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Super New Era: 40 Years

Super New Era: 40 Years

The region’s original boat yard, established by Bruce “Sharkie” Harris in 1980, The Boat Works has evolved over the past four decades from humble yet pioneering beginnings, and is now entering its next phase as a world-class superyacht yard.

High-tech, humming like a well-oiled machine, comprised of marine professionals and passionate boaties, The Boat Works has acquired a well-earned reputation as the country’s leading marina and service facility.

This exciting new era is the next layer upon a heritage that started with one man’s vision. The original structures may have vanished, but the pioneering spirit remains.

The Boat Works of today recognises and pays tribute to a trio of illustrious forebears, all of them related by blood and united by ambition, for their contribution to its evolution.

 

HISTORY OF THE ORIGINAL BOATYARD

The son of a prawn fisher in Nelsons Bay, Bruce “Sharkie” Harris was one of two sets of twins and another sibling, all of whom grew up bare-footed and fearless around boats. “It was simpler times then: egg fights and fishing, building boats, enjoying the outdoors,” Bruce said. “Happy times.”

Fast forward to 1961, and by then, Bruce was married to Daphne with kids of their own, living in Singleton, NSW, when the opportunity arose to tender for a shark meshing program in south-east Queensland.

“My dad was my best mate. We applied with a joint tender, won it, and dad took the Sunshine Coast, and I took the Gold Coast.” From 1962, Bruce ran a trawler off Southport Park, catching 500 sharks per year. “Then my father in law, Fred retired and wanted a boat. So, I set about building him a boat. It was two hulls with a square box on top. We went to sea with an outboard motor on it, and I had never felt anything so stable. I decided then and there to ditch the trawler and focus on multihulls.”

In the 70s, Bruce built the moulds for 17ft, 20ft and 23ft catamarans beneath his house. He then expanded to the premises on Brisbane Road at Labrador. His high-quality catamarans soon attracted the attention of the Queensland government. Multiple private owners sought the seaworthy properties of a Shark Catamaran.

In 1977 – at the height of Swedish pop phenomenon, ABBA’s fame in Australia – Bruce gave in to his wife and daughters’ pleas to visit Europe, Sweden in particular. They embarked on a grand tour. The trip was a tonic.

Once back home, feeling refreshed and inspired, Bruce decided to branch out. He bought land at Coomera – then called “the bush” – for his next venture: a fleet of houseboats under the banner of Gold Coast Holidays Afloat.

“In 1980, I bought 10 acres of what was basically cow paddocks,” said Bruce, referring to the current site of The Boat Works. “They used to pump it out because
it flooded. I built 20 sheds and it grew from there. We were slipping boats in unbelievable numbers! That reach of the Coomera River was shallow, and we had to wait for high tides to launch boats, or push them over the sand. At that time, there was a punt to Southport.

“I built the lifts and the equipment myself, catering to 60ft cruisers in those days. It was modern at the time, and it did the job. We had a house and lived there for 15 years. There were 40 people living on the property. We prided ourselves on friendly, efficient service with a good attitude.”

Then, in 2000, Wes Moxey, Bruce’s nephew and now CEO of Riviera Motor Yachts, and Wes’ business partner, Rodney Longhurst, now owner of Riviera Motor Yachts, made Bruce an offer he couldn’t refuse. Bruce retired, and Wes and Rodney took over the vibrant and viable marine precinct they named the Gold Coast Marine Centre.

Wes recalls, “We bought the neighbouring block from the Uniting Church, and amalgamated the two blocks and diverted the creek that ran through the properties down our boundary. Rodney, and my wife and I developed a master plan for the site, which included revetment wall; expanded marina; a uniquely modified front-end loader tractor with a trailer extension – like something out of ‘Mad Max’ – that was used to haul out large catamarans and vessels to the yard; and Stage 1 of the hardstand and covered work shed wash bay, the first three large sheds, including spray sheds and service centres. The 70-tonne travel lift was later acquired.”

Expansion and adopting the latest techniques and equipment were the main objectives, but Wes and Rodney were also at the forefront of environmental considerations. “Having built Riviera and watched other marinas being built, I saw a real need to control, harvest and recycle water as an essential resource,” said Wes. “I think today, this is one of the huge differences at The Boat Works, compared to many other facilities. There are more than half a million litres stored or recycled from washing boats and flowing off the hardstand. This represents a huge benefit to operations and the natural environment.”

