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MGM Boats: After 25 Years, Dun Laoghaire’s Top Marine Business Has Busy International Footprint

22nd October 2022
“If you like your work, then work is the best fun that you can have”. 25 years on, and going stronger than ever at MGM Boats’ Silver Jubilee Celebration in Dun Laoghaire are (left to right), Ross O’Leary, John O’Kane (Belfast Lough Office), Gerry Salmon and Martin Salmon 
“If you like your work, then work is the best fun that you can have”. 25 years on, and going stronger than ever at MGM Boats’ Silver Jubilee Celebration in Dun Laoghaire are (left to right), Ross O’Leary, John O’Kane (Belfast Lough Office), Gerry Salmon and Martin Salmon 

For most sailors in what is Ireland’s largest and busiest pier-enclosed recreational harbour, MGM Boats of Dun Laoghaire are, first and foremost, the people who provide the essential service of one of Ireland’s largest and most versatile travel hoists. For it’s often the case that the more effective a boat is in the water, then the more awkward she is out of it. Thus when you urgently need their services to get your pride-and-joy safely onto dry land in jig time, a skilled travel hoist operator ranks somewhere above the angels in any listing of divine helpers. Their quiet competence is a balm for bothered boat owners who have suddenly become aware of what the insurance business tries to de-dramatise as “an inexplicable ingress of water”, or some other invisible but noise-evident problem.

Introducing one of Ireland’s leading international marine traders and service providers with this most basic of viewpoints may seem to be slightly off-target in profiling an expanding company which has been trying to fit the celebration of its 25th Anniversary into what – post-pandemic – has proved to be one of its busiest years ever.

But a friend in need is a friend indeed. And those who have come to know MGM through their readiness to provide an emergency boat lift in times of stress will rightly see the company in a favourable light, thereby joining the very long list of satisfied customers who – since 1997 – have been availing of MGM’s increasing range of services provided and new boats and equipment marketed, combined with their always-interesting used-boats sales list.

A Prestige 520 Flybridge brings a bit of glamour to a 50-ton Travelhoist, which has proven equally ready to lift the most rugged workboatsA Prestige 520 Flybridge brings a bit of glamour to a 50-ton Travelhoist, which has proven equally ready to lift the most rugged workboats

The experience within the company and its associated service providers is remarkable. Managing Director Gerry Salmon has been involved in boat work at every level and most areas since 1986. His brother Martin - Sales & Marketing Director - does even better, as he started as a boat-finishing carpenter and joiner in 1983, before rapidly expanding his expertise and moving up the ranks in several areas of the marine industry.

Ross O’Leary, Director of Brokerage & New Boat Sales, continues as an active sailor from the Laser level upwards, and after studying at Solent University he came to the growing MGM operation in 2000, joining a team which was soon further enhanced by the appointment of Paul Gavin as Yard Manager, an all-encompassing title which will shortly be celebrating Paul’s 20th year of involvement with the company.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, John O’Kane had formed his own brokerage company in 1997. He then co-founded MGM Boats NI in 2000 with the office at Carrickfergus Marina, bringing with him the UK distributorship for Aquador Boats and active links with the south of England, which greatly assisted the establishment of the MGM Boats Hamble Point Marina office.

In fact, although MGM is at the cutting edge of new boat sales in Ireland, their solid reputation is built on long-established and firmly-based national and international relationships which have developed into dynamic friendships. They will shortly be celebrating their 20th year of working with the boat-commissioning company in the famous port of Les Sables d’Olonne on France’s Biscay Coast, where many of their French-built new boats receive their final preparation for sea-going. And a vibrant relationship with another commissioning company in Perpignan on the Mediterranean coast enjoys a similar longevity, meeting as it does the needs of MGM Boats customers whose focus afloat is totally Mediterranean-based.

THE INSIDE OF THE INSIDE TRACK

Thanks to these time-honoured working partnerships, MGM Boats are on the inside track in all aspects of the international marine industry. And while many on the periphery of the industry are currently finding problems with international supply chain delays, MGM find their special links and active working friendships very quickly smooth out any difficulties – in truth, they are on the inside of the inside track.

