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

February 2017

February brought the wind.  Gusts of 70mph ripped through the yard threatening to shake loose anything not tied down. The Orwell Bridge was closed causing traffic chaos. Simon spent the day tying up covers, securing anything the wind might move and tying up halyards, which were noisily flapping against exposed masts.  The large mobile boat cover on the quay was strapped to the crane and forklift, as an extra precaution and all boats on the hard were checked that their blocks and supports were secure.  These efforts were well rewarded, as the yard suffered no damage.

Extraordinary sights could be seen in the marina when the storm was at its full force.  With the wind coming off the land,  lightweight yachts took the blast broadside and lay at an unnatural angle leaning against their lines, as the strongest blasts battered them – but everything was well secured and when the wind abated, the Marina returned to its restful calm, with no signs of the fierce gale it had withstood. No doubt one more storm will pass though and that’ll be the end of the season’s blasts.

This month we were pleased to welcome the rescue rib from Neptune Sailing Club that operates from Woolverstone Marina.  She is in for repair to its cracked fibreglass bottom and a quick spruce up.  Neptune offer so much to young sailors on the Orwell, it’s nice to support their endeavours.  They have a small fleet of Toppers, Wayfarers and a couple of Vibes for the more adventurous students. If you are in need of RYA tuition on a tidal river they are a great place to start.

We have another cruiser taking up a permanent floating berth in our marina.  She is a Broom 37  ‘Caramanda’, who arrived this month from winter quarters in Levington but is now under new ownership. It’s lovely having ‘Caramanda’ back, it’s a small world in the rivers and estuaries of Suffolk. She used to be at our yard when she belonged to a previous owner; it’s good to have her home again.

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January 2017

A busy month catching up with jobs held over from December. ‘De barra’ a 40′ Dutch motor boat was brought onto the quay for shot blasting and removal of all the paint from the top sides and hull.  She was then picked up and put into the workshop, masked up and four coats of epoxy applied to her topsides. They were then filled and sanded to make fair (smooth) and she was finished with a top coat. While the epoxy was curing, a holding tank for black water was fitted, as she is destined for the top of the Thames where discharge is closely monitored.

Persistent cold weather hampered this job and additional heaters were required to permit the epoxy to harden sufficiently and to reduce condensation. A big diesel heater was sourced and although unplanned, this was a well spent week.  Fitting a powerful heater allows future jobs to be completed within their planned timescale.

The Twister in our small workshop has had her varnish job finished. Eight coats on her coach roof and rails, which had been stripped back to bare wood.  Her topsides had a hard sand only, so two coats brought her to an effectively sealed shine.  There is nothing like standing back and admiring a classic wooden vessel in a new varnish finish – it seems such a shame to place them outside to withstand the rigours of the English weather.

The steel boat in the large workshop has a finish which will last up to ten years, if she is regularly antifouled and has her anodes changed, but  this Twister will need to return in a year or two for it all to happen again. If you are going to own a classic wooden yacht, you need to love her more than you love your time or money – that’s just the way it is. We have another one waiting in the wings for the same annual repair and refresh.


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December 2016

December saw the Skeet family leave the yard behind and fly off to Florida to fulfill Mel’s wish that the family should visit a land he loved. The time was split between the peace and tranquility of The Everglades and the hustle and bustle of Orlando.

Alligator hunting was the first order of the day. Waist deep in swamp water, we followed our own Crocodile Dundee guide who cheerfully called to us, “Come over here – this is the place they like to feed” – and as we pushed through the water towards his voice, we were all praying we didn’t sound tasty.  We crept forward nervously, secretly all hoping that we wouldn’t get to see what we had come to see! But see them we did – and brown water snakes, which basked in logs and swam in the water round our ankles. Mosquitoes bit our necks, water creatures stung our legs and sawgrass sliced our arms, but it was a great day out.

As the afternoon drew on, we moved deeper into the National Park until we reached the sea.  Paddling canoes now, we set off against a head wind into the salt waters of Flamingo Bay. Here alligators swam freely around us, Lemon Sharks gently nudged our boats and huge rays swam beneath us. As the sun set over the water and we paddled back in the dark, we thought the day was over – but we were wrong.  After we had loaded our canoes and settled into the seats of the warm 4×4, we traveled back through the deepest Everglades – when all of a sudden the vehicle stopped.  In the pitch dark, our Dundee guide hands us red torches and indicates with his hands to be quiet, and to follow him. Back into the waist deep water we went – Alligator hunting in the dark – hoping (or not) to see the eerie red lights pick up the shine from their eyes, as they lay half submerged but wide awake.

