The making of Marks Point

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A brand-new jetty installation has transformed the Marks Point Marina on Lake Macquarie, NSW, into a modern berthing facility. Simon Enticknap reports.

On a warm, sunny day there can be few more idyllic spots than Lake Macquarie on the NSW Central Coast. The bustle and noise of Sydney a couple of hours down the track seem like a world away. The vast lake – Australia’s largest coastal saltwater lagoon – is an open invitation to explore, play and relax.

Tucked away down a quiet side-street off the old Pacific Highway just north of Swansea lies the Marks Point Marina, a beautiful backwater boating haven which is now poised to become one of the best berthing and mooring facilities in the region.

An idyllic spot on NSW's Lake Macquarie: Marks Point Marina.
An idyllic spot on NSW's Lake Macquarie: Marks Point Marina.

When the current owner, Dennis McColl, took over the marina a couple of years ago, the site was suffering from a lack of investment over many years. In particular, the wooden jetties were in a poor condition and the berthing facilities needed updating to meet the requirements of modern boats.

Fortunately, there was already a development application in place and so McColl was able to get straight to work on obtaining the necessary council consent and construction certificates.

Then, over a four week period in August this year, the old wooden jetties were pulled out and a brand new Bellingham-built marina took their place with prefabricated concrete walkways and utility conduits connecting the 55 berths. A new fuel dock was also installed on the western side of the marina with bowsers for diesel and unleaded premium.

It has been a major renovation for the site, and one which uses some of the latest design components from Bellingham. As a indication of just how much marina design has changed over the years, in place of over 240 wooden piles which supported the old jetties, the new floating docks are now secured using just 13 poles.

More than 240 wooden posts were replaced with just 13 poles anchoring the new jetties.
More than 240 wooden posts were replaced with just 13 poles anchoring the new jetties.

According to McColl, the impact of the renovations at the marina was almost instantaneous; as word quickly spread among the boating community, owners started migrating in search of modern moorings.

“The clientele changed overnight,” he commented. “You don’t need to advertise, they just come to you.

“We got all the marina development done in winter so it’s great because we can use it now over summer and there’ll be no interruptions to power and water.”

Up to 90% of the marina’s occupants are locals who, even though they may already have their own moorings, still prefer to berth at the marina because of the benefits it offers. These include not just the clean new berths but also the on-site services including fuel, a licensed mechanic and sailmaker plus a slipway with seven cradles for anti-fouling and shipwright repairs including insurance work. In addition to the 55 berths the marina also has 26 moorings.

The quiet sleepiness of the place belies the fact that this is a busy, well-equipped service centre capable of managing and maintaining all types of boats.

Second time around

Undertaking a major marina makeover is not for the faint-hearted but this is not the first time McColl has taken on such a project. He previously did the same thing at Booker Bay on Brisbane Water, a hour’s drive south of Marks Point, before selling that marina to move to his present location on Lake Macquarie.

Today McColl has the air of somebody who has found their rightful place in the world. Even when he was at Booker Bay, he says, he always knew that he wanted to run Marks Point. Having lived in the area and boated on the lake, he could see the potential for the site. At the time when he bought his first marina, however, Marks Point remained out of reach.

The construction of the new jetties took just four weeks.
The construction of the new jetties took just four weeks.

Later, when it became time to move on from Booker Bay, he made no mistake in claiming the place as his own. This time around, too, he says he had no hesitation in turning to Bellingham to source the new marina infrastructure.

“This time I went with Bellingham because, for me, they are stronger. We get westerly winds here and the way they are built I thought they were a lot stronger and a better product.

“They were excellent to work with – I dealt with Gary Charlwood and everything just went smoothly, he really helped me out.”

The positioning of the new fuel dock was also important in the design of the marina. It was built with double walers for additional strength which provides protection for the rest of the marina from the westerly swell, an arrangement which McColl says is working really well.

The new fuel dock is positioned to shelter the rest of the marina from the westerly swell.
The new fuel dock is positioned to shelter the rest of the marina from the westerly swell.

As one of only two refuelling stations on the lake, the dock is also an integral part of the marina’s services. It is used by the police and marine rescue and, being located just off the main entrance channel to the lake, is ideally situated for boats cruising up and down the coast.

More work to be done

Having completed the major task of replacing the old jetties, McColl is not finished with his renovations yet. He has plans to convert one of the houses on-site into an expanded chandlery and update the slipway with new cradles.

He nominates good customer service as the key factor in running a successful marina. The fact that he has been involved in boating all his life means he understands what customers want and expect from their marina operator.

With the new jetties in place for the start of the boating season, Marks Point looks set to become the ideal base for enjoying this magical waterway.

This article was first published in the December-January issue of Marine Business magazine.

At home at Marks Point: Dennis McColl.
At home at Marks Point: Dennis McColl.

Listen to Dennis McColl talk about Marks Point Marina.

Marine Business profile: Marks Point Marina

Dennis McColl at Marks Point Marina on Lake Macquarie talks about his recently installed Bellingham marina - full story in the Dec-Jan issue of Marine Business magazine.

Posted by Marine Business on Thursday, 10 December 2015
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