We secured a contract to move a ship this month but got held up at Haven Bridge.

‘Quando’ out of the water for the first time in 15 years.

‘Blackthorn’ and ‘Silver Wraith’ sit side by side on our quay.

55′ Barge: Topsides, coach roof and wheelhouse shine new after preparations and epoxy undercoat. Blast, prepare and epoxy hull, finish in gloss black.

A snowy day in our marina.  Our dredger waits in the background until the storms and flood tides of winter are over, when she can continue her work restoring the salt marshes beyond.

A new addition arrived from Lowestoft by water.  ‘Eastern Horizon’ A trader 44′ here for winter storage ready for a Spring launch.

‘Pearly Diver’ 45′ DeGroot on the hard waiting her road transport to Lowestoft.

A new boat on the yard she arrived from the South coast by road.  She is an American built, petrol, 38′ fast cruising boat.

‘Sojourn’ a well known local Catamaran 35′ x 17’6″ on the yard for the winter.

‘Blackthorn’ home from a successful barge racing season undergoes winter repairs on the yard.

‘Wakey Wakey’ 33′ x 19′ and ‘Spirit of Europe’ 36′ x 18′ nestle side by side on our quay.

Hardy 27 after her re-prime and antifoul, new shaft bearings and anodes now going afloat.

‘De barra’ a 40′ Degroot shotblasted up to decks all of the hull and bottom, now in black epoxy now awaiting sand down, finish and topcoats.

‘Willsbury’ in primer waiting for top coat to be applied.

‘Willsbry’ a 30′ steel fishing boat arrives from Felixstowe Ferry for shotblasing and epoxy coating.

‘Mist’ adorning our marina with her graceful lines.

‘Windhover’ a Westerly SeaHawk arrives for osmosis treatment (blast, peel and gel coat)

‘Silver Cloud’ pops in for a quick anti-foul and polish.

After a major refit it is launch day for ‘Northumbria’.

A few repairs and a fresh coat of paint makes all the difference.

Our floating pontoons by the quay

Re-fitting a mast to a barge this size takes expertise, patience and precision.

VAHSTI returns from her winter quarters to have her mast stepped and take up in our marina, before heading off to her summer berth.

One of Simper’s fishing smacks has arrived with us for seasonal repairs by her owners.

Glimmering sunrise: where the sky falls into the water creating perfect symmetry.

The beautiful little ‘Eden’ arrives for a quick shot blast and then back to her warm winter quarters at home. We look forward to seeing her again in the Spring.

‘Will Laud’ Aquastar 33 – out for shot blasting and Osmosis treatment.

Roberts 58 – prepare and respray.

VASHTI ‘taking up’ in our marina.  This 37′ Vashti class classic yacht has now gone back to her barn for the winter and further restoration; we welcome her return in the spring.

 Freeman 41 out for stern gear repair and antifoul.

Tam Grundy’s ‘Ben Michael’ out for annual paint and repair.

Ex police launch ‘Northumbria’ arrives for refit – ready to launch Spring 2016.

‘Lisa Life’

‘Barnacle Bill’

65′ Dutch Barge ‘Japi’ arrives by transport for launching and towing to Woodbridge

Life on the yard

June 2018

June was a month of glorious weather for sailing; just the right amount of wind, good weather and calm waters.  It’s during these times that life on the water is at its finest, it really is as good as it looks. Our marina filled up with customers’ boats with those being launched and those staying, all juggling for space.  Further downstream moorings on the Deben marked the fairway perfectly as more and more boats were launched.  At the weekends, our beautiful river looked picture perfect.  From the river bank we watched little white sails, row boats, canoes and sculls all moving calmly by enjoying the near perfect conditions. Lovely, this is what it is all about.

Life on the yard however was not so calm.  The beginning of the month fared well with jobs being completed on time.  ‘Quando’ a ferro-cement 50′ yacht hull houseboat arrived and came out of the water for the first time in 15 years for a bottom check, grit blast and re-epoxy.  ‘Gemma’ came out for quick pressure wash and a coat of anti-foul.  ‘Blue Jay’ a 23′ yacht was grit blasted and had anti-foul reapplied and another small yacht was in for grit blasting with other work lined up.  In addition, we had secured a major contract to bring a ship down the coast from Norwich; she was to be brought to the yard for repairs.  All looked set for a successful and prosperous month.

