When their competitors have closed their doors for the summer, Volvo Penta’s mechanics at Lyckans Slip are working at full stretch – towing and replacing the starter motor on Kjell Jonason’s Nimbus 800, for example. “I live on an island and I’m totally dependent on my boat. It has to work!” he says.
Children are scampering along the narrow alleyways between the white wooden houses. Slightly less energetic tourists in their sensible shoes are making their way through the labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets. July is drawing to a close and Fiskebäckskil, a jewel in the archipelago on the west coast of Sweden, can be seen in all its glory.
However, if the summer visitors are doing everything they can to make the time pass more slowly, boat mechanic Kenneth Karlsson is working at a totally different speed. He reaches for his tools in the heat under the cover on Kjell Jonason’s boat and talks about his work at Lyckans Slip. “In the summer, I do repairs, while I spend the autumn on service and preserving boats for the winter. In the winter, we do repairs for our permanent customers and change equipment and fittings and so on,” he says.
In the spring, it is time to put the 350 or so boats the company cares for and maintains during the winter back in the water. After this, the cycle begins again.
Lyckans Slip is a marina, with rented berths, and a harbour for visitors, but it is also a Volvo Penta workshop and shop. All these operations are naturally linked. “We are fairly unique in that we have a full harbour for visitors and a fully functioning shipyard. Sometimes, things pile up and we have too much to do, but, because of the summer, we are able to have eight permanent employees all year round. The summer accounts for a third of our turnover,” says shipyard owner, Annika Andreasson.
Not effected by the boat industry crisis
She pours the Global News reporter a cup of strong coffee in the office she shares with shipyard manager, Palle Andersson. Their phones ring the whole time and, at regular intervals, one of her employees comes in to hand over a document, check something or ask a question. In spite of this, it is unusually quiet for a Monday.
“We are usually busiest on Mondays. Sometimes, the customers are actually standing in line here, waiting for help,” says Palle Andersson.
The newspapers have been filled with articles about the crisis in the boat industry. The economic decline has forced many boat builders to throw in the towel. Others have supplemented their businesses by selling second-hand boats. For a marina and service workshop like Lyckans Slip, however, the effects so far have been limited.
“So many boats have been sold over a period of many years, so there’s a surplus on the second-hand market. As long as that continues, we won’t be affected, but, in the longer term, the crisis will also impact us,” says Annika Andreasson.
At the same time, she thinks that the number of boats has declined slightly since 2007, when Lyckans Slip was at its busiest. “There are days when it is still hysterical, but the overall pressure has declined to some extent. The weather is an important factor. This is the third summer in a row with pretty bad weather.”
A good mix of boats and people
One positive effect of the downturn is that the working climate has improved. What is more, the harbour is full and Lyckans Slip is unable to deal with any more boats. There is still a demand for berths, especially for boats of more than 40 feet. It would also be theoretically possible to join smaller berths to make room for the really luxurious boats, but that is out of the question.
“We want a good mix of boats and people. We also want to keep the boat owners who put to sea in their small boats. They help to create a more pleasant atmosphere in the marina and that’s important. People have to get on and enjoy one another’s company. You become something of a therapist in this job. Sometimes, I have to go out on the jetty and negotiate!” says Palle Andersson with a smile.
A service attitude characterises the entire company. Lyckans Slip has harbourmasters who travel by boat, help to pilot boats and make sure the harbour is “packed” safely. At times, this is a really demanding, difficult job.
Nine out of 10 visitors to the harbour are pleasant and grateful, but, when you run into the other kind, it is important not to react negatively to unpleasant words from stressed holiday yachtsmen who are looking for berths with faces etched with desperation. Måns Norén, who is spending his last summer as a harbourmaster, before he applies his economic studies at work, is an expert in this area.
“It’s a question of keeping an eye on the permanent berths that are available and planning according to width. The wide berths are incredibly popular,” he says.
30 years with Volvo Penta engines
Top-class service has also put Kjell Jonason in a good mood, even if his boat, Timjan, is moored at the service jetty. “My boat is normally moored at the island of Saltö, where we spend the summer. When the engine doesn’t start, you’re at a loss. However, I called Palle and the news was really positive. He said, ‘We have three mechanics who can get to work on it next week’. If Palle hadn’t been here and helped to tow my boat, I would never have been able to moor it here. It’s pretty narrow,” says Kjell Jonason.
Kjell Jonason has had a boat for 40 years and, for at least 30 of them, he has had Volvo Penta engines. “I currently have a Volvo Penta D3, which I bought four years ago. Obviously, I know people who have other engines, but I thought it was easiest to install a Volvo Penta engine.”
In the stern of Kjell Jonason’s boat, Kenneth Karlsson is bending over the engine, removing the part that has to be replaced. By the wall of the building a few metres away, his colleague is talking on his mobile to another boat owner who has called Lyckans Slip, looking for help. These mechanics will have to wait for their holidays.
Annika Andreasson sums up her take on what is involved in successfully running a shipyard. “You have to take good care of your customers when they need it most.”