“Havengore has just left Ipswich after her first refit at Fox's Marina. This year we had some difficult work to do on Keel Bolts/Band, as well as the usual things that a boat of Havengore's age and pedigree requires.
There were some complex issues to overcome but we found Fox's extremely proactive in finding the best solutions whilst observing the integrity of the boat.
The facilities were second to none, they have a highly motivated team who were efficient and easy to work with. The refit was superbly managed, and we are extremely happy with the quality of the work, all of which was delivered on time and to budget”.
Julia Linehan - Operations Director
HISTORIC BOAT YARD RESTRUCTURING AND ON A ROLE
Fox’s is a name synonymous with East Coast excellence. When he started up a boatbuilding business in a shed in his garden in Wherstead (now part of greater Ipswich) in 1927, Charlie Fox probably had little sense of the history that would become attached to the name.
In May 2013 Will Taylor-Jones took over as managing director, having for many years been a key part of the Oyster Marine production team. Another new face around the yard is that of yard manager David Russell, ex EC Landamore technical manager who joined in November 2013. Along with long time services manager Ralph Catchpole, the three men form the senior management team.
“We have a staff of 45 in the yard. An advantage of having all the services we need on one site is that we are in control of a project from start to finish and can respond quickly to almost all requests. We’re not dependent on outside contractors so when a boat comes in we can supply everything from engineering, wood working, metalwork and fabrication, composite repairs, spraying and painting, rigging, and electronics all in house,” explained Will.
The yard continues to service and support the commissioning of new Oyster yachts. It also commissions and services newer Oyster rival, the Gunfleet range built in Colchester by Fox’s present owner Richard Matthews (who started the Oyster brand) and most recently started working with Windboats Hardy Marine and GT Yachts.
Fox’s business platform is based on specialist refurbishment and annual maintenance of both classic and GRP sailing and motor yachts of all sizes as well as workboats; it has one of the biggest rigging shops on the East Coast capable of handling and refitting masts up to 100 ft in length totally under cover, growing electronics and engineering departments, a stainless steel fabrication department and a fully climate controlled spray shop that can handle vessels up to 75 feet in length. The yard has the capacity to handle and carry out any conceivable work on some of the biggest yachts around, as well as support the launch and commissioning of new builds.
George McCormick the electronics manager has recently taken on a third qualified technician. “It takes around 14 hours to set up and test the typical electronics systems on an Oyster these days. We’re also attracting a lot more custom and we’re working closely with major manufacturers on developing new products. It’s a fast moving business to be in.”
2014 started with the ongoing refit on Havengore, the 85ft twin-screw Thames cruiser originally built as the PLA’s flagship and principal survey vessel in 1956. She was built by Tough Brothers of Teddington using double diagonal teak planking on oak frames and bronze fastenings.
Decommissioned in 1995, she was completely restored between 1997 and 2008. She is famous for her role in carrying Sir Winston Churchill’s body down river to his funeral and for taking part in the Queen’s Jubilee when she carried senior members of the Royal Family behind the Royal Barge. She now operates from St Katherines Dock in the heart of London, running corporate hospitality trips on the Thames.
Fox’s had to remove the original sonar transducers from the hull and repair it as per original build specification, using 5/8 inch thick planking, sandwiched with calico and white lead and fastened with copper nails, roves and bronze screws. Her latest MCA survey recommended the inspection of centre-line fastenings and the eventual replacement of her iron keel band, when the forward fastenings were drawn for inspection they were found to be in perfect condition.
In addition to the hull work, the deckhouse and decks required minor repairs and touching up, but the main hull above the waterline needed a complete makeover. She was repainted, by hand, with navy blue one-pack enamel topped by a white covering board around the deck edge.
London based music producer David Japp has spent several years rebuilding the 62ft Dutch-built steel Feadship motor yacht Tiky and Fox’s has been completing her resurrection. Following an almost complete rebuild by Landamores at Hoveton, Norfolk, she was transported to Fox’s where the hull was grit blasted back to bare metal, re-faired and recoated with Awlgrip. A new pilothouse was painted and fitted, the teak decks repaired and a new complete cover board fitted. Fox’s engineering department re-aligned the twin shafts, which involved cutting out and repositioning the A brackets, fitting new bearings, setting up new python drives and re-aligning the rebuilt Gardner 6LXB engines.
