifting boats out of the water is a serious business for yard foreman Simon Pickwell and crane driver Neil Batterbury.

When The News was invited to the yard, the pair were carefully manoeuvring a Clipper 70 yacht, which will go round the world in a race from September, on to the hoist.

The huge crane drives out on to a path jutting out toward the water on its four tyres, with the hoist ready to pick up the boat on to dry land where it will be worked on.

It is capable of lifting boats up to 40m long, 180 tonnes or with an 8.5m beam.

Tim said: ‘We’re constantly trying to fill our week-long schedule of lifting, because that’s how we derive our income.

‘We’re not too badly restricted on tide, at low water we’ve got two 3m to 2.5m draft in the dock, and at high water we’ve got 6m to 6.5m.

‘That means we have to factor in the weather or the tide throughout the day.’

But all of this work has only been possible after operations manager Mark Bowden set up Endeavour Quay, in 2005.

He is also a director of Marina Projects, a consultancy firm which owns the yard.

Mark is clearly proud of the business and its base, which he said has a history of excellence.

‘When you go to the Caribbean and say Endeavour Quay is the former Camper and Nicholson yard, they know exactly where that is,’ he said.

‘And that’s hugely valuable.

‘We moved here in January 2006. It was a pretty sorry sight.

‘Somewhere with such heritage and history had just been parked and left.’

But a major refurbishment that year saw the birth of Endeavour Quay as it is now, a modern boat yard open to all.

Mark added: ‘The history was still here, but in terms of business, there was nothing here.

‘We had to go out and find the right guys.

‘One of the reasons this place has been so successful over the years is simply because it is the dormitory for the dockyard.

‘There is a high level of skill, which people don’t always realise, in the Gosport area.

‘Welders, painters and shipwrights, all these sorts of people are readily accessible.

‘With my connections in the industry, together with the demand for boat lifting in Gosport and a bit of hard work, we got the business going again.

‘We welcome small boats, and one of the reasons we have a lot of small repeat customers, is that when they’re here they’re often rubbing shoulders with Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.

‘They all feel part of it – that’s something I engender, it’s not exclusive.’

And Mark is also quick to point out that bringing billionaires and businesses to the yard also boosts the local economy.

He added: ‘Customers who come here then go and buy additional items from the local chandleries and other local contractors.

‘That all helps massively with the immediate local economy, food, drink, car parking, the high street retailers but also the more specialist ones.

‘It’s a circular thing, businesses continue to survive in Gosport ... without an Endeavour Quay, those local trades would find it more difficult I would suggest.

‘There are 3,000 boats on the Hamble and it is recognised as the busiest, nicest and most convenient yachting centre on the south coast.

‘Actually in Portsmouth Harbour there are 5,000 boats... now people can access Gosport much easier.’

He added: ‘There’s no reason why Gosport can’t continue to thrive and build on that.’