On 16th June we were booked to bring the TS Lord Nelson, Norwich Sea Cadets’ big grey boat from it’s home in Norwich City Centre, firstly to Gt. Yarmouth for a lift out, blasting and epoxy painting and securing a MCA fitness for sea survey.  Then have the vessel towed out to sea, down the coast, into the mouth of the Deben to swap to smaller tugs and onto the yard.  A complex operation but one with the aid of Tam Grundy we thought would be reasonably straightforward. But Norwich County Council had other ideas…

Firstly, the move was delayed by a week as Norwich County Council could not open the Carrow Road Bridge.  At one point it seemed like the whole job was going to be off as the bridge needed repairs and they were not prepared to open it for a few months.  It was a case of the ‘job is on – the job is off’ scenario.  Perhaps something a larger company could absorb but with our small team of specialists it caused many difficulties with scheduling works and keeping promises. We turned away work we could have completed as permissions to move were not in place until 21st and when we finally set off customers had already been waiting a week.

The departure from Norwich went smoothly with NCC ever-so-slowly opening and closing bridges to get the vessel out of the Wensum and into the Yare. Tam and Ben Grundy had the towing and passage plan all in hand and the vessel was progressing nicely towards Alicat Workboats in Yarmouth for a lift out using their 200 tonne hoist. This is a big ex warship 37m  in length with a beam of 6m, she would have weighed 155 tonnes fully laden with engines, fuel and armoury.  Now she is empty she still has a weight of 122 tonnes.  She is too long and too heavy to lift out back on the boatyard so it was essential works were completed in Yarmouth.

But on the approach to Haven Bridge, the tugs were instructed to heave to and wait overnight on Breydon Quay for the Bridge to open in the morning.  And that was it.  Simon Skeet and the yardmen were stuck on a dead ship one mile from their destination by NCC and Peel Ports refusing to open the Haven bridge.  The boatyard team could not leave as the ship had to be manned at all times for insurance purposes.  The ‘Ben Michael’ and ‘Fury’ (Tam and Ben Grundy’s tugs) could not leave the ship’s side and missed out on valuable work and…at the busiest time of the year for a boatyard…

…life on the yard stopped.

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May 2018

‘Ne’re cast a clout ’til May be out’ – referring to hawthorn (not the month) but it’s fitting as the sun has peeped out from the rain clouds a little longer this month, creating stunning rainbows over the river and beyond. Mornings on the yard were greeted with the sight of sun kissed mud, freshly washed by ebbing tides creating blinding lights or at other times, the sight of still silent high tides forming stunning reflections of clouds in the water – both equally as breathtaking.

Sitting on the river wall waiting for the day’s work to begin, yard hands, customers and visitors always feel an appreciation of the beauty that surrounds them.  This final populated stretch of the Deben marks an end to busy river life as it is naturally quietened by the water expanding to fill the saltings opposite. Then the low and narrow span of Wilford Bridge changes the nature of passable river traffic creating a very different feel to the water as it emerges the other side of the bridge; from here on, it becomes almost stream-like.

Silence never really falls though, especially in the mornings.  Rush hour traffic over the bridge starts to build, passing trains sound their horns, early runners pad along the footpath, and multitudes of birds feed on the saltings and river.  Their days start with a loud rebellion against the peaceful nature of their setting; they court, argue, raise young, fight, flap, fly and feed in a noisy mix of calls that make it difficult to distinguish one from the other. Eventually, their rabble wakes the yard machines; big yellow cranes join in the chorus and life on the yard begins.

On the days with no rain the sun heated the inside of boats and for the first time this year we began to feel that dreaded hot blast, as hatches were opened ready for work to begin.  Working inside boats in this weather is airless, cramped and uncomfortable work – and it’s been a busy month getting boats ready to be launched. The twice yearly task of lifting, servicing and hauling is the mainstay of any boatyard.  Our 40 tonne travel hoist and cranes have been at full capacity on every tide.  And as the yard empties our marina fills, so although it is still early, there is a feel of the early summer season on the yard.

Grit blasting was also the order of the day, a 40′ Bruce Roberts blue water sailing yacht was taken down to bare metal ready for epoxy coating. Whilst, ‘Windhover’ a 27′ drop keel yacht and ‘Blue Jay’ both had a light blast to remove their build up of antifoul, ready for fresh coat of antifoul before returning afloat.

Work on ‘Blackthorn’ has been completed and she is ready to be launched next month, to take up her summer berth in our marina.  This big barge leaves a space on our quay large enough for two vessels that have already been booked in from Woodbridge and are arriving soon.

An interesting vessel launched this month was ‘Silver Wraith’. She is a 1927 wooden 40′ Silver (said to be part of the Dunkirk rescue mission) and has been on our yard for a year undergoing DIY work. After extensive soft caulking to close up her planking, she went afloat, spent some time taking up in our marina before heading off to her berth in Woodbridge. Her place on the quay was quickly filled with another vessel which arrived from Bass’s dock on the same tide.

