In 1977, boaties in New Zealand knew little about floating docks. Back then, most preferred to use tidal grids – a task that took up to eight hours, waiting for the tide to come and go, so when Don Thom, an engineer by profession, designed and built the floating dock, it’s no surprise that the idea wasn’t an instant success.
Don and his partners had little patience to wait for the business to take off, so they gave up and sold it to Ken Sharp, a former spar maker, who first saw a rough prototype of a floating dock on a sailing trip to Vancouver and took up on the offer to run one in New Zealand.
Ken remained at the helm until his retirement in November 2018 to spend time on his MK 1 Corsair.
The business changed hands yet again, and this time landed with Shuker Marine Ltd.
“We pride ourselves on being a small family-owned business fronted by Clinton Shuker,” says Sasha, Clinton’s partner who is involved in the company along with Gary and Sarndra Shuker – the directors of Shuker Marine Ltd, which trades as Floating Dock Services.
The first two years saw a few challenges, such as the tornado in August 2019, which, among lots of damage to other boats in Westhaven, completely stripped the office that Ken had built in 2010.
The other big hurdle is, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to disrupt lives and businesses in New Zealand and the world, however, Sasha says she and the team are positive that with the support of the boating community, they can grow the business.
A unique approach
Unlike other haul-out facilities in the greater Auckland region, Floating Dock Services doesn’t use a travel lift or crane to haul out boats. Instead, think of it as a drive-in, drive-out boat wash.
“The technology, when it was developed, was well ahead of its time,” says Sasha.
“We have a lot of behind-the-scenes machinery so that our customers have full, uninterrupted access to their hull. We have a quick turnaround on most of our lift and cleans where customers or staff can change out anodes as needed.”
Sasha adds that they offer antifouling services (and DIY services) and outsource contractors for polishing and other works.
“We’re the only haul-out facility to operate an online booking system. Our prices are all-inclusive (even GST), with no hidden costs for water blasting, day fees, return lift, etc.
“The only additional cost would be upon discovery, e.g., heavy fouling or additional prep work for antifouling.”
As the facility is over the water, a lot went into creating the capture/filtration plant, which ensures any run-off is captured, cycled through the filtration plant (two different cycles), and deposited into the Auckland sewer system where it runs through their system again. And hard matter fouling is disposed of off-site.
“Our screens also provide an extra layer of protection for those extra windy days. We pride ourselves on being efficient, competitively priced in comparison to haul-outs, and environment friendly.”
Hull cleaning, underwater maintenance, marine surveys, weekend/overnight haul-outs, antifouling services, and anode replacement are some of the services offered at Floating Dock Services.
“The original services are much the same; we have evolved to include more hardstand-type services, such as people needing haul-outs for prop changes, leg servicing, etc.
“The only main change I can think of is the fact that our antifoul services (when not DIY) are completed in-house by our staff – manager Clinton Shuker and David Hallett, so it translates into a more personal service.”
The team also offers lift and holds for any other underwater maintenance needed to carry out, such as prop change, bow thruster servicing, and engine and leg servicing – basically anything a boat owner might be hauled out for.
The team’s love for boating has kept the business going, says Sasha (“we’re all a little boat mad”).
Both Clinton and Sasha and Gary and Sarndra own 47ft launches and dock assistant David Hallett owns his own 12m ex-fishing trawler from the Chatham Islands.
“We just strive to provide a service as we would expect it as boat owners ourselves, at the best price, while trying our best to not leave an impact on our big blue watery backyard.”
Guess that should do the trick.
A slice of history
The Floating Dock Services was originally located on Westhaven’s eastern sea wall and was accessed by dinghy. However, in 2010, the eastern sea wall was required by POA for superyacht moorings. Many of the Westhaven boaties, who were worried about losing their local maintenance service, helped Ken by signing a petition to keep Floating Dock within the precinct.
After many meetings, it was decided to move the Floating Dock to its current location at the end of X pier Westhaven Marina. Although this was a win, it came with rigorous health and safety and environmental requirements that Ken spent hundreds of thousands to meet, which are some of the key parts of the Floating Dock. The move also allowed additional features such as a toilet, electricity-driven compressors (rather than diesel), an office, and a spacious pier.
Floating Dock Services have teamed up with WH Marina to promote the new Bio Security Act rules for boaties in the gulf.
A Westhaven customer getting a lift and clean at Floating Dock Services before the end of 19 April 2021 can go into the draw to win back the value of the service.
The catch: The customer needs to hold an account with Westhaven Marina
More details: floatingdockservices.co.nz