Along side these larger projects the team are typically carrying out substantial refits and paint jobs on pre owned Oysters and similar quality cruising yachts as well as typical maintenance on more modest yachts and motorboats. Custom fuel tanks and stainless fabrication, replacing teak decking & caprails, rigging & deck gear, composite repairs, bottom work, coppercoat systems are all commonplace.
A newer source of work is repairing and refitting the wind farms service boats. This requires a fast turn round, often of only hours and sometimes requiring overnight response work. Windcat catamarans, C-Truk and Offshore Services all utilise Fox’s for a range of services - complete external re-sprays, engine changes, stern gear, fuel tank and various pumping system overhauls.
Coded welding by in house fabricators is also an option available for structural modifications to both private and commercial projects.
Thanks largely to Ralph Catchpole there’s a wealth of history available for studying the ups and downs of a typical East Coast boatyard. When Bob Fox, grandson of the founder, sold the business to Eastern Tractors, they not only moved the business to its present site but promptly burnt many of the old records and indeed some of the spare precious hardwoods, and it was Ralph’s quick thinking that saved many sacks full of records that gives us a good insight into the company’s background today.
As the firm’s self-appointed historian Ralph has been scanning and cataloguing all the material he rescued into digital storage. “I love anything to do with history,” he said.
Right from the outset Fox’s specialised in building leisure craft, ranging from 10 ft clinker sailing dinghies up to 40 ft plus motor cruisers. With the rapid increase in motor boating in the 1920s and 30s the firm was kept busy building small runabouts and cruisers.
At the outbreak of WWII Fox’s was commissioned to build whalers and sailing cutters to train young seamen, many of them at HMS Ganges at Shotley. They also built eight 52 ft harbour launches for the Admiralty. As there was a shortage of diesel engines several of the early ones were steam powered. At the peak the company employed 100 men at Wherstead, Bourne Bridge and Felixstowe Ferry.
After the war they went straight back into building leisure craft. The first downturn came in the sixties with the near demise of traditional boatbuilding with their last wooden boat being built in 1965. Like many other yards they went over to fitting out GRP hulls.
Wood returned to Fox’s in the form of cold-moulding with the production of the Guy Thompson Fox 31’s followed by a Fox 35. This was followed by Odd-Job and Tumblehome, both early Stephen Jones IOR race boats. The company began making the mould plugs for Seamaster and Shetland boats, as well as the moulds for the Mirage 28, among others. In ’74 they introduced the Fox 24 motor cruiser available in kit form and then the Fox 700 that came as a family cruiser, sport fisherman and weekender.
An Ed Dubois designed half-tonner followed in the late 70’s also cold moulded from cedar. In 1979 they launched the 72ft Arethusa (later Faramir) designed by Essex naval architect David Cannell for Shaftesbury Homes and the following year the last Fox 700 went out the gates.
Today the yard encompasses a 100-berth marina, with a special area designated for Oyster yachts being commissioned or in for scheduled servicing; a large slipway with 70 and 50 tonne remote controlled travel hoists; rigging shed with a 100 foot long mast bay, and a rope and rigging components store, and electronics department housed in one building. The department was recently appointed one of five Seldén mast regional technical support centres.
The more recently built 100’ x 45’ workshop is able to take whatever the 70 tonne hoist can bring in, whilst the original workshop has the capacity to hold four 40 ft yachts at a time - both with easy access to the slip and main central roadway, with adjacent engineering, stainless steel and woodworking machine shops, and a large double bay spray shop.
Also on site is Fox’s Yacht Brokerage offices, Oysters HQ and Brokerage offices and, a large boat storage compound with new flood lighting and 220v power. Another relatively recent addition to the business is the Fox’s Chandlery Marine and Country store, a massive, well stocked, two-floors of every imaginable item the serious sailor could need. It’s claimed by chandlery manager Cheryl Westmoreland to be the largest chandlery store of its kind on the East Coast and contains some 25,000 different items!
A lot of Fox’s staff have been with the company for many years; Ralph Catchpole, whose daughter Ellie greets clients in reception and son Ben works in the spray shop, has been with the company 42 years. Many others have clocked up over 20 years service.
Today, the company is on something of a roll. Its order book is comfortably full, there’s talk of expansion, various departments are actively recruiting and four apprentices have recently started – all of which certainly bodes well for the long-term future of this business.
Membership Discount: 10% Off Services *see T&Cs
*10% off - Standard haul/wash/re-launch charges for the rest of the 2014 season