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Boat trailer business celebrates 40 years

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After surviving recessions, a global economic downturn, a pandemic and a crippling stroke, how will the big boss celebrate today’s 40th anniversary of business at Selley’s Boat Trailer Service?

The well-known owner had an answer that was vintage Mark Selley.

“I’m going to get some burgers from the restaurant down the road, sit under the tree with the boys and have lunch,” he said.

“I can’t go to a restaurant. I don’t have Facebook (He meant “Safekey”) or something. Um, you know? … what you need to go to a restaurant? I can’t go through that routine.

“What’s it called? Yeah, that’s right, Safekey.

“I’ve got all my injections, but I don’t have Safekey. So, yeah, just some burgers. Sit down and have lunch together.”

“We might get a call to move a boat during lunch, so we have to be prepared.”

Business has been good and “the boys”, his sons Mark and David, are fully invested in the business. They are also into powerboat racing, so the business they run with their father fits like a glove.

Mr Selley told us: “I’m just office furniture.”

But he is a happy man – blessed with family and life.

He almost lost it all 30 years ago.

The Royal Gazette previously reported how in 1991, at 38 years old, a doctor told him that as a result of a stroke, he would never walk again. But a year later, “he was out of his wheelchair and dedicated to making sure a support system was in place in Bermuda for stroke patients and their families.”

He admits it was a struggle for a long time.

“Things definitely slowed down. We almost went out of business. The boys used to ride shotgun with me and they came of age, and took a liking to the business – like ducks to water.

“Sent them off to school in the States and they are top qualified marine mechanics.”

He was one of the founders of the Bermuda Stroke and Family Support Association in 1992. It provides information to educate the community.

Still the chairman, his group also provides support for stroke victims and referrals to get them overseas for rehabilitation.

As chairman of the Bermuda Water Safety Council for nearly two decades, Mr Selley was involved in initiatives such as the restrictions on near shore speeds, down to five knots, no wake zones.

He admits promoting such new rules was a test of his popularity.

“People were after my head,” he said, “because I was messing with people’s recreation. But we were losing lives. I remember when I was trying to ban jet skis when they first came to the island. Australia had banned them and I tried to do the same thing here. I got slaughtered.”

He sees great value in far more emphasis placed on water safety and marine competency for Bermudians early in life.

“Bermudians should be water savvy early on. Children should learn how to swim just as they learn how to walk. But it can be taken further. It should be organised so that they learn at a high level to swim efficiently.

“It should be a part of the school syllabus, mandatory in gym class. Wherever they have to go to do it, no one should be left out. Students should be required to reach some sort of standard.

“I remember Bermuda used to be plagued with drownings. Thankfully, it seems that we have curbed that.”

“I learnt how to swim after I was thrown off a dock at low tide. It almost broke my ankle.

“I think we’ve made progress in water safety, with some sensible regulations. They are not over the top. We can do more.”

He likes the new Bermuda Coast Guard and thinks there should be more money for more training, for more officers. He said he had long lamented the state of the marine police, who he felt were understaffed and under-resourced.

“But I would prefer if whatever marine service we end up with, that it is more of a helping service than a disciplinary service. It would help more people learn water safety. You get more flies with honey than a baseball bat.”

Thinking of water safety – it must be high priority for those who want to be a power boat racer.

Twice the commodore of the Bermuda Power Boat Association, (his son David is now vice commodore) Mr Selley remembered the contentious nature of a group of friends.

For outsiders, who witnessed the dynamic tension among members at both formal and informal association meetings before the turn of the century, including some highly-charged exchanges, it may have been harder to see the competitive respect.

Looking at the state of the Bermuda economy, he conceded: “It’s a hard time for business. But the pandemic has also meant people have not been travelling. They are bored, so they are using their boats. There were more people on the water this summer.

“While it has been a tough business environment for a lot of people, it hasn’t really affected the boat trailer business. We move boats regularly and provide other marine services. It has not diminished. To some degree, people still want to use their boats to do something with their time.”

The boat trailer service is moving an average of four boats a day.

“We can move as many as 25 or 30 in a day, but the average for the year is about four a day. People have gone back to putting their boats in the backyard, because they won’t pay the money for storage. But they can get the maintenance done.

“There used to be nine boat trailer businesses on the island, but now it is down to three. It is heavy on maintenance. Salt water does a lot of damage to your equipment axles, springs, bearings, tyres, the actual trailer, everything.

“Previously, actual marinas had their own boat trailers, but now that is down to one or two. Most just outsource it.

“People talk about how things are getting bad as a result of the coronavirus, but things weren’t so great prior to the pandemic. The economy was at a full stop. This pandemic was just one more nail in the coffin.”

He was hurt – not physically, but emotionally – by the recent shooting at Robin Hood restaurant and pub. He feels it was a sad day.

“That hurt me personally,“ he said. “I spent ten years there as the manager. I can’t believe that actually took place. I started in the kitchen after hotel school and later manned the bar.”

He’ll be 70 next year, and admits there are challenges he has not yet met.

His photography days (a job developing film) for example, were pre-digital, stuck in a darkroom.

“I never got into the computer age,” he confessed. “I don’t have a computer. Don’t have e-mail or anything like that. I have a fliptop phone. That’s my contribution to the 21st century.

“The boys? They have TV phones.”

The quintessential Mark Selley.

Mark Selley: celebrating 40 years hauling boats (File photograph)
Still going strong: boat haulers Mark Selley, right, and sons Mark and David, celebrate 40 years of Selley's Boat Trailer Service (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published November 05, 2021 at 7:59 am (Updated November 05, 2021 at 7:52 am)

Boat trailer business celebrates 40 years

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