The next day was also spent on the water.  This time we spent hours on an airboat exploring the management area of the Everglades.  Flying over water and grass, our boat was powered by an aeroplane engine that shattered the peace of this wilderness. Here we saw even bigger Alligators.  Huge territorial males and smaller females protecting their young – and then it was time to move North by Amtrack to join the rest of the family in Orlando.

We visited the Kennedy Space Centre and followed the journey of the Saturn rockets and Apollo space craft, as they competed in the space race. Theme parks were visited and helicopter rides taken.  We even got Simon on a Segway to tour the town of Celebration.

It was well deserved break for all the family.  Just what Mel had hoped for.  Everyone together in the evenings enjoying a game of pool in the sunshine state, laughing late into the night, aided by the odd splash of lemonade.

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November 2016

The dark comes early in November and so the workshops are coming to the fore. ‘Willsbry’ is blasted and put in for epoxy coating and the smaller workshop houses a classic wooden 28′ Twister and a small launch in for new engine beds, clean up and paint but it is quiet on the yard. There is even time for Simon to take out his own hardworking launch and give it some tender loving care.

The laying up season continues, with those who like to eek the last moments of the season finally giving up and coming ashore.  The hard is getting full and the annual game of chess begins, only with rather bigger pieces.  If only we knew at the start of the laying up season which boats would be arriving and when.  It could then be a well ordered process but life on the yard is just not like that. Experience helps us to avoid a checkmate situation and with a little bit of a shift round, everybody fits in.

The travel hoist remains busy all year round with the launching and lifting of all types of craft. This month a 65′ dutch barge arrived from Bristol by transport to be lifted and put afloat ready for her journey down the river to Woodbridge. Later a 60′ wide beam canal barge arrived by road to go afloat and towed up to her new home in Ferry Quay.

The yard looks bleak as the rains fall and the days are grey and uninviting.  Hardened dog walkers still use the river path but the water itself is empty of river craft except those who make their living on its waters.  It is the season for moorings to be checked and plans to made for the busy months ahead.

The river belongs to nature. Swans grace the surface, while the seal pops in for a feed in our basin from time to time.


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October 2016

The start of laying up has arrived and it’s the busiest time of the year.  It is now a pressing job to get the yard areas cleared, cradles repaired, props checked and blocks recovered from all the places customers have put them over the summer, when they have found a piece of wood, just the right size for their paint pot – not realising it was the very thing that had been securing their boat all winter. Matt has joined the team of yard hands and has been getting used to life on the yard – shifting large blocks and lifting hunks of wood onto pallets has been a good initiation, along with a few blowy cold days.

Yet, these few windy days have been interspersed with still, clam, sunny weeks offering a beautiful late summer.  Many who have booked to come out are staring with envy at those of us still in the water enjoying these last few warm days. Moorings are emptying as all yards on the the Deben are busy lifting, laying up and winterising and we are no exception.  Boats are arriving on every tide and, as happens every year, as the work increases, the nights begin to pull in, affording us less working hours.

As well as lifting and launching the yard is busy with repair work: ‘Windhover’ a Westerly Sea Hawk 34 has arrived for a full osmosis treatment, just as an iron dumb barge was launched after welding and repairs. Scooby a Sealine 23 arrived from Spain by road.  A new arrival on the yard, home from her travels, she has been laid up for the winter. Willsbry a 30ft fishing boat from Felixstowe Ferry came to us for a grit blast and epoxy system to her hull and topsides and a 28’ Twister in varnish finish went into our small workshop to have varnish removed, minor repairs and recoating.  She joins a launch in for refit and repair.

As October fades and November creeps on we take time to remember Mel.  His bench is finally ready to be installed on  the river wall, now all permissions are secured and a suitable position decided upon, so he can look fondly over his creation: a proper working boatyard on the River Deben.

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September 2016

This has been a busy month. Simon and the yard hands have been trying to clear up the yard to get ready for laying up, but just as they get started another job arrives and this seemingly mundane, but essential job, has got more and more delayed. The sun continues to shine and the days are long, so perhaps there will be plenty of time to do this before boats queue up on every tide for a lift.

