by Bob Wonders
For nearly 50-years, Peter Jenkins has been one of the best-known and most recognisable personalities in the Australian boating industry, but on Tuesday, April 17, his career came to an end.
Peter Jenkins - Peter Jenkins retires
Jenkins announced his retirement, effective immediately, from Maritimo, ending an association with the company’s CEO Bill Barry-Cotter that dates back more than 20-years.
The 69-year-old father of two and grandfather of four, is planning on an active retirement and it would be a safe bet to say that much of it will be spent in the cockpit of his helicopter.
Born in Melbourne in 1943, Jenkins’ boating industry career had its start when he joined Brooker Aluminium Boats; he was a natural for a boating lifestyle after a championship-winning stint at marathon water skiing.
In 1972, Brooker asked Jenkins to move to Sydney and shortly after that he was 'head hunted' and joined Chrysler Outboards as its sales manager.
In reality, it was to be the start of what could only be termed a 'glittering career.'
Living at Pymble, with wife of 44-years, Rhonda, Peter or PJ as he was to become known far and wide, travelled extensively visiting marine dealers around the country.
One client was Waldron Marine, based at Collaroy on Sydney’s northern beaches, a Haines Hunter, Quintrex, Swiftcraft and Johnson Outboard dealer.
In 1976 Jenkins purchased the dealership, including its freehold premises, re-named the business ‘Mr Boats’ and under his leadership it was to become one of the ‘brightest stars’ in the NSW marine dealer network.
Looking back, PJ told me he sold his house to finance the purchase and one week raided his kid’s money boxes to make salary.
'Initially, it was a very good week if we made $100,' he recalled.
Rhonda Jenkins interjected; 'I said to Peter I hope we’ll be able to laugh about this some day.'
'Yes, we did have some tough times, but it has all worked out in the end,' PJ added.
In 1980, with business at Mr Boats performing strongly, PJ purchased a Mariner Pacer through Mike Gaffikin, another long-term Barry-Cotter colleague.
As PJ recalls, at that time he certainly knew of Bill Barry-Cotter, but the purchase of the Mariner would mark the first time the pair met face-to-face.
It would be the start of a long and productive relationship for both men.
In 1985, PJ sold the Mr Boats business, but retained ownership of the freehold site.
Prior to linking in a business relationship with Barry-Cotter, Peter Jenkins succumbed to an offer that same year to join the then Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) as its national sales manager.
Shortly after joining OMC, PJ, a long-term member of the Boating Industry Association of NSW, served a term as vice-president of the peak industry group.
He would spend two-years with OMC and during his time there became one of the first marketing executives in the boating industry to utilise the power of television commercial to sell outboard engines.
Asked why he left the outboard company, PJ replied, 'I felt I was more of a ‘big boat man’ than to be involved with outboard engines and smaller craft.'
While all this was going on, Bill Barry-Cotter had sold the company he established in 1966, Mariner Cruisers, and the buyer had on-sold it to the New Zealand-based Questar Group.
In 1987 Bill Barry-Cotter re-acquired his company from the New Zealand owner began re-marketing Mariner Cruisers.
Peter Jenkins then formed PJ Marine and became a Mariner dealer operating from the Mariner Quays complex on Sydney’s Pittwater.
In 1980, Bill Barry-Cotter had established Riviera Marine, at Labrador, on the Queensland Gold Coast; for a time he campaigned the two brand names, Mariner and Riviera, against each other, but eventually decided to move all his manufacturing capability to Queensland.
Jenkins was shortly to sell his Sydney dealership and in 1992 accepted an offer to join Riviera Marine and make the move north.
At that time, the late Rick Koziora was responsible for Riviera Marine’s international dealer network, but w hen he was struck down by the illness that eventually claimed his life, Bill Barry-Cotter asked PJ to take the reins.
'Bill sort of cut me loose,' PJ, recalls, 'get on your bike and go and find some dealers was more or less the instruction I was given.
'Over the next few years I was to visit more than 30 countries and was spending up to 200 days away every year.
'In 2000, Rhonda and I lived in Spain for about three-months while I worked on fine-tuning and establishing the European dealer network.'
The industry was shocked when Bill sold Rivera in 2002 and a short time later for Maritimo in 2004.
Peter Jenkins would become one of several Riviera employees who would ‘follow the boss’ and join the new company.
PJ lists the early days at Maritimo as his favourite 'career highlight.'
'It was exciting, we had a brand new name, a brand new factory and a market that was not exactly booming,' he explained.
‘To do what we did with only two models was really quite something; we had the media on our back, we had people pestering us for model details, but when that first boat, the Maritimo 60 was named Australia’s Boat of the Year it set us on the right road.
'We went to the Sydney International Boat Show with just the two boats, even called on our wives to help on the stand, and that was to be the foundation stone of the Maritimo company,' he explained.
PJ says one of the smartest things he has done through his interest-packed life was to retain the freehold ownership of the Mr Boats site.
He went on to build combined commercial/residential complex on the land which has helped the Jenkins bank account stay well and truly in the black.
Outside his work, PJ is a man of varied interests; a long-time car enthusiast (particularly Jaguars!), he still enjoys travel, getting out on his Power Cat and especially flying his ‘chopper.’
'I’ve now got more than 1200 hours up in the helicopter, I’ve flown around Australia and across to New Guinea; now I’m retired my next flight I’m looking at is a journey along the route of the Murray River,'
PJ’s life has not been a complete ‘bed of roses.’
Twice he has been hospitalised with serious injuries, once in Melbourne when he fell from the boa of a boat and was run over, nearly losing an arm in the process.
Late last year, he was a keen Harley-Davidson motor cycle rider until on a ride through the Gold Coast Hinterland he took a nasty fall, only the good fortune that there was not oncoming traffic preventing the accident from being probably a fatal.
'That was the end of my Harley-Davidson era,' he lamented.
Now happily residing in a luxury canal-front home at Paradise Waters, on the Queensland Gold Coast, PJ and Rhonda are contemplating a return to Sydney.
'Only because my son, daughter and grand kids are there,' he said, 'it’s something Rhonda and I will work out eventually.'
PJ said his decision to retire came suddenly.
'It was last week,' he said, 'and I just did not feel like going to work.
'I’ve never been like that and I just said to Rhonda, I think I’ve had enough, it was a simple as that,' added.
It’s been close enough to 50-years, and I’d suggest that Peter Jenkins, former Melbournian, former Sydneysider and current Gold Coaster has left an indelible mark on the Australian boating industry.