Over the last 50 years, we have grown into the UK’s leading marina and water-based provider and one of Europe’s largest marina groups with 18 UK marinas and one in Spain.
Our story is not dissimilar to that of the British marina industry itself. Fifty years ago, if you owned a boat, you most likely kept it afloat on a pile or swinging mooring. It had been like this for generations, with few boat owners aware of the changes under way on the other side of the Atlantic.
Perhaps used to higher standards of service and convenience, American boat owners were beginning to keep their yachts and motorboats alongside floating pontoons, with access to the shore and facilities such as showers and chandleries, and where security could be provided.
For the last five decades, we have helped change the landscape for boating in the UK. We've developed a network of marinas in stunning waterfront locations which uphold the highest level of customer service, provide state-of-the-art berthing facilities, and support a sustainable approach to enjoying time on the water.
As the biggest operator of coastal marinas in the UK, it might be surprising that our first venture as a newly formed company, back in the early 1970s, was far from the sea amid the water meadows of the Thames Valley.
Penton Hook, on the non-tidal reaches of the River Thames, became the first marina to be acquired, founding the group in 1973.
After protracted negotiations we purchased Windsor Marina in 1976. One of the few custom-built marinas on the Thames, it was developed in 1974 by Meeks of Marlow who originally had just a slipway and boatyard on the site. Tucked away on the south bank just outside the town, it’s now become an intimate and friendly haven on the Thames.
Our first saltwater site was purchased at Cobb’s Quay in Poole, plus two river marinas at Hartford, on the Great Ouse and Upton-upon-Severn. With a total of 1,200 berths this was a significant leap in size, doubling the size of the company overnight.
Bray Marina acquired, increasing the company’s presence on the Thames. After discussions with berth holders, redevelopment of the marina began with upgraded berths, shower and toilet facilities and landscaping shaping it into the country park it is today.
We stepped in to rescue a floundering marina project in Torquay. This turned out to be a complex development involving a multi-story car park, retail units, and the rehabilitation of the Edwardian Pavilion, which proved to be a sensitive and expensive restoration task.
Howards’ Way was first aired in 1985, dubbed the ‘Dallas of the sea’ it was the BBC’s answer to the American super-soaps of the 80s. The ‘gin and Jag’ set of the Solent coast were seen as providing perfect material for a Sunday night drama. Hythe Marina and Ocean Village were depicted from their initial development and used as filming locations. In order to keep experienced sailors on the edge of their seats, storylines emphasised big events in the sailing calendar using real footage, with characters taking part in very believable mocked-up participation.
Dean and Dyball accepts MDL’s takeover offer of £18.5m adding Dartside Quay, Millbay Marina Village, Hythe Marina Village, Ocean Village, and Shamrock Quay. The deal also included a 50% share in Queen Anne’s Battery.
Our UK headquarters moves from Windsor Marina to Outlook House at Hamble Point. The marketing team has new offices built in the space of an old squash court.
MDL becomes the sole operator of Queen Anne’s Battery, Plymouth. “On a sunny evening when the marina is busy with live music from the bar and restaurant – I don’t think there’s any better place on the whole of Plymouth waterfront than QAB,” said the then Marina Manager.
BT Global Challenge fleet set sail from Ocean Village Marina. The brainchild of Sir Chay Blyth took a fleet of one-design steel yachts, crewed by ordinary men and women, round Cape Horn and through the Southern Ocean covering a distance of some 29,000 nautical miles.
MDL purchase Saxon Wharf, just north of Shamrock Quay on the River Itchen, with a commitment to invest around £6 million in the site. The development offers refit and repair facilities to leisure and commercial vessels up to 75 metres.
A deal agreed with Wifi SPARK following trials at Torquay Marina proved a big hit as Wifi was rolled out across the marina estate. As the technology improves small upgrades are made and the dream of working from a boat becomes a reality.
120 solar panels installed on the roof of the Saltmarsh Building at Cobb’s Quay Marina, and 210 panels on the top deck of Ocean Village multi-storey car park as part of our green plan to help reduce our operational impact on the environment.
We won a PBO (Practical Boat Owner) Green Award for ‘Best Service and Support’. Our Marketing Director commented: “We are delighted to have won this prestigious award and to be recognised for our efforts in reducing our environmental impact.” Well done team
MDL signs deal to grow network to 70 marinas across Europe joining French marina operator Segamor to offer cruising opportunities to berth holders. The deal, signed at Tullett Prebon London Boat Show, and still running today through the Otium points-based loyalty scheme, allows berth holders to join “Passeport Escales” to gain access to free visitor nights at marinas in France, Spain and Portugal.
The five-star luxury Southampton Harbour Hotel and Spa officially opens at Ocean Village Marina. It costs from £175.00 per night, and has a spa, gym and even a small cinema for guests. Platinum Plus Otium members can redeem points to get free access to all the hotels facilities when their boats are moored in Ocean Village, making the city centre marina an even more exciting destination.
The South Coast Boat Show launches at Ocean Village Marina. It’s judged a stunning showcase for global power and sail brands. The show has now become a secured event in the marine calendar and already has the colloquial nickname of ‘the buyers show’ for its focused approach.
Our Otium Rewards loyalty programme is launched. Latin for leisure time, Otium gives MDL customers the chance to generate points from purchasing services, which can then be redeemed on future services. Its specifically designed to give more choice about how customers discounts can be used.
We offer new glamping accommodation in four large bell tents at our Mercury Yacht Harbour and Holiday Park.
Our Wi-Fi network is upgraded to WiFi 6 bringing the next generation of wireless infrastructure to our marinas and providing a faster connection to boats.