Marina life: Two businesses from one couple dedicated to summer fun at Englebright Lake | TheUnion.com

Marina life: Two businesses from one couple dedicated to summer fun at Englebright Lake

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union

The Memorial Day weekend heralds the start of the summer vacation season. For Nick and Lisa Rogers, it marks the beginning of extra-long days working at Skippers Cove Marina, the business they own and love.

"I love the customers," said Lisa. "The best time of the year for me is during the summer when everyone is here vacationing and recreating."

Skippers Cove Marina at Englebright Lake boasts 300 slips and mooring buoys. The couple rents houseboats, pontoon boats, party barges, ski boats, paddle boards, hydro bikes, kayaks, and fishing boats. The marina is a constant whir of activity with its convenience store, laundry, showers, and fuel dock.

Englebright Lake is a man-made reservoir just off Highway 20 near Smartsville that was originally constructed for storage of hydraulic gold mining debris. It's contained by Englebright Dam, a concrete arch structure that spans 1,142 feet across and is 260 feet high. Operated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the nine-mile long reservoir is in the steep Yuba River gorge known as The Narrows.

Along its 24 miles of winding shoreline, there are 95 campsites that rent for $20 per night. Each is accessible only by boat.

Since 2010, the marina has been Nick and Lisa's "lifestyle" — neither calls what they do a "job."

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A touch of destiny

Both grew up in Nevada County and graduated from Nevada Union High School. Despite having some of the same friends, their paths never crossed until years later, more than 100 miles away.

The couple met in Lake County when they both worked for the same propane company. They later started their own propane business and sold it in 2009, but they felt far too young to retire.

During most of their 20-year marriage, the couple had docked their houseboat at the marina and spent countless blissful days recreating at the lake. They became close friends with Dave and Carol Munro, whom Nick and Lisa consider their "adopted parents."

"We were going to Florida to visit Dave and Carol," said Lisa. "When we got there, I started asking for the scuttlebutt about a campground in Browns Valley that was for sale. They said, 'Let's discuss you buying the marina instead' and convinced us to do it."

While new customers discover Skippers Cove Marina every year, others have enjoyed the marina's magic for decades.

"We have four and five generations of customers that keep coming back," said Nick. "We don't advertise a lot. We're pretty busy."

"We open in the morning at eight o'clock and close in the evening at seven, so Nick and I work 46 hours a day," Lisa said with a laugh.

They employ a full-time staff of seven during the busy season, which runs from Memorial Day to mid-October.

"My vacation is here in the summertime when people are visiting with me," said Lisa. "Everyone is in a great mood, here to have a good time and I get to enjoy it with them. This is not a job. It's definitely a lifestyle."

"It's never the same with this 50-acre monster," he said. "It's a neat way of life. It's more like doing chores than working. It's a 43-year-old marina, so we're constantly upgrading and doing maintenance."

Never a dull moment

Nick loves to share stories of the wacky things he's seen customers do.

"Sometimes I think when they hit the cattle guard at top of the hill they leave their brains," said Nick. "There was one guy who pulled up at top of the ramp in the middle of the road, got out, and unloaded his stuff at the gas docks. He jumped in a ski boat and went tent camping. His truck was still running! He came back three days later and was looking everywhere for his truck. We had parked it in our storage lot."

Another customer drove his truck and boat trailer to the end of the boat ramp, but couldn't find where to put in.

"There's even a sign that reads, 'Road ends in water' and he couldn't figure it out," said Nick. "After about the fifth year, I thought I'd seen it all but every year someone does something screwy."

Another of the couple's business ventures is firmly rooted on land. They've turned a ramshackle restaurant at the corner of Mooney Flat Road (the road leading to the marina) and Highway 20 into a thriving community hub where families feel welcome: Scallywags Tavern.

"I watched a guy buy the restaurant and close it in less than 13 months, and another guy did the same in 16 months," said Lisa. "I felt it was a great location for a nice family restaurant, but of course Nick thought I was crazy. We decided to open the restaurant and give it back to the community. The community has rallied around it."

While Nick says he likes the physical labor of managing the marina, he's less enthusiastic about Scallywags.

"That's a pain," he said frankly. "I enjoyed putting it together and I don't mind running the bar, but it's not my gig. It's Lisa's."

In an ongoing effort that began in November 2013 when the couple first leased the building, they've made significant improvements. Lisa has also fine-tuned the menu of American cuisine and put her special touch on the restaurant's welcoming, casual décor. Five full-time workers and nearly two dozen part-time staff keep customers happy, full, and coming back.

Lisa says she enjoys both her business enterprises, in part because some of the same customers visit each one.

"I love both businesses, and I really love our customers the most," she said. "We have customers from the marina that come to the restaurant so I get to see them in the off season."

As if life isn't busy enough, the couple raises trout from November until April.

"We get them when they're around a half-pound and in five months we stock the lake with them when they're two or two-and-a-half pounds," said Nick, adding that they may expand the operation to include landlocked salmon. "If you have fish, the fishermen will come."

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.

BUSINESS BASICS

WHO: Owners: Nick and Lisa Rogers

WHAT: Skippers Cove Marina

WHERE: 13104 Marina Drive, Smartsville

INFO: Call 530-432-6302 or visit EnglebrightLake.com for more information

WHAT: Scallywags Tavern

WHERE: 10091 Mooney Flat Road, Smartsville

INFO: Call 530-432-6600 or visit Facebook.com/ScallywagsTavern for more information