Wes and Rodney realised their lofty vision for the thriving Gold Coast Marine Centre. When the situation changed at Riviera in 2008, the duo took on the acclaimed Australian motor yacht marque, and sold the yard to Rodney’s brother, Tony Longhurst, champion race car driver and avid sailor. With his characteristic competitive spirit, Tony advanced their vision and committed to propelling The Boat Works to the upper echelons of marinas globally.

“The Boat Works has acquired a reputation as a great stopover for boats heading North/South, providing protected and safe moorings, dry storage and skilled trades. The Boat Works is clean, green and self- sufficient. It’s home to amazing staff and tenants who understand customer service. There’s a ‘can do’ energy that’s always moving, embracing change and evolving. It’s a fantastic place to work, and boaties can be assured it’s an absolute resort for their boats,” said Wes.

 

THE BOAT WORKS NOW

“Today, the entire precinct is located in the heart of boatbuilding in Australia,” Wes continued. “It has attracted people with passion for marine. We have amazing weather and it’s the ideal place to do business. The infrastructure within the precinct is the best in all of Australia. We are proud to have such a deep and productive relationship with the precinct over so many years and generations.”

Bruce recently visited The Boat Works and was treated to a guided tour with Tony Longhurst on the supercharged BMW golf buggy, which does the rounds several times a day with Tony’s critical eye for improvements and lending a helping hand to customers.

“It’s phenomenal!” Bruce enthused. “They’ve bulldozed my sheds and house. The sole remaining structure is the Galley Café & Bar, which used to be my office. The ‘Mad Max’ style lift is gone. They’ve made so many

improvements – it’s just marvellous! And it’s no longer in the bush. Coomera is a central hub now, close to the M1, the new Westfield shopping centre, rail line, and community that have sprung up over time.”

The Boat Works in its current incarnation is well and truly carrying the torch, Bruce affirmed, displaying the same integrity, ethos and attitude. “I noticed the same positive approach, quality service, friendly, smiling people. Nothing is too much trouble. It’s all hands on deck to get the job done. The facilities make The Boat Works 5-star in every way. It’s so clean, you could eat off the floor!”

But as they saying goes, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!”

SUPER NEW ERA

The ‘Super New Era’, the result of $100 million private investment in expansion, has doubled The Boat Works’ current footprint to 55 acres, making it the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

“The construction of the new superyacht refit yard has been undertaken in just under a year’s time, which
is staggering by any measure,” said Tony Longhurst. “With over 50,000 square metres of concrete, and

a massive amount of steel for our super sheds, landscaped bio-gardens, and 5-star facilities for owners, captains and crew, we have truly built a one- of-a-kind, world-leading facility for service, storage and refits. There’s no doubt it will be the desirable destination for owners and skippers, and for the marine professionals undertaking the works.”

Stage 1 comprise the “Dry Marina” boat storage facility which is a safe haven for 80 vessels spanning 25 to 60 feet, showing the strong demand for vessel storage in this region.

From early 2020, Stage 2 will open, including the 300-tonne super boat hoist – the largest on the Gold Coast, superyacht refit sheds, expansive hardstand and marina berths catering to vessels up to 50 metres.

The new premises will complement the current yard that boasts over 60 trade partners and a weekly haul-out rate of 50 vessels using three specialist lifts, the 70- and 100-tonne travel lifts, and the submersible hydraulic Sealift specialising in wide-bodied multihulls.

Over a kilometre of waterfront marina opportunity will be accessible to yacht owners, tourists and locals of south-east Queensland’s fastest growing region, who will gravitate to the waterfront precinct for its magnetic blend of boats and boutique shopping, dining and entertainment.

In terms of jobs, the new facility is forecast to boost the local economy and create 2,000 additional jobs and diversified businesses.

“The Gold Coast will become the port of call for every type of boat – from leisure craft to larger vessels – as they travel the east coast between Melbourne or Sydney and the Whitsundays,” said Tony. “The benefits of this increased visitation will flow on to the south-east economy in the form of jobs and business in all sectors.”

Tony is justifiably proud of the yacht facility and destination in its own right, but his pride is centred around the livelihoods and opportunities created. “Investing in The Boat Works has always been about creating jobs for others, security for families, and ensuring there is a future for the boating industry on the Gold Coast. We are now poised to reap the rewards of a vision that started with Bruce, and will continue for generations to come.”

Tony continued, “New legislation will make it easier for foreign-flagged vessels to come to our shores and spend extended time here cruising, carrying out maintenance and refits, as well as chartering their superyachts to offset many of the costs of traveling to Australia. It is going to be huge for the Australian marine industry and the entire economy, and we are proud to be at the forefront.”

 

Published in the Jan-Mar 2020 edition.

 

 

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