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 2016

It is mid June – and yet rain continues to fall and the wind keeps up its blow.  It seems like summer will never be here.  The yard should be empty, with everyone enjoying the water, but this year it is at its busiest.  As fast as we put one afloat, we haul another out; the hard never seems to get empty, as jobs pour in and demands for the hoist and crane increase.  Patient customers wait their turn for favourable winds and tide to ensure a successful launch.  This month it seems that when the tide has been in, the wind has blown,  and when the tide has been out, the air has been still.

Both workshops are full too.  Northumbria – the large ex-police launch that arrived last year – is coming to the end of her re-fit and has gone inside for body work preparations, before her final paint and polish. There is still much to do before we see ‘Northumbria’ gracing the Deben but progress is on schedule.  Little ‘Chloe’ is finishing her osmosis treatment after: shot blasting, filling, fairing and epoxy coating – she is a well cared for little vessel that is admired by many.

This month a few well known Deben houseboats have come to the yard for a lift out and survey, filling the quay with a mix of old traditional wooden and steel Dutch barges and modern fibreglass canal boats.  The quay has also been busy lifting boats up from the Tide Mill, increasing the demand for lifts and space to work.  Each day our quay tells a different story of life on the water. As each boat is lifted, it is pressure washed and scraped, leaving the smell of the seaweed is in the air and the crunch of barnacles beneath your feet.

Our resident Oyster Catchers have happily paired up and many have raised their young and are back enjoying the freedom intense egg rearing denies an attentive parent.  A group of young bachelor swans have graced the wetlands and are constantly flying off in groups of 20 or more, honking and flapping their wings with great fuss and bluster.  One particular territorial older male sees the arrival of these youngsters as a threat and will do anything to disturb their peace (and ours), as he fiercely defends his pen and his nesting ground.  His attentions are merciless and the youngsters flee for their lives when he approaches with menace.  The kingfisher is back, but only the most patient of ornithologists will catch his flash of blue; as he flies, he keeps low enough to be hidden by the water line or banks.

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May 2016

May has brought with it a faster pace to life. Jobs keep us busy, with customers eager to go afloat and make the most of the fine weather.  The weather has been glorious. Summer suns have shone on the yard, hastening the desire for long weekends on the water – rather than cleaning, sanding and varnishing or even simply basking on the hard.

Work has been non stop through these light lengthened days. So many jobs have come and gone this month it’s almost impossible to list them all; as fast as we launched boats we seem to have hauled others out. The seasonal stepping of masts, anti-fouling, washing, lifting and launching has filled each day; along with quick repairs and those larger more complex jobs which fill the workshops for days.

‘Samurai’ emerged from the large workshop resplendent in her new coat of paint and varnish. She went afloat as soon as her paint had hardened sufficiently and has taken up well in the basin, with hardly a drip inside.  Quality wooden yachts always take up well and ‘Samurai’ is no exception.  She is now being made ready to make her first voyage of the season.  ‘Scots Mist’ visited us for a quick wash and anti-foul and was soon on her way back to the Tide Mill.  ‘Janthea’ a 1938 gentleman’s launch made an unplanned visit to the yard.  She came up the Deben all the way from Chelsea.  Having sprung a small but rather persistent leak, she required an emergency lift out and repairs to her garboard. This splendid old vessel spent a couple weeks with us before being relaunched and making her way to her new mooring in Woodbridge. ‘Vagabond’ finished her customer restoration and has gone down river to her mooring in Waldringfield.  Mike Meister’s ‘Lisa Life’ popped in for her annual paint and anti-foul and has returned to her quarters at The Tide Mill, while ‘Blackthorn’ (a Thames half barge) went afloat and can be seen at her berth in our marina.

Work in hand includes, ‘Clio’, who has had her varnish work refreshed  and bottom shot-blasted; is currently awaiting an epoxy system. ‘Timberly’ is in the workshop having her annual spruce up. whilst ‘Northumbria’ has moved into our large boat cover on the quay continuing her major refit and restoration work.

