Not only is Palma de Mallorca the gateway to the Mediterranean, but it is also the home of Oyster’s service operation for the region. It’s the place owners take their Oysters to prepare them for a summer of adventures, preparation for the ARC and Oyster World Rally, and a full refit or winterisation. Director of Service Operations in Palma de Mallorca, Mark Durham and his team ensure everything runs smoothly – from the smallest repair to complete refits and beyond.
I run the Oyster service team in Palma and Barcelona which comprises Project Managers, Shipwrights, Engineers, Fabricators, Electricians, a Guardianage team and Administrators. I liaise daily with owners and Captains and work together with the Sales, Brokerage, Crew and Charter teams to promote the fantastic work we do. We are wherever Oyster owners need us, in different locations from one day to the next ensuring our maintenance and service work projects are running smoothly and our owners remain satisfied.
MARK DURHAM, DIRECTOR OF SERVICE OPERATIONS AT OYSTER PALMA, DISCUSSES THE INTEGRAL ROLE HIS TEAM PLAYS IN SERVICING OYSTER YACHTS ACROSS THE MEDITERRANEAN.
My first meeting with an Oyster was when my wife Charlie and I made our first Atlantic crossing on a Contessa 32 in 2002. We sailed across in company with an Oyster 66 and on arrival in the Caribbean, the owners offered us the job of Captain and Chef for their imminent world voyage. It was a real step up and a steep learning curve, but I was incredibly impressed with both the boat and support from the Oyster team. We travelled 33,000 miles with the owners, raced in a few Oyster regattas and we were the first Oyster to sail down to Antarctica.
When I rejoined the Oyster family as Captain of Oyster 100/02 Penelope in 2012, I got to know the team at Oyster Palma, including Hamish Burgess Simpson who ran the service projects, and we stayed in touch. Oyster’s in-depth knowledge and brilliant guidance on how to look after the boat was invaluable. When Hamish was ready to retire, I was keen to step in and keep his legacy going. By then I had a young family and was based in Mallorca. So, I joined Oyster Palma in 2015.
It’s the combination of having a team with excellent skills, a deep knowledge of Oyster yachts and a level of support that sets us apart. If you’re a new owner and you call, we will answer. We are real people, with real knowledge, here to help. And we’re not just here for current Oyster owners….. We were taking delivery of a 495 off the ship and a couple on a Halberg-Rassy couldn’t take their eyes off her. We got chatting and it turned out they were having problems with their boiler, so I sent our team over to sort it out. It’s how we work – building personal relationships with everyone. Who knows, they could become an Oyster owner tomorrow. Our team are flag bearers for the brand in every interaction – with owners and potential owners.
Lots of former Oyster crew who have moved on to other yachts still want us to service their boats. They trust the team and like working with us. They ask for people by name, so we have a great rapport and it’s lovely to have the recognition even when a customer isn’t on an Oyster.
We’re a full-service operation, which grew out of a conversation with the owners of an Oyster 625. They wanted one point of contact rather than managing multiple sub-contractors, so they gave us the keys and a list and said: “See you in a few weeks”. Another example is a 565 with relatively new owners who don’t have time to maintain their boats. So, we do the daily, weekly, and monthly checks, so they can just turn up and know she’s ready to go. But we also do everything an owner could need – from haul out and refit to guardianage and winterisation, along with berthing, technical and engineering services. We’ve grown significantly and today we have a tight-knit team of 24.
Haul out, anti-fouling, refit, guardianage and annual servicing. Then there are Oyster-centric tasks, like servicing a twin rudder. Owners know it’ll take us less time as we’ve done it so many times. That knowledge is invaluable. Most owners come for annual services and new owners use us for guardianage and taking care of the odd warranty issue. For new owners, handover can be a bit of an information overload – there’s just so much to get your head around. So, we help them fill in the blanks about the finer details of the rig, doing rig checks, improving their sailing abilities, and getting to know their yacht better.
Palma is the gateway to the Med, so we provide a service across the Mediterranean and we have another team in Barcelona. We’re in the process of formalising Oyster Approved Service Centres around the world, where owners can expect the same level of service and expertise as they do in Palma. But Palma is where it’s at, it’s a real hub for Oyster owners – there are at least 40 to 50 yachts here at any one time of the year; for our annual regatta or when people are preparing to set off for the Caribbean, it is not unusual to see 80+ Oysters in Mallorca. Our team can not only fix these yachts, but they also pass on valuable knowledge to help owners keep their boats in peak condition.
We have the best service team in Palma. We’ve been together for a long time and we’re multi-talented. Some of the team speak four languages – they’re more than just anti-fouling specialists or varnishers. There are eight Oyster skippers, so we really know our stuff and how to sail and look after the boats. When people come back from the Oyster World Rally or for their annual service, the same team do the servicing, so there is consistency and quality but also a deep connection between the team, owners, and their boats.
We want customers to stay in love with their boats. We go out of our way to make sure they’re happy with the work and feel they got a fair price. Word of mouth and repeat clients are central to our success.
A lot of Rally boats come through Palma before the Atlantic crossing to Antigua for the start of the rally. We offer advice on preparation; we prepare, service the boats and train crews on maintenance and operating systems. It’s a key part of their rally preparation. For many, their first big test is to cross the Atlantic. When we first meet them, they’re a bit worried, but when they return after the rally, they are in tune with their boats and proud of their achievement.
A very special refit involved Oyster 725/01 Intrepid. We did the pre-World Rally prep, which started over a year before the start. The owner told us he wanted to make it the best boat possible for the adventure. There was a strict budget, and we spent a lot of time with them planning, with morning meetings every day, so they stayed in control of the project. We built a hard-top Bimini with solar panels and doubled the battery bank to minimise engine time. The solar Bimini worked well – they told me having the air con on while in the Pacific without running the generator for hours was an absolute pleasure. Now they’ve finished the rally they have some big ideas, including replacing the engine with a hybrid propulsion system.
Yes – building on the official handover and helping owners get to know their boats better. We’ve just started to do more maiden voyages. Sailing from the UK to Palma with an Oyster skipper lets new owners relax and get the most from the experience. We also do deliveries – we’ll take boats to wherever owners want them. It’s reassuring having an Oyster skipper, who knows the boat inside and out, in charge. We can help find crew to sail with them. We also have a new spray booth, a stainless-steel fabrication workshop and a new mechanical/electrical engineer joining us. We’re growing our skills to create a more comprehensive offering for our customers.
Getting good feedback from owners and getting out and sailing with them. I love teamwork and seeing results. One owner wrote to us recently and said, “Thank you for working so diligently on the job list, the standard of work was outstanding.” That’s what we always do at Oyster Palma: work as diligently as possible through job lists and projects and aim to exceed owner expectations. Everyone has the same mindset and takes ownership, which is best for customers and great for Oyster.
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