And finally, we have some exciting news – a very interesting vessel will be arriving in July for restoration and repairs – watch this space.

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April 2018

Finally the sun shone. It burst out of the clouds with a 24 degree blast that, for a couple of days, made life on the yard the envy of office-wallers.  The phrase, “I wish I had a job like yours” rang in the air again; something we never hear in those dark months of ice, wind and rain, when they scurry past with coats tightly drawn against the blasts. But it didn’t last and the rain and cold returned with a vengeance, bringing with it strong North Easterly winds that closed the Orwell Bridge again and brought hardy yachtsman, who had launched early, into inland safe waters, with hatches tightly closed.

Grit blasting was the order of this month. Three yachts waited their turn to be cleaned up ready for their season afloat.  Two 35′ glass-fibre GRP yachts had their anti-fouling removed under low pressure to avoid damage to their bottoms and a 45′ steel yacht was blasted back to bare metal ready for epoxy coating next month. Grit blasting quickly and cleanly removes anti-fouling with very little damage to the parent surface leaving a lovely key ready for anti-foul primer.

‘Blackthorn’ a half size sailing barge filled our large workshop this month. She is in to have her decks sanded, rust chipped off and primed and painted with fresh colours ready for her seasons racing in the increasingly popular East Coast Barge matches.

In the small workshop ‘Timberly’ had all her varnish work taken off, stripped back to bare wood and started all over again.  Traditional boat owners know this task well.  It is a arm-aching time consuming yet necessary job, that must be done to keep your wooden boat in sea worthy condition.  ‘Timberly’ is a strip planked mahogany built 30’yacht with graceful lines; a pretty little boat she now shines fresh and new ready to be launched just as soon as the weather allows.

The weather seems to have held back the demands for early launching, increasing the load on the ‘silly season’, fondly known as the month when everyone wants to be afloat at once but hasn’t booked in their lift or their pre-season work.  Simon’s advice is, even it is cold and raining now, get your job lists in to him and your lifts booked in early to avoid disappointment of still being on the hard when the sun is shining and the river is filling up with those who have planned ahead.


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March 2018

The cold never seemed to lift from the yard this month.  Days and days of wind, rain and grey skies made for miserable working conditions.  Everyone dreamt of sunny days or even just enough warmth to lift of a jumper or two, but none came.

This month the dredging had to be done; delayed by the big barge job and the weather it was time to crack on and break the back of the task.  The dredger was hauled into position, wheels and lines greased, her engines given yet another seasonal kiss of life, and so the process of shifting mud from the yard basin begun.

There were more boats than usual in our marina, making for an interesting game of waterborne chess, as boats were moved and allocated temporary berths to allow the mighty mud moving machine to complete its work. Days of monotonous work filled the month, as the river gave up her grip on the muddy sludge that she had gathered, as it was swept up stream with the tide all winter. The birds were delighted.  They hung around awaiting a feed on freshly dredged crabs and crustations emerging at the end of the pipe on the saltings opposite.

In the small workshop, ‘Hannah Rose’ finishes her osmosis treatment after drying last month. She was expoxed and skimmed in filler to restore her profile, finishes in three coat of epoxy to seal the job and make her impervious to water.

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February 2018

It snowed and it froze – but life on the yard continued at a pace.   The worst of the weather saw heavy snowfall and icy blasts that closed schools and blocked roads with drifts four feet deep.  Even the Deben slowed to sluggish slush with pancake ice and mini icebergs forming unusual sights as they crowded the edges.  Our marina was frozen and eerily rose and fell with the coming and going of the tide; it brought with it a creeping coldness but no sound. Bird life changed little, those who are here for the winter season, were seemingly unaffected by the harsh conditions and fed greedily on each tide.  Our barn owl silently made itself known swooping low in the day time to catch scurrying mice, while the distinctive Oyster Catchers returned with noisy calls, plodding up and down the mud shaking their heads at each other in a seemingly never ending argument.

The large barge in our workshop had to be finished to a deadline, so with the diesel heater on full blast not a beat was missed. This 55′ liveaboard barge has no engines or propeller and was purpose built as a houseboat.  Last month, after blasting and epoxy coating,  her hull was finished in gloss black.  This month the whole of her super structure was sanded right down and a new door frame fitted.  Epoxy primer undercoat was applied all over her topsides, coach roof and wheelhouse. She was sanded down again all over to ensure a smooth surface in preparation for two coats (six gallons) of arctic blue topcoat (cabin door and frame finished in two coats of taupe). After hardening she was taken out of the workshop for fitting of her gangway.  Launching followed and finally she was taken by tug to her resting place in Bass Dock, Woodbridge right on time.

