7 months ago I moved to Bristol from the South Coast city of Brighton in hope of finding work and opportunities in the marine sector. In Brighton, my partner and I had been living on Jaguar 27 sailing yacht although unfortunately, at this point, I hadn’t started writing about our triumphs and failures in marine DIY so there were many beautiful moments and painfully expensive learning curves that went undocumented! By moving to Bristol I hoped to find work as well as other people who shared a love for boats and all things floating.
Ship-Shape And Bristol Fashion
When I arrived in Bristol my first port of call was to find everything and anything on the water or in the boat yards I could do for work. I had read that Bristol was a historic seaport for thousands of years so with this in mind surely finding work on the water was going to be a doddle? How wrong I was! It turns out that whilst the harbour is full of beautiful relics like the SS Great Brittian; once the longest passenger ship in the world and the historic Underfall boat yard that was built in the 19th century, it still lacks a marine job sector. More specifically the jobs in boat renovation, restoration and building just weren’t out there or are simply not advertised.
I took to the internet. They say a picture is worth a thousand words and with that in mind I went on to Google Maps – earth view. The reason being that espionage aside, satellite photo’s don’t lie. I used google maps to follow the entire river, Avon, to anywhere that was commutable, looking for boat yards, moorings or boats; anywhere where there might have been something going on. This coupled with the constant searching of job sites and sending my CV to anywhere that looked boaty, I started to get a sense of the lay of the land.
Nearly all the yards I attempted to contact didn’t get back to me, although one helpful lady from Channel Yacht Sales did speak to me on the phone. She told me that nowadays there are few functioning boat yards in and around Bristol meaning there is a lack of jobs. Simply put, Bristol is a historic port town; a title driven by the tourism industry that provides boat tours and summer festivals in and around the city centre harbourside. The main port activity has been moved to Avonmouth and is kept exclusively behind tall mesh gates. Of the jobs that do exist, most are already filled by long standing qualified staff so, with the exception of the odd intern position, the chances of stumbling on marine related jobs in Bristol are slim. My search for work was leading me to build up a good mental map of the boat yards, businesses and marinas around Bristol, however, so I decided to change my plan of attack. If I couldn’t find work in the marine sector than I would find a place to renovate boats myself and along with that, I would try to find people interested in the renovation, restoration and building of boats. Moorings and hard standings in Bristol are hard to come by; to have your boat in a city centre boat yard many people would be bankrupt by the end of the year. As many will know, the strength of the tourism industry and popularity of a city will also drive the prices of moorings and hard-standing up.
Moorings and hard-standings in Bristol are not only pricey for being in a popular city, the cost can creep up the longer you keep your boat in one place. The problem with running a cheap boat yard is that people may not finish the work to schedule (because everyone wants to keep their prized space) meaning the cheaper the yard, the less space they have. This means that many places in Bristol are short stay users only, cheap or expensive, to cope with the demand.
Most of the yards I looked at were either too far away or too expensive so it was back to google maps to where I finally found a little boat yard just outside of Bristol. A friendly bunch with no space at first, but fortunately one of their fishing boats came up for sale. The bank balance took a beating but I finally had somewhere I could play!
My search had left me feeling frustrated, to say the least, so it was time to take a positive from a negative and see who else was out there, looking to do similar things. I decided to put on the first Boat Renovation Meetup group in Bristol.
The First Meetup – Build it and they will come,