Thus they have become so much a part of the Dun Laoghaire waterfront scene that there are young sailors who only think of MGM as a boat company, and are blissfully unaware of the once-legendary Hollywood film company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, aka MGM. But when Martin and Gerry Salmon set up MG Marine in what is now the previous Millennium, they decided to tackle this naming conundrum head-on, and they’ve been so enduringly successful that nowadays even cinema-inclined sailing buffs tend to think of boats first and Tinseltown second when the name MGM comes up on the radar.

In the firmly established mood of celebration around their 25 years in business, it is easy to forget just how difficult it can be to get a new enterprise into being on the Dun Laoghaire waterfront, let alone underpin its operation with support offices in Northern Ireland and Cork, all in turn supporting an international presence which provides ready representation in popular international boating areas, combined with regular participation in all the major boat shows.

CHALLENGES OF AN ESTABLISHED WATERFRONT

But the fact is, Dun Laoghaire Harbour is built much too well, with magnificent stonework to match. And when it was completed, its design was so complete, and totally aimed at the needs of naval use in the first half of the 19th Century, that it was a major challenge to make even the smallest modifications to its very fixed waterfront in order to accommodate accelerating changes in ship and boat technology, and general harbour use.

The MGM boatyard operation has been slotted – with some difficulty – into Dun Laoghaire’s very fixed waterfront. This was not an easy operation in a harbour where the authorities seem to think that the ideal solution to railway station car parking demands is to in-fill sheltered boat-berthing space.The MGM boatyard operation has been slotted – with some difficulty – into Dun Laoghaire’s very fixed waterfront. This was not an easy operation in a harbour where the authorities seem to think that the ideal solution to railway station car parking demands is to in-fill sheltered boat-berthing space.

So totally is Dun Laoghaire Harbour a fixed and massive monument of its time that we have heard speakers at Save Our Seafront public meetings in Dun Laoghaire refer - in all seriousness - to this completely artificial construction as “a wonderful natural feature of Dublin Bay”. When you’re faced with a mindset like this around a harbour where sea-going people have long struggled to provide anything remotely approaching the modern facilities which other waterfronts take for granted, you realise the difficulties that Martin and Gerry Salmon and their growing team faced in trying to carve out a bit of usable space for the provision of marine services which were based on contemporary commercial reality.

So massive are the majestic piers sheltering Dun Laoghaire Harbour that many people think of it as a sacred and untouchable natural feature of Dublin BaySo massive are the majestic piers sheltering Dun Laoghaire Harbour that many people think of it as a sacred and untouchable natural feature of Dublin Bay

Yet they did it, and they did it so well, with such gallant refusal to call it a day when the going got tough, that they themselves are now part of the greater Dun Laoghaire establishment, even if their boatyard and yacht sales areas are rather different from what folk from purpose-designed yacht harbours might expect in such a facility.

Despite that, it works – and it works very well. For in the final analysis, like any truly successful business MGM Boats is ultimately all about people, and the extremely slow staff turnover in MGM’s enthusiastic longtime team speaks volumes for their dedication, satisfaction and ultimately enjoyment in what they do.

“As smooth as silk” - a Jeanneau 54 sailing with effortless style. MGM Boats’ longtime links with the extensive Jeanneau performance cruising and racing ranges has been one of the cornerstones of the company’s success.“As smooth as silk” - a Jeanneau 54 sailing with effortless style. MGM Boats’ longtime links with the extensive Jeanneau performance cruising and racing ranges has been one of the cornerstones of the company’s success.

Thus it’s typical of the MGM Boats approach that they have turned what others might see as a problem into an opportunity. In order to stay up to speed with the latest developments in innovation and marketing, their yearly schedule inevitably includes full attendance at a carefully-chosen selection of the more glamorous boat shows.

SUNSHINE HOLIDAY BONUS

The bonus of this is that if a customer is moving towards a purchasing decision from among their comprehensive range of new boats, instead of trying to close the deal in the familiar but rather weather-dependent setting of Dun Laoghaire, Belfast Lough or Kinsale Harbour, they might suggest a deal-sealing visit to their stand at some boat-fest like the Cannes or Miami Boat Shows. Thus customers come to associate the boat-buying experience with a sun-filled holiday enhanced by contact with people who know their way around the venue.

