45 years of Thorpe Bay Marine
It was in 1976 when TBM was started. Having travelled around the UK looking at various marine related businesses, it was realised that there was actually a need for a specialist boat showroom right here in Thorpe Bay, Southend. Southend had at that time, some six Yacht Chandlers but no one catering for the speed boat market.
It started as a small supermarket shop that was for sale as a going concern, right on the sea front in Thorpe Bay. A deal was negotiated for it and it was bought and was actually, for a couple of weeks, a Supermarket selling all the remaining stock together with the fridges and freezers and other shop fittings. Within two months the shop was transferred into a Boat Showroom. In those days there was no such thing as a Jet Ski, the market being trailable Speed boats to around 16 feet together with outboard motors up to 150 hp. Thorpe Bay Marine was one of the first Suzuki Outboard dealers, Suzuki having dominated Motorcycle racing with the likes of Barry Sheene as their rider, decided to venture into the Marine world and were very successful with their Outboard Motors. In 1985, Thorpe Bay Marine were in fact the top Suzuki Outboard Dealer having sold more outboards than any other Dealerships. Thorpe Bay Marine held many franchises including Fletcher, Picton, and Welsh Power boats, Mercury, Chrysler Suzuki outboards, Mercruiser inboard Repair Centre. The basement was opened up to house the growing number of windsurfer boards that were being stocked. Topper and Shadow Sailing Dinghies were also sold.
It was in 1980 we came across one of the first Kawasaki Jet Skis. They had only just been invented in California. One was tried and realised that here was a proper bit of kit made for the marine environment. Enquiries were made about importing them into the UK, only to be told that the American company had just appointed a UK importer. Thorpe Bay Marine had to be satisfied with being the first UK Dealer for the Kawasaki Jet Ski which at that time was the only Jet Ski Manufacturer. Most if not all of the original Jet Ski Dealers have ceased business and this leaves Thorpe Bay Marine as the longest serving Jet Ski Dealer in the UK!
My father, Alan, and I bought the business in January 1989, after I had left the Merchant Navy as an Engineering Officer, worked shoreside for a few years and was hankering after getting back involved with the marine trade.
We were still Mercury, Mercruiser, Fletcher and Kawasaki dealers but by now Kawasaki was being run by Kawasaki themselves and this was really the start of the ‘Jet-Ski’ growing in popularity.
In the early years the ‘stand-up’ was really the only ski available with ‘sit- downs’ slowly creeping onto the scene over the next few years. We took on the Seadoo dealership, then operated by Sowester, in 1992 and believe we are the only remaining dealer from those days.
My youngest brother moved to the area and started jet ski hire for a few years and then eventually joined the business as my father retired. He was with me for about eight years then decided to do his own thing in the motor trade. I then ran the business myself until my youngest son, Clive joined full time in 2019 after completing his plant and HGV apprenticeship, although he was here for most of his summer holidays from the age of 3!! He was riding jet skis and driving boats from a very early age.
As the sit-down craft became more popular, and the horsepower grew and the stability was improved, so saw the demise of the smaller speed boats as the sit down PWC’s could virtually do everything an owner wanted from a speedboat but at a lower initial cost and ease of ownership.
We are proud to say that we are your local Seadoo dealer based in Essex. Seadoo have a great range of craft from the Rec Lite, Recreaction, Tow Sports, Touring and Performance so we can cater for everyone’s needs on the water.
Thankyou to all our customers, friends and family, past and present, in helping to get to this fantastic milestone in the history of Thorpe Bay Marine.
Andy and Clive.