Globetrotting ex-apprentice now designs bespoke products for luxury yachts

Stuart Bowen is living proof that dreams really do come true for those dedicated to developing their skills and career.

The former Llandrindod Wells student is now the globetrotting technical director of a Mid Wales company which is making waves in the luxury yacht market.

Stuart, 43 and managing director Jack Miller head up Custom Marine Developments (CMD) which provides bespoke engineering solutions for clients in the very high end of the luxury marine market.

With a workforce of 17, the company is based on Abermule Business Park, a few miles from Newtown, where parent company Makefast has its headquarters. Makefast has celebrated its 50th birthday this year.

CMD was launched in 2020 to provide custom products for superyachts, their tenders and dayboats. Bespoke products range from door and window systems, sun awnings and sliding roofs to automated anchor launchers.

The company’s design team works with many of the world’s leading superyacht builders, design houses and management services to provide innovative solutions for new build and retro fit projects.

CMD’s installation team travels the world to install products on superyachts and tenders, which are often a mini replica of the ‘mothership’.

Stuart’s exciting and challenging job is a far cry from doing an Advanced GNVQ in mechanical engineering course at Coleg Powys, the forerunner to NPTC Group of Colleges, as a teenager.

The course led to a place on a Shared Apprenticeship Scheme in 2001 when he first met Makefast, whose owner Bill Brown was also the scheme chairman.

Stuart made such a good impression that he was offered a permanent job in the design team at Makefast, which designs and manufactures equipment for the marine and safety industries.

He spent 16 years with Makefast before he and Jack persuaded Bill to let them launch CMD to fill a gap in the luxury yacht market for customised products. The initial team of five has expanded to 17.

“We are unique in the UK with the specialised services we provide,” explained Stuart. “It’s a really creative environment which is always challenging, with no two days the same.

“We are working with several of the world’s leading superyacht and tender builders. The boats we work on tend to spend the winter in the Caribbean and the summer in the Mediterranean.

“It’s going to be another busy year with three or four big projects coming through and these types of projects can each take from a month to a year to get into production, depending on their complexity. Our ambition is to grow the business and team as much as possible.”

Having benefited from an apprenticeship, Stuart says its rewarding to see CMD now employing two apprentices, with plans to add another with an electrical engineering focus later this year. Current apprentices would like to progress to Degree Apprenticeships to further their knowledge and skills.

“Apprenticeships are very beneficial because you learn in a dynamic work environment much more quickly than going to university,” added Stuart. “With CMD and Makefast, you also get opportunities to travel the world and meet people of different cultures in a work environment

“My advice to this year’s school leavers is to seriously consider the apprenticeship option with a good company. Makefast is a family-run business which has been so supportive to me and it’s a great place to work, with apprenticeship opportunities.”