Bennett Boatyard offers all the services to provide you with the best possible boating experience in Scilly.
We are a family business, established for over fifty years on the island of Bryher in the Isles of Scilly. We have a large, sheltered Boatyard at the southern end of Bryher where we provide outdoor and indoor storage of a wide range of boats and gear. We cover all aspects of boat care and provide a full and comprehensive maintenance and repair service to give you a hassle free boating holiday.
During the summer months, we operate a bespoke hire service from Bryher, Tresco and St Martin’s. We have a range of motor, sailing & rowing boats and stable sit on top kayaks available to suit all capabilities.
We have shower facilities, laundry services and a waste disposal area on site for visiting yachtsmen. Our picnic benches at the top of Green Bay are a great spot for watching the activity of the Boatyard- hire boats coming and going, the yard’s quad bike and tractor up and down the beach and boats being launched and recovered.
In 1957, Keith Bennett built a 16ft Shearwater catamaran, at the time a relatively new design of small racing ‘cat’. Keith sailed from Chichester to Scilly with little more than his boat, a sheet of polythene and thirty pounds. He made a makeshift tent by slinging the polythene over the boom and that is where he slept. The natural hospitality and curiosity of islanders provided Keith with many good meals and he soon found farm work on Tresco and Bryher.
There were a number of people building boats on a small scale across the islands at that time but catamarans were still relatively unknown. Keith’s passion was for boat design and building and he realised the benefits of the catamaran long before they became widely recognised. Undeterred by a lack of suitable premises and funds, he set up business in a hole in the ground! He excavated a large pit on the beach near Bar on Bryher and erected a simple frame covered in polythene and began to build boats. From this sandpit, Keith graduated to a pigsty. Leonard Jenkins had an old Nissan hut in which he used to house his pigs. This became Bennett Boatyard’s first official premises.
Shearwater catamaran and Keith’s first home on Bryher
‘Balmaiden’ being built at Popplestones by the Nissan hut, mid 1960s
By the 1960’s, Keith established Bennett Boatyard in the old barn at Green Bay, where it remained for the next forty years. From here, Keith built over 200 boats, from small craft for local use to 35ft sailing catamarans. Keith’s skills became renowned internationally and he exported his boats to France, Switzerland, Portugal and even as far afield as Barbados. Much of this was achieved with very limited resources- it was well into the 1980’s before Bennett Boatyard enjoyed the convenience of mains electricity and water. Keith was at the forefront of catamaran design, most specifically pioneering the development of motor catamarans for leisure use. He displayed his designs at the London Boatshow - quite a feat from Scilly! Many of his boats also had commercial uses such as ‘White Hope’ which worked as a fishing boat out of St Mary’s for many years, ‘Halcyon Dayz’ which was built for sailing charters and ‘Firebrand’ which was used for diving excursions.
32’ ‘Malaston’ based on Lake Neuchatel, Switzerland
Bennett Boatyard has a long history starting in 1957.
The story of Bennett Boatyard begins with the building of a boat not on Bryher, but in Chichester.
Keith’s son Dan now runs the Boatyard, bringing to prominence Bennett Boatyard’s hire and storage services.
With his father and independently, Dan has built over 30 boats. Sadly in 2002, Keith passed away but his legacy lives on in the many catamarans he designed and built - each one slightly different as he never relished building the same boat twice! The powercats, now offered for timeshare from Tresco, were developed from one of Keith’s designs. In 2002, a new company was formed in Southampton building commercial catamarans from Keith’s original hull designs.
Keith and Dan on completion of a jointly built motor catamaran, 2000
In 2007 Dan moved the Boatyard 100 yards along the coastal path to the foot of Samson Hill. Here the new, purpose built workshop lies surrounded by ranks of boats. Many are storage boats, cared for at the yard on behalf of visitors to the islands. The rest form the hire fleet of motor boats, sailing boats, rowing boats and kayaks. Today Bennett Boatyard offers self drive hire in a range of smaller craft from its hire points on Bryher, Tresco and St Martin’s.
Dan with future Boatyard crew, 2013