In 2004 Spencer & Victoria Colins acquired The Boatyard at Hilperton, near Trowbridge in Wiltshire. Hilperton offered them an ideal central location to trade from being situated halfway between Devizes and Bath on the extremely popular western section of the beautiful Kennet & Avon Canal. No strangers to the Inland Waterways, Spencer’s passion for the waterways started as a young teenager working with the Waterways Recovery Group before later moving into running boatyards and marinas after an apprenticeship in engineering. Victoria had spent all her adult life living and trading on the entire waterways network, learning a wide range of canal skills from the very best of teachers. Boat carpentry, painting, rope work and fender making were just some of the skills acquired and, Victoria being Victoria, skills that were honed to perfection. Together their individual skills sets complimented each other and equipped them well to embark on their new venture and rise to the challenge of running such a specialist business.
The core of the original business they acquired offered wharf services such as pump out, diesel, water, and moorings for both visiting and resident canal boats on the Kennet & Avon Canal. These basic services were soon enhanced with addition of engineering services, an extensive workshop, improvements to the infrastructure, the ability to supply coal, calor gas, logs and kindling and a complete fuel polishing service. Ever wishing to meet boaters needs opening times were formalised and extended to ensure customers could access The Wharf Services Department between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday and 9am and 5 pm at weekends and bank holidays, and always with a happy, friendly, warm welcome and prices that are hard to beat anywhere on the canal network.
As part of the service Spencer & Victoria are always on hand with their extensive knowledge and experience to freely offer advice to boaters, and to further support them by calling on a vast network of suppliers and specialist contractors such as welders, Boat Safety Scheme Inspectors, Boat Surveyors and Marine Architects.
Spencer’s passion is for all things engineering, engines, generators and gearboxes. His expertise range from engine rebuilding and installation, gearbox changes, engine servicing etc, through to boat electrical services, solar installations, plumbing, heating and gas installation and testing where Spencer is a qualified and registered gas engineer. To support The Boatyard’s Engineering Services the facility is equipped with an overhead engine hoist and Spencer ensures that a full range of parts and consumables for all major canal boat engines is always available.
Victoria’s love is fitting out boats, boat carpentry and boat painting. Her eye for clever and imaginative design inside a Narrow Boat is second to none and, unlike most, she is able to carry this eye for design, with craftsman skills, through to the use of both traditional hard woods and modern materials alike to create bespoke and individual interiors that compliment any boat regardless of size or age. Whilst taking care of the inside of a boat Victoria is also a highly skilled boat painter and never happier than standing back and admiring a boat she has just finished painting, complete with coach lines, harlequin panels and sign writing, that only a week or so earlier had been stripped down to bare metal and was now the pride of the waterways.
So whether looking at ordering a new boat, refitting your existing boat, simply making some alteration, or upgrading something like your stove or solar panels, the Boatyard Boat Fitting Services can meet your every need from designs, building and fitting with skill, dedication, and attention to every detail, through to your bespoke boat being ready to take to the waterways.
As the business grew and boaters became more reliant on the services of The Boatyard, Spencer & Victoria invested in Aquilon, a purpose built coal and diesel boat designed to carry fuel, coal, logs, gas and general chandlery and deliver directly to boats along the Kennet & Avon. Aquilon follows a pre-set published schedule throughout the year giving a reliable and dependable service, its progress with your delivery can now even be tracked, via GPS, on The Boatyards website. Orders can be placed via the internet, text or telephone and payment made by cash, credit card or BACS meaning boaters don’t need to be in attendance when deliveries are made.
With the increase demand for solid fuels Wiltshire Coal was formed to compliment the services of Aquilon by offering the same range of smokeless fuels for home delivery to Trowbridge and the surrounding areas. Kerosene for household heating and red diesel for contractor’s plant has also been added to the range offered by Wiltshire Coal.
Next in the expansion program was the commissioning of a purpose built floating Dry Dock. Delivered in 2017 this major investment allowed the Boatyard to extend its services into boat blacking, undercover boat painting and under the waterline engineering such as welding, hull over plating, propeller and stern gland replacement, anode replacement etc. The dry dock is also available for short term docking for boat surveys etc and for longer term DIY hire. Your guaranteed booking slot, up to two years ahead, is only a phone call away.
Never wanting to stand still, and with their boundless energy, Spencer & Victoria next set about building and stocking the largest chandlery outlet on the K&A where everything boating can be obtained from a new stove, cooker or fridge right down to the smallest nut, bolt or fitting, and again advice and guidance on making your purchase comes as standard. As official stockist for many paint manufactures, including International, Rylard and Craftmaster, The Boatyard’s Chandlery Department is able to supply you with not only a huge range of paint but also with brushes, rollers and trays, preparation materials and even white spirits to clean your hands afterwards!
To enhance the local support that Spencer & Victoria enjoy they have now developed an ‘On-Line’ shopping experience within the Chandlery Department where all the products available from stock can easily be viewed and purchased on the web site, via the On Line Chandlery Shop, for Click & Collect, local delivery, delivery by the fuel boat schedule, or nationally by courier, and all at prices that are hard to beat anywhere on the network. The Boatyard are proud to be the ‘One Stop Shop’ for all your boating needs.
With their ‘hands firmly on the tiller’ so to speak, Spencer & Victoria can look back and rightly be proud of what they have built at The Boatyard. However, they also look forward to continuing, and further developing, their professional, and value for money services, to the boaters on the Kennet & Avon and beyond for many years to come.