Empire Marina, Sydney's Most Awarded Marina
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Empire Marina, Sydney's Most Awarded Marina

Our Team

At your service

Captain John Lawler, Director

Prior to taking over the helm of Empire Marina Bobbin Head, as Director in June 2014, John served as General Manager of the marina for over 6 years.

He commenced his career as a shipwright apprentice at Carina Yachts and McConaghy Boats in Sydney. Since graduation his career has spanned the world including 20 years in the superyacht industry with more than 15yrs as captain of superyachts over 175ft. He was also the build captain on Mirabella V – the world’s largest sloop at 264ft.

He has more than 300,000 nautical miles at sea across the globe, including competing in 8 Sydney to Hobart races. He won Line & Handicap Honours on the maxi “Sovereign” in 1986 that he and the team built at Carina Yachts. He has represented Australia internationally in various ocean going regattas, including the Admirals Cup in the UK and the Kenwood Cup in Hawaii. And just for fun, he has cruised his own Cavalier 43 out to Fiji, Tonga and Louisaides.

In addition to his extensive experience, his qualifications include Master Class V, UK Master Class IV for vessels up to 3000 tonnes, Diploma of Marine Surveying from Lloyds Maritime Academy in the UK, Marine Engine Driver Grade II (MED II), Advanced Marina Manager.  

Captain John’s extensive local and international experience gives him great perspective and understanding in the practical approach to the needs of discerning boating customers. His exemplary boat handling, together with his practical and cost effective approach to boat maintenance, is a great asset to this Sydney marina.

Captain Mark Wilkinson, General Manager 

Mark is originally from Western Australia where he commenced his maritime career working seasonally between professional fishing and scuba diving instructor/dive boat skipper.

Mark then travelled to Europe where he became the Captain for a high profile family in Monaco. While he was Captain he also managed the construction of four Italian-built superyachts over a 12 year period - from high speed water jet driven yachts to M/Y Illusion, a custom built, displacement 46mtr/500grt Benetti.

As a long standing Monaco Captain he became a Monaco resident himself and board member of the Captain’s Association of the Monaco Yacht Club.

He has cruised extensively throughout the Mediterranean from Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and Greece, to Turkey, Lebanon and North Africa.

His qualifications include Master Class V, UK Master Class IV 3000 tonnes, SSI Dive Master and Marine Engine Driver Grade II.

Mark returned to Australia in 2014 - keeping his passion for the ocean alive by rekindling his hobbies of scuba diving and recreational fishing.

With his extensive shipyard, cruising, boat handling experience and commitment to ensuring all boat owners derive maximum pleasure and safety from their investment, Mark makes a valuable contribution to the team at Empire Marina Bobbin Head as General Manager – Operations.

Michelle Nicholls, Marina Office Manager 

Michelle has been with Empire Marina Bobbin Head for over 15 years. She’s seen the growth and development of the marina from the small family-run Halvorsen business, to a world-class, award-winning modern facility, first-hand. Having joined as a Junior Office Assistant, her dedication, loyalty and hard work saw her quickly progress through the ranks. Empire Marina Bobbin Head just wouldn’t be the same without her familiar face.

The thing she loves most about working at the marina? The view from her office!  But also the diversity of the clients she meets - they are from all walks of life, and the very positive community feel amongst the marina’s tenants, clients and staff, making it a pleasure to come to work.

If anyone needs to know anything about anything in and around the marina, Michelle is sure to be able to help. She is a fountain of useful information – and her best piece of advice to boaties…check the weather!

Michelle grew up around boats. She has many childhood memories of happy, fun-filled days on her family’s Halvorsen Cruiser 36’ called “Minmay. These early experiences fuelled her love of boating and she believes time spent on a boat, jet skiing, fishing, swimming, eating and relaxing is undoubtedly the best way to spend a summer’s weekend.

Her favourite destination in Cowan Creek/Pittwater are Jerusalem Bay and Waratah Bay - both beautiful bays where you can go ashore and explore, or just kick back in the sun with a good book, and a chilled glass of wine. “Oh, the serenity” LOL.

Boat Sales Team

Jason Ash, Dealer Principal and Nicky Vaux, Sales Manager work together as the Empire Boat Sales team. Both have a strong sales and service backgrounds resulting in a successful boat brokerage that achieves consistent sales.

Jason Ash

With a family heritage in the business which commenced in the mid 1960's, Jason has lived and breathed boats since his childhood. Starting his career in the late 1980's as a marina fitter and retailer in the trailer boat industry, he progressed to managing retail teams in NSW and other East Coast states, developing and establishing many different retail outlets, ranging from small brokerages to fully integrated franchised outlets. Having worked with brands such as Meridian, Bayliner, Maxum and Trophy, his boat knowledge is extensive.

His teams have been up to 50 in number, yet he has always recognised the importance of "hands on selling". With National Boatshow circuit training and event management for over 15 years, he's created and managed sales showrooms, floating displays, chandleries and workshops. Jason's recognition of the importance of establishing and maintaining long term relationships with clients has meant his current record is selling 8 boats to one client!

Nicky Vaux

Nicky's career began in 5 star hotels such at the Ritz and Grosvenor House in London with her Hospitality Degree. Such a background gives her the fundamentals of what service should be and how to take care of clients well. Venturing into the Boat Brokerage business with Jason in 2012 she now loves working by the water with clients on their journey of boat selling and purchasing. Boats after all, are for most of us our weekender, so the hospitality trade isn't in fact as far away as you would think, and with a mentor like Jason, her learning curve has been steep but informed.

Jason and Nicky both love what they do, helping Sydney buy and sell boats and quite simply it shows in their results.

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