Erwin Bamps, CEO of Prestige Motor Yachts Jeanneau International, wishes MGM Boats a happy birthday at their Silver Jubilee in Dun Laoghaire Erwin Bamps, CEO of Prestige Motor Yachts Jeanneau International, wishes MGM Boats a happy birthday at their Silver Jubilee in Dun Laoghaire 

After so many years in the business, the MGM team have shaped their range of dealerships and agencies with the skilled care of the connoisseur. By now, most folk in the sailing and boating community will be aware that their main lines are Jeanneau Sail, Jeanneau Power, Prestige, Lagoon Catamarans, Aquador, Zodiac, and Bombard. Additionally, if your inclination is to something very exotic indeed outside these highly regarded brands, you can be quite sure that the team will well know exactly the key person to guide you towards success in your quest.

 Paul Blanc, CEO of Jeanneau International, speaking at the MGM Boats Silver Jubilee celebrations in Dun Laoghaire with (left to right) Martin Salmon, John O’Kane and Gerry Salmon  Paul Blanc, CEO of Jeanneau International, speaking at the MGM Boats Silver Jubilee celebrations in Dun Laoghaire with (left to right) Martin Salmon, John O’Kane and Gerry Salmon 

But recently, the most exciting development in the MGM range is the addition of Delphia Yachts of Poland. Formed in 1990 and steadily expanded since, Delphia is part of the international Beneteau group, and is rapidly building a reputation for being at the sharp end of the electric-powered marine engine revolution - so much so that by 2024, every new-built Delphia motor-cruiser will rely on electric power.

It takes a while to absorb the full significance of that statement. But as you process it, a feeling of real hope develops. And those of us who have thought for years that the traditional and very effective yet not at all environmentally-friendly marine engine is an insult to the natural order will realise just what a step change the increasing prominence of Delphia Yachts signifies.

 The future is here. MGM Boats are agents for the new Delphia electric range, seen here in the Delphia 11 Sedan Electric. The future is here. MGM Boats are agents for the new Delphia electric range, seen here in the Delphia 11 Sedan Electric

Yet a revolution like this cannot happen overnight. It will take years. And meanwhile, the huge existing stock of standard sailboats and motor cruisers will need first-class servicing of every part of each boat and her equipment in order to keep their emissions to a minimum.

Thus the MGM Boatyard and Travelhoist have never been busier than they are in their 25th birthday year 2022. And they’ve experienced a fascinating cross-section of craft, for the 50-ton Travelhoist – which regularly works overtime – has found itself lifting everything from the most luxurious of yachts to hard-worked fishing boats and pilot boats and – perhaps most interesting of all – the fascinating selection of workboats dedicated to servicing the windfarms of the East Coast.

SILVER JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS

Yet in this high level workaday pattern of almost non-stop boat servicing added to regular sales staff departures for the key international boat shows, somehow they found a date when the many moving targets of the international world of boats could come to Dun Laoghaire to help MGM Boats celebrate their Silver Jubilee.

With an attendance which included people of the calibre of Jeanneau CEO Paul Blanc and Sales Director Antoine Chancelier, together with Prestige Motor Yachts CEO Erwin Bamps, it was a case of industry heavy hitters happily mingling with satisfied MGM customers. And in the midst of it, after 25 years and more together, there they were - the key MGM Boats team – the very embodiment of Thomas Lipton’s saying that, if you like your work, then work is the best fun you can have.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland and internationally for many years, with his work appearing in leading sailing publications on both sides of the Atlantic. He has been a regular sailing columnist for four decades with national newspapers in Dublin, and has had several sailing books published in Ireland, the UK, and the US. An active sailor, he has owned a number of boats ranging from a Mirror dinghy to a Contessa 35 cruiser-racer, and has been directly involved in building and campaigning two offshore racers. His cruising experience ranges from Iceland to Spain as well as the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, and he has raced three times in both the Fastnet and Round Ireland Races, in addition to sailing on two round Ireland records. A member for ten years of the Council of the Irish Yachting Association (now the Irish Sailing Association), he has been writing for, and at times editing, Ireland's national sailing magazine since its earliest version more than forty years ago

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