BOATING is in Brett Birse’s blood.
He grew up in Rathmines and before he’d reached double-digits would row a boat out in front of his grandmother’s Coal Point home to fish. “If you fell in the water, you swam home,” he grins.
Mr Birse is thus in his element relaunching his family’s engineering business as the dry stack boat storage facility Toronto Boathouse.
“I have a passion for boats and enjoy the company of people and we are generally dealing with smiling, happy people,” the 50-year-old says.
Elron Engineering was founded in 1965 by Ronald Coomber on a small block of land in Toronto that backs onto Stony Creek, which feeds into Lake Macquarie. When Coomber died a year later, his son-in-law Garth Birse, Brett’s dad, took it on.
Over the years the manufacturer thrived, fabricating and installing dust collection equipment for power stations nationwide and making industrial equipment.
Brett Birse was in his 20s when he joined the business as it moved into mining and rode the boom: “When you receive more work than you can do, you tend not to diversify. Like others, we got caught out,” he said.
When the 2015 downturn hit then some coal-fired power station closed, the Birse men stood in their shed in despair before taking stock. With their engineering nous and machinery assets, they saw an opportunity in the water at their doorstep.
In 2016, they got DA approval to repurpose two existing sheds for dry dock boat storage with 24-hour surveillance, and build a new wharf. They also designed and built a five-tonne capacity hydraulic boat lifter that can “drop” boats measuring up to 30 feet long from wharf height into Stony Creek without disturbing the creek bed.
“It’s the only one of its kind on Lake Macquarie and nearby waterways,” says Garth.
Brett Birse says dry dock storage cuts the maintenance needed for boats in marinas, has lower insurance and is convenient. Boaties can book on an app and arrive to find their boat ready.
“They can go have fun and come back and we do all the work: wash their boat down, flush the motor, refuel and stock the boat,” he says.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.