Meanwhile, in the smaller workshop Hannah Rose began her osmosis treatment with a blast and peel before drying under lamps for three weeks before her hull reached tolerable moisture levels to start a new epoxy system.

Work is beginning to flood in as our experienced customers’ thoughts turn to their season afloat. Some of our DIY customers have arrived already and begun their own scheduled work.

Note from the yard: Simon advises you all to book in early if you require repairs or preparations prior to launch.  We have availability in March but April and May are already pretty much fully booked.  We have been awarded an exciting contract for repairs during the summer months, so July and August have no spare capacity at all.

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January 2018

And so we begin a new year.  It’s been a gloomy month, filled with dank dark days.  Grey clouds and rain have held the light back making the river dull and uninviting.  The wind has blown hard but not full blast.  Squally gusts closed the Orwell Bridge three times and got yard hands scurrying out to secure boats and tarps on the yard, while whistling winds sang, slapping halyards to punctuate the storms.

Nights dominated by large moons, made night time seem brighter than day.  These Phoebe filled nights were accompanied by high tide predictions. Tidal highs and the lows are dominated by forces that scientists still cannot precisely fathom, yet the river men who work on her daily, know her well.  ‘The River… It’s my world, and I don’t want any other. What it hasn’t got is not worth having, and what it doesn’t know is not worth knowing.’ (Kenneth Grahame).  Secretly, the river rises and falls; a reliable element and indicator of passing time on the yard.  This month water has crept steadily up and flooded our quay with no warnings, while at others the media have filled heads of land lubbers with flood alarms – but none came – well a bit of water at times but nothing of note.  Flash flooding seen on other stretches was due to surface water not the salty brine that fills our basin daily.

The arrival of a new barge destined for Bass Dock, Woodbridge has filled our quay and large workshop this month.  After blasting on the quay she was moved inside for epoxy coating, and finishing with gloss on her topsides. With her hull now in gloss black she shines new, awaiting a few warmer days before her decks can be prepared and finished. In the smaller workshop two 20′ launches have completed their restoration and repair work and are ready for their new season’s work.

As the month ends, the yard quietens and thoughts turn to dredging.  Silt delivered by winter tides must be sucked up and used to maintain the saltings opposite.  The unique Deben wildlife rely on this annual task to secure their feeding grounds and each year flock in to check progress and feast on freshly dredged crustations.


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December 2017

‘The North Wind does blow and we shall have snow’ and what does a boat yard do then? “Work as usual”, comes the stalwart reply.  Two extra jumpers, a pair of under trousers and a strong spirit is all that is required by those used to being out in all weathers.

December brought rain and lots of it, followed by cold icy blasts that made their way through your clothing and bit hard at exposed areas.  Eventually, the wind dropped and rain turned into a sprinkling of white stuff making the yard look fresh and new, well for a couple of days, before it turned to slippery ice and muddy puddles. Pontoons covered in ice were ventured upon only by experienced boat owners and river men.  Two of our hardiest customers made their way up the Deben to finally come onto the hard for their winter storage.  They have extended their sailing window to its fullest and have arrived even later than previous years.

The river has been still and calm for many days at a time with spectacular sunrises and sunsets.  Anyone who has witnessed the Deben at dawn has seen something special that will stay with them in their hearts forever. A flash of blue reveals the kingfisher is about but the Oyster Catchers have gone quiet.  Our regular cormorant hangs round for a feed in the basin at low water, while green shank, swans, ducks and geese enjoy the freedom of having the river to themselves.

A launch in our small workshop received new engine beds and floor, blast and a paint.  She shares the space with Simper’s ‘Three Sisters’, a traditional wooden clinker built day boat, one of the last vessels built by Frank Knights. She is having her floors removed, bilges cleaned and repainted as well as engine removal, clean up and replace. Work continues in our large workshop on the quay constructing a steel mooring barge.

Now your Christmas lists are complete, Simon would like you to turn your focus to your pre-launch work list.  If you plan ahead, send it to Simon (or come in to discuss it with him) at this quiet time of year, work can be completed before your launch date. Last minute requests during traditional launching months can lead to disappointment.

We will be closed for the Christmas break from 23rd to 27th December and then again for New Year’s Day.  We wish all our friends and customers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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November 2017

Those trying to get the most out of the season, have finally given up their fight and come in from the cold.  It’s been a busy month for the travel hoist.  Nearly all our customers are here at last for their winter lay up, causing a flurry of activity to get them all ashore at once – just as the neep tides and dark nights reduced working hours.  Such is life on the yard.  Our marina was bulging with these boats waiting for water and light to coincide, but Spring tides quickly returned and we got them all ashore safe and sound.

