Ellerbeck Narrowboats was established in March 2005 as a trading name of P B Mechanical Services, owned and run by Lucien Burkhardt and Adam Pope since January 2002 with assistance from The Prince’s Trust, Salford Hundred Venture (Business Link) and Natwest Bank.
Adam is a long term served engineer in all types of diesel and gas powered engines whereas Lucien has an administration background, so Adam concentrates on carrying out the work and Lucien concentrates on running the business.
Adam and Lucien started P B Mechanical Services from a larger than normal garden shed from their then home in Swinton, Manchester. Lucien left his job as an Insurance Underwriter and Adam left his as a Service Engineer to set up the business in January 2002.
Initially the business was set up to trade as Corgi registered domestic and commercial gas engineers but whilst Adam was qualifying for Corgi registration the business was not able to carry out any work. Qualification was achieved, but until then Adam and Lucien had to come up with a plan to make money since leaving their previous jobs.
Until qualification was achieved it was decided that the canal was a good place to start looking. There are many canals in the North West with many boats each with an engine which the owners rely on for propulsion, power, hot water and heating.
Corgi qualification was achieved in March 2002 which meant that the company was able to trade as gas engineers and marine engineers which it did quite successfully. Lucien and Adam decided that a much better life was to be had by working on the canal, so started to promote the marine engineering side.
More and more engine servicing, repairs and overhauls were carried out which meant that the garden shed was no longer big enough for their needs.
They first started looking at industrial estate units as it wasn’t thought they could afford a canal side property, especially having had a look at Snaygill Boats in Skipton which was for sale at the time.
It wasn’t until one day when Adam and Lucien were out fitting one of their re-manufactured BMC engines that the customer showed them a copy of Waterways World magazine with an advert that L&L Cruisers Ltd in Chorley was up for sale. They decided to give the sale agents a call to arrange to have a look as it was only 20 miles from Swinton so keeping all of their existing customers was possible.
They met the previous owners, explained their predicament, and the previous owners offered them a deal. Why not rent the workshop for six months, decide if you like it then buy the workshop, the rest of the business, then the private bungalow after that?
This was a fantastic offer, one they could not refuse to investigate. They moved into the workshop in October 2003 and Lucien had discussions with Natwest Bank who agreed to support the purchase of the workshop after the six month rental period. So in April 2004 Adam and Lucien owned a canal side workshop. Who’d of thought that after just over two years of trading?!!!
One of P B Mechanical’s customers was a couple from New Zealand who purchased a boat to live on in England. The boat needed quite a lot of mechanical repair work and P B was entrusted to carry this out for them, in turn Lucien and Adam became good friends with the owners of narrowboat “Aroha”.
In March 2005 the owners of “Aroha” decided to move off the boat to live in Scotland and offered Adam and Lucien the opportunity to use “Aroha” as a weekly hire boat. As L&L Cruisers Ltd was one time a big narrowboat hire company this seemed a good idea. This lead to the creation of Ellerbeck Narrowboats as running a hire boat as P B Mechanical Services just didn’t seem right.
The weekly hire boat business went well, with lots of happy customers, but complications arose when “Aroha”‘s owners decided that they needed to sell her. With the purchase of the rest of L&L Cruisers Ltd looming, which included the day boat hire business, Adam and Lucien couldn’t afford to buy “Aroha” and provide the necessary deposit for the next stage of buying the boatyard. It was decided the the weekly hire business would no longer be in operation from January 2008. It was an amicable decision and Adam and Lucien are still good friends with them today.
Adam and Lucien were due to purchase the rest of L&L Cruisers Ltd in September 2008 and the previous owners suggested that they could lease the day boats until then to make the most of the 2008 summer season. So in April 2008, Ellerbeck Narrowboats daily and evening hire began operation. In September 2008 Lucien and Adam purchased the rest of L&L Cruisers Ltd which included the day boat business, the moorings and slipway.
P B Mechanical Services is still running as strong as ever with lots of engine servicing, repairs and overhauls along with boat electrics, plumbing, welding and fabrication work. They have a part time engineer working 4 days a week since August 2013.
What does the future hold for P B Mechanical Services and Ellerbeck Narrowboats?
Since having operational problems with the slipway winch then with a tractor purchased to pull boats out of the water, it was decided that drastic measures were required to resolve the problem. It was decided that the slipway would be knocked down, a flat pad created to lift out boat with a crane. A crane was found from a tunnelling company in Coventry who very kindly delivered it for free which obviously assisted the decision to buy. The crane is now in place but the pad is yet to be built due to Canal and River Trust (CRT) technical and financial requirements. Unfortunately this project will now no longer go ahead and alternative plans are being worked on avoiding any use of the CRT’s asset (the canal!!).
The purchase of the private bungalow is now complete and Adam and Lucien are now proud owners of a complete boatyard. It has taken them a while and there are a few plans in the pipeline to develop the yard to fulfill its potential.
We would like to thank all of our customers, old and new, for their continuing support and hope that we can continue to serve you all long into the future.