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April 2016

April has brought with it bright warm sunny days juxtaposed with grey rain that has blown in on strong winds or sat above us with a creeping coldness, that only those who know the yard well will understand. On the good days, the yard has had a spring like feel and brought many owners in to spring clean and spruce up their boats ready to go afloat.  On the other days, the yard returns to its winter quietness, with only the hardy seen running swiftly to the office for enquiries or supplies. We are happy to support our owners with their own DIY and have a small chandlery. Sales of sandpaper, varnish and anti-foul are noticeably on the increase, along with, “When is the best time to go afloat?” and “What’s the best way to…?  questions . The phone has started to ring with small repair jobs and customers calling to make arrangements for boats arriving by water or road.

The arrival of April means the end of dredging is in sight.  This annual task is essential to clear away silt brought in by winter storms and maintain a floating marina.  The job is relentless, as it involves preparation at high tide (when there is enough water to go afloat to maintain pipes etc.) and at low tide the dredger can begin its work clearing away mud and debris. And so the days go by – filled with the same routine as the dredger slowly makes its way along the river bed – but it is nearly over now.  Half the pontoons are back in place and have been quickly filled by our annual berth holders keen to go afloat for the Easter Break.

Both workshops have been busy with jobs now pouring in for paint, varnish work or repair.  ‘Harrier’, a lovely blue-water yacht, came in for an anti-foul and general maintenance and is now back afloat in our marina. ‘Vagabond’ has been sold and is finishing her restoration and repair before she goes afloat. ‘Clio’ popped in for a rub down and varnish and ‘Samurai’, a Vashti class classic yacht, is currently receiving a  freshen up of varnish and paint work. The new season’s jobs have begun.

We are still searching for the owners of ‘Lady Emily’ recovered from the Sutton Hoo side of the river, after she broke free from winter storms.  We would love to reunite her with her owner so any information that can help us would be welcomed.

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March 2016

With the shortest day long gone, nights are beginning to pull out and a little brightness has crept onto the yard.   Cold winds continue to blow rather than snow or ice descend, although a few mornings have turned tarpaulins white and made steps slippery. These sharp mornings have led to the most beautiful red, pink, orange, glowing and glimmering sun rises, which stun you into believing it is the first time you have seen such beauty.  Any frost or snow has lifted quickly to reveal bright blue skies and sun filled days.  These are the best days to see the river. When the sky seems to fall into the water and perfect reflections create a delightful symmetry.

Life on the yard has begun to pick up a pace. The arrival of a few bright days and a spring like feel, has begun to unseasonably wake flora, fauna and a few eager boat owners, who come to check on their vessels, make lists of things that need to be done and to prepare for their long summer back on the water.  The yard has been preparing for the new season too.  Our pontoon bridge has been taken out, undergone repair and respray and been reinstalled.  It now looks quite out of place shining bright white against the rusty sheet piles.

Another essential seasonal job is dredging the river basin.  The few remaining boats in our marina have been moved, or gathered together, to allow pontoons to be broken up and taken to the other side of the river. The dredger has been serviced and pipes brought across ready to be put in place when work begins.  This lengthy operation is a vital part of river maintenance and helps to secure breeding grounds for waders on the salt marsh opposite, which is a popular place for twitchers to observe the multitude of birds that frequent these feeding and nesting grounds.

A reflective moment was taken by all those who knew and loved Mel, as it has been a year since his passing.  His departure from life on the yard has left a big gap in the hearts of family and friends who knew him. Mel is missed by all, but his influence is still much alive on the yard and he is often spoken about fondly and moaned about when things aren’t quite right. However, as the year has moved on, so has the need for the old fire equipment, and this month we waved farewell to Mel’s old turntable ladder.  It was a poignant moment as it was towed out of the yard; Simon turned his face to the river and strode away – knowing that life on the yard must rumble on.

