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Obituary: Charles Fox, 1937-2012

Fens marina pioneer Charles Fox, the founder of Fox’s boat builders and marina in March, Cambridgeshire, died on 28th February after a long illness. He was 74.

Charlie Fox was perhaps the greatest supporter of boating in the Middle Level, and worked practically to achieve its retention and use today. He was a pioneer in the revival of the Fens for boating, and without him it is doubtful that we could have the Middle Level as we know it today. 

Charlie Fox trained as a boat builder in Ely, and set up his own business while still in his early 20s. Working from his small riverside boatyard in West End, March, he initially built wooden dinghies and hired out rowing boats and canoes.

It was in 1973 that Charlie built his first narrowboat. In a Waterways World profile in 2005 he recalled that his customer had sketched an outline of the boat on the back of an envelope, and said "Can you build that for me?" 

The drawing showed the stem of a boat with a striking angular prow; so distinctive was it that it became the signature of most of the boats he subsequently built over the years. 

In 1980 he built the marina to the west of March that became the best-known boatyard in the Fens, buying his own dragline machine to dig out the basin. The marina now accommodates 200 boats, including the thriving Fox Boats hire fleet.

Charlie had a firm sense of community, and served as a retained local fireman for 25 years. He taught woodwork at a local school during the 1970’s, taught youngsters to sail at Mepal, and ran boatbuilding evening classes at Wisbech.

But the waterways were always at his heart. He worked on several restoration projects, including the re-opening of Well Creek Navigation in the 1970s and dug the winding hole at Whittlesey for the East Anglian Waterways Association in 1993.

Charlie Fox retired in 1997, but continued to sail and cruise extensively with his wife Pat, in both inland and coastal waterways. The business he created still thrives, and remains in the care of his daughters Paula and Tracey. 

Friday 2 March  | Andrew Denny  | 12.28pm, Friday 2 March 2012

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