Simper’s Silver Harvest has finished her gearbox repair and tidy up and returned to fishing in the Deben and local waters.  A 38’ Halberg Rassy ‘Loon’ has arrive for removal of antifouling followed by a re-launch, so she can return to her yacht club on the Thames for overwintering.  We launched a 28’ classic wooden yacht and monitored her as she took up in our marina. Once water ingress had slowed sufficiently she was lifted, her mast stepped, covers fitted and rigged ready to sail.

Our large workshop on the quay was extended to nearly her full capacity with the arrival of ‘Second Simo’ an Oyster 47, who was lifted out and given a light grit blast to remove antifouling, before being placed inside for new epoxy coating and a deck paint. ‘De barra’  a 45 foot De groot motor boat came to us for a survey and is currently awaiting space in the workshop to fit new holding tanks and epoxy coating. The workshops tend to be booked months ahead, so it is always a good idea to let us know early if you need a job completed that needs to be undercover.  ‘De barra’ is on our waiting list for January.

It was a day of celebration when we launched ‘Mist’; a classic wooden yacht that had been saved from the bottom of a lake about 10 years ago.  She has been lovingly and expertly restored by her owner on the yard for the past eight years, receiving a complete rebuild and a beautiful finish.  She looks like she is brand new – just out of the workshop – and is adorning our marina with her graceful lines.

A moment of welcome humour occurred this month, when a well drenched customer walked up to Simon with the words, ‘I’ve capsized my dingy in your marina’. The day was warm, the sun was high and only the dignity of the customer was bruised.  A sympathetic moment tinged with hilarity followed.  A hopeful look into the water at high tide revealed no clues as to the whereabouts of the dingy and, as nothing could be done immediately, it was left for nature to pull back the screens to expose the Deben’s catch. A quick look over the quay at low tide revealed its whereabouts and a sodden dingy, with engine attached, were slowly lifted ashore to bask in the sunshine.

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August 2016

It’s peak season: everyone, who owns a boat, is on the river and those that don’t are walking along the river wall. It’s a fantastic summer, and wonderful to see so many of our friends and customers making the most of these long languid days afloat. The river looks delightful and invites you to ‘come aboard’, with its picture perfect views and yet – in equal measures it seems to encourage you to sit on the bank and stare at its beauty for hours.  Then, as any boat owner will know, suddenly you have to be there, she has winked at you in with her sparkling eyes and you get that irresistible urge to ‘take the boat out’ and enjoy her myriad of challenges and delights.  The wind whispers her soft breath and off you sail – life on the river seems idyllic and endless.

Not surprisingly, Life of the yard is not as idyllic as it may seem to the passing public on these sun beaten days.  Jobs take longer, seem harder and sweat pours out faster than we can drink. Cups of tea have been replaced with pints of orange squash and it seems harder than ever to step out of the shade to get the work done.  Sun protection is our daily coating mixed with sweat and dust,  blacking shirtless bodies and creating an uncomfortable gritty feel to skin.

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July 2016

Summer suns’ have finally arrived and amidst a few rainy days the yard is basked is warm sunshine. This combination of sunshine and rain has led to some spectacular rainbows. The Deben looks lovely, although a few freaky squalls can make sailing a challenge but that’s why we love this river, every day is different and even sage old river folk can be caught unawares; she keeps you on your toes.  If you are not dealing with the ebbs and flows of the tides, leaving the unwary high and dry for eight to ten hours, the wind direction seems to change around each bend or the river narrows and there is little time before your next tack.

But we love her tidal idiosyncrasies and enjoy the quiet privacy of being ‘at the top end’.  Only an origami yacht can pass us at low water and, although at high tide yachts with a 6′ draft easily make their way to us following the well-marked buoyage, not much can get under Wilford Bridge. It’s makes for a special atmosphere and an unrivaled affinity with nature, which many comment on and yet find hard to put into words.

It’s been busy on the yard with two local barges coming out for their annual checks, repairs and licks of paint. They sat patiently on the quay while their bottoms we scrubbed and blackened before heading back to their usual moorings. ‘Clio’ has finished her osmosis treatment and has now left our workshop and we have completed an engine replacement on ‘Gemma’ who has now gone back afloat.

One of the most exciting long awaited events happened this month and that was the launching of ‘Northumbria’ an ex-police launch that has received a major re-fit.  Her huge throaty engines roared into life while still in the strops and not a drop entered her hull.  A complete success – she was everything her owner, ‘Steve’ hoped she would be and after a few test runs she has now taken up her place in our marina alongside ‘Blackthorn’ a beautiful Thames Barge which resides with us.

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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.