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February 2016

Relentless wind and rain continue to batter the yard, interposed with unseasonably mild conditions.  The absence of ice and snow has meant life on the yard is more bearable than past winters but has led to a noticeably increased amount of algae on pontoons and boats in the marina.

It’s been a busy month in both workshops.  ‘Will Laud’ has had her osmosis treatment.  This lengthy, arm aching job involves a lift and pressure wash before putting on a high frame to enable removal of gel coat by shot blasting and finishing with another pressure wash to remove all salts.  After this, an ‘osmosis’ boat is picked up, placed on a trolley and put in our workshop for two weeks of 24 hr drying.  Infra-red lamps are placed all around the hull and moved regularly to ensure an even dry. When moisture levels are tolerable, it’s time for their first coat of epoxy.  Once the epoxy has gone off,  the whole hull is skimmed with filler and left to harden for a couple of days before sanding out.  This is always a two-day hard horrible dusty job which must take place to ensure the hull is fair again.  After the fairing was complete ‘Will Laud’ had three more applications of epoxy before putting on a coat of anti-foul primer. She now awaits final antifouling, boot topping and full electric topside polishing.

Another interesting job this month was something we rarely come across these days, (but used to be a familiar part of the season); the recovery of a boat adrift.  One night in the early part of the year ‘Lady Emily’ broke free from her mooring and ended up on the Sutton Hoo side of the river; many river wall walkers and river users will have seen her pushed high and dry – sitting up on sheet piles. After much discussion, Simon – with Tam Grundy – recovered her to prevent damage during high tides and strong winds, which could have resulted in breaking up and pollution to the river. The search to find her rightful owner has begun but continues to meet with dead ends. ‘Lady Emily’ now sits safely on the yard, while the hunt to find her owner continues.

Two new boats sit on our quay.  A broads cruiser brought up from Martlesham Creek for restoration and repair and a Colvic Northerner 26, which will be restored and have a refit before being used for local coastal cruising.

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January 2016

Damp, dull and dark days set the tone for a subdued start to the New Year. As the days mature, they offer no dry and by the time the evening dag* settles it barely seems like the sun has risen at all. The rain has been relentless. Masts stream with water, which gathers into rivulets on decks and so even the boats ashore shed water from their scuppers. The wind is relentless too; managing to slap even well tied halyards to give that familiar ringing sound of bare-masted boats.

Life on the yard continues through this quiet season with the making of cradles to store even more boats that are still coming ashore.  General winterising maintenance continues as each one arrives. Masts have been lowered, so inspection of halyards and repairs to rigging can take place. Space on the yard is now at a premium, as each new boat has to be found a suitable resting place and secured. Work has begun on our new showers and toilets so we will be able to offer our customers a more modernised facility in the summer.

Simon has continued repairing the twin Ford Sabres in our own cruiser and he has been busy finishing internal restoration. Overwintering in our marina, she is one of the few boats still going out on the Deben in these colder months. The river looks so different from its summer coat of boats of all shapes and sizes, now it is lined with empty mooring buoys giving a feel of total abandonment.

The last job of the old year was to take out ‘Will Laud’ an Aquastar 33 from Ramsholt (named after a notorious smuggler from Orford who was Margaret Catchpole’s lover in 18th Century). This lovely fishing vessel awaits shot blasting and osmosis treatment in January.

* ‘dag’ = early morning or evening mist, especially associated with coastal / marsh areas, possibly also general eastern England dialect

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December 2015

Cold nights and sharp frosts contrast with warm evenings and misty mornings creating a confused start to this month.  Winter birds make the most of good feeding ground on the saltings, while a few swans still gaze in hope at empty boats in the marina.  Our familiar noisy oyster catchers are quiet and have been replaced with flocks of starlings, wind whistling though the halyards and foxes barking at night.

Hard standing space is at a premium as more and more boats come ashore for winter storage and neat lines of yachts edge the yard, squeezed together with just enough room for the hoist and crane to manoeuvre. Yard hands have been busy while the travel hoist lifts and shifts its nautical loads.  The need for valuable space ashore has heralded an urge to tidy