Pendennis yard tour
Toby Allies, Managing Director of Pendennis, walks SuperyachtNews through this landmark of British superyacht manufacturing and refit…
Visiting Pendennis has been on the list ever since I first moved to the UK and started working at the Superyacht Group, in early 2019. Admittedly, I vastly underestimated how long it takes to traverse the south coast of the UK to the westernmost tip of the Cornwall Peninsula. Fortunately, the flight, as I have learned, is spectacular. SuperyachtNews was invited down in July 2022 to tour the shipyard, learn the history and look ahead to the exciting developments at Pendennis, as it prepares to celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2023.
Pendennis is central to a region steeped in maritime tradition. Our guide for the day, Toby Allies, Managing Director, starts with a quick history lesson. “Pendennis is actually the name of this peninsula, and the maritime history here dates back a long, long time. The packet ships used to leave from here delivering letters around the world, right from the 1600s up until the 19th century. We had the J Class regattas here in the 1920s and 30s. You may have also seen the working boats in the harbour, which harvests oysters in the season, and race in between.” Says Allies.
This history is evident in the buildings that make up the yard. A converted rope store houses many of the training facilities and the ‘Yacht Club’ that welcomes you dates back to the late 1800s. Since it opened in 1988, with one eye on the UK’s America’s Cup bid - Blue Arrow - Pendennis has grown significantly. Milestones such as the commencement of its apprenticeship scheme in 1998; the launch of its first custom motor yacht, the 45m displacement yacht Ilona in 1999, the opening of offices in Palma, investment in the Villanova refit centre and finally the installation of its 800t travel lift in 2019, all demonstrated this development.
The scope of work that Pendennis undertakes has become equally vast. I may have been guilty in the past of thinking of Pendennis as just a ‘refit’ facility. While it undertakes many specialised refits, its new build heritage dates back to its founding. The term refit as an overall term is too broad also. As Allies puts it to me, “what do you mean by refit? We have projects underway where we have taken a vessel all the way back to the keel. These projects will be committed here for multi-year programs. Others may only come in for a quick respray in the sheds. The industry should be clear what we mean when we say refit.”
Inside one of the sheds that were in-between projects there is a ring of shipping containers. This, Allies explains, is the basis of almost all projects undertaken at Pendennis. “The way we work on projects, whether it is a new build, a refit or a rebuild, is that we set up a foundation of containers that we can sit a vessel on. This gives great access to the hull, as well as cutting down on the amount of scaffolding. Each of these containers is fully accessible also, and can be their own storage or work spaces specific to the project.”
Pendennis has a long history of taking on extensive full rebuilds of many classic yachts. There were two such projects underway as we toured. While the details of the rebuilds and the vessel specifics are not ready for public release, the scale of the works was impressive. These are kinds of projects that one feels can only be undertaken with an equally deep skill set and experience within the team.
“A strength of ours is that we have a lot of control of the trades we have in-house,” explains Allies. “We are not reliant on whoever is shouting loudest for contracts. In a client meeting, we’re able to introduce people like our head of fabrication, and clearly outline how we are going to proceed.”
Image credit: Stuart Pearce – Yacht Shot
As the industry strives for sustainable solutions, refitting and rebuilding the fleet is a vital part of the story. One may think that the classic fleet is in some way immune from adherence, but, as Allies explains, even the owners of the oldest and grandest vessels in the fleet are approaching Pendennis for sustainable, future-focussed refit solutions.
“With some of the large classic projects, their engines may be close to 100 years old, air started and some even capable of towing aircraft carriers! If the gearbox is the size of a small house, chances are it is producing more power than it needs. A lot of our owners are now asking us to find more innovative and sustainable ways of using the power.”
MY Marala rebuild
It is hard to fail to notice the bright-eyed and omnipresent ‘red hats’ in the Pendennis Yard. These are the apprentices, at various stages of their four-year programs. Given bright red hard hats, they are an integral part of the Pendennis team, Allies explains. As one of the largest employers in the county, these apprenticeships are highly sought after, and Pendennis takes pride in the development of these skills.
This is, after all, the most sure-fire way to nurture the required skill set and a broad range of trades that can sustain the large scale refits. Still, as Allies explains, there is still a skills shortage in the UK. Actively presenting the maritime sector as an attractive career option is still a vital industry-wide initiative.
The red hard hats and PPE issued to a new apprentice at Pendennis
Speaking about the continued growth of the program, Allies highlights, “we have taken over another site, and that is a place where we can develop the skills of our apprentices with smaller projects. Being able to give them agency over a smaller vessel with something like a paint job, helps with the development of project management skills.”
With another set of apprentices going through their inductions as we toured and roughly 70 within the program, the next generation of the British marine industry is emerging. Building on this foundation, Pendennis is looking ahead to its 35th anniversary. Allies assure me that there will be some fascinating projects hitting the water soon, and to expect celebrations across all of the Pendennis facilities to match the scale of these iconic vessels.
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