As part of the spruce up on the yard, the office and workshop have had a face-lift this month and despite many suggestions that they too should become JCB yellow with a black trim, as per all the yard machinery, it finally was dosed in more muted colours on the same theme and was gently washed in Suffolk Cream with grey edgings.

‘De Uil’, a small dutch sailing barge, popped into the workshop for winterisation and repairs.  We cut the side out of starboard quarter, which was showing signs of rot, spliced in a new piece and finished.  Next she had her leeboards removed for sand, varnish and replace. Finally her hull and topsides were repainted.  She is now laid up for winter on the yard.

Our large workshop on the quay now rings with the sound of hammer on steel.  Tam Grundy and his son Ben are building a new mooring barge which we will see out on the Deben in the Spring.

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‘Blackthorn’ at home on the yard.

Ex police launch ‘Northumbria’ under our all-weather mobile boat cover

Grand Banks 36 Lift out and transport to Wales.

Lady Ella

Ferro-cement 50′ yacht houseboat from Woodbridge receives grit blast.

‘Gemma’ a 29′ Mirage out for quick pressure wash and renewal of anti-foul.

‘Timberly’ in our small workshop stripped back to bare wood before receiving a fresh coat of varnish.

Hannah Rose receives osmosis treatment after three weeks of drying to get moisture levels within tolerance.

Live-aboard barge arrives on the quay for shot blasting, epoxy coating, preparation and finish to hull and topsides.

Simper’s ‘Three Sisters’ after refit and refresh.

‘De Uil’ in our small workshop for repairs to hull and lee-boards. Paint topsides and finish.

Simon Skeet making a puller to remove a seized drum off a capstan, in our workshop.

Our small workshop and office in fresh paint.

‘Shuffler’ Simper’s 1952 wooden rowing boat in for a gentle shot blast, looking tiny in the crane brothers, as she is loaded onto her road trailer.

‘Papillon’ 60′ widebeam canal barge on our quay, repairs to paintwork and launch.

70′ widebeam canal barge houseboat from Martlesham Creek out for grit blast and 5 coats of epoxy from decks down. Finish is shiny gloss black. New anodes and relaunch.

‘Ganges’ a houseboat from Woodbridge arrives for a grit blast and epoxy coating, finished in gloss black with black antifouling.  New anodes fitted and relaunch.

Call out to Shotley Point for emergency caulking to garboard on a a classic gentleman’s yacht – one of the little ships.

‘Tudo-Bem’ receives electric polish to hull, fresh antifouling and new electric windlass before returning to her Deben home

‘Vagrant’ a Vagabond 41′ out for shot blast, antifoul, fresh epoxy and repaint topsides

‘Ostara’ classic 38′ yacht launched after winter ashore where she received fresh paint and varnish work

Sae Wyfling arrives to begin preparations for her move to Whisstocks new Sutton Hoo/Maritime ‘Long Shed’.

65′ barge in strops awaiting launch

28′ classic wooden Twister in for repairs and varnish

‘Second Simo’ arrives for gritblast, antifoul and refit.

‘Jubilee Joy‘ Cyril’s fishing boat up from Felixstowe for stern gear repairs.

‘Scooby’ having arrived from Spain, hangs in the strops awaiting her place on the hard.

Simper’s ‘Silver Harvest’ in for engine and gearbox repair.

Another local Deben barge comes out for her annual spruce up.

The combination of sunshine and rain have led to some spectacular rainbows.

It is June and yet we are busier than ever taking boats out! Space on the quay is at a premium.

Woodbridge Houseboat ‘Ganges’ out for a survey.

Dutch barge houseboat comes out for a full survey prior to sale.

‘Clio’ receiving her osmosis treatment.


‘Lady Cate’ having a light sandblast to remove build up of antifouling.

Simon applying final coat of epoxy to a Bruce Roberts 58 yacht.

‘Silver Cloud’ after her refit, polish and varnish work.

Restoring ‘Gladys’

‘Gladys’ a Finesse 28, once the envy of many on The Deben, had lain neglected on a mud berth at the yard for several years. As the seasons came and went, it saddened many to watch her gradual decline; her beauty faded as green algae began to smother her torn covers and water seeped into her decks. With her fenders squashed, her lines loose and a bilge pump increasingly working hard, Simon eventually approached the owner with the words no boat lover likes to hear, “The time has come to save her or let her go”.

Click on the small arrows opposite to scroll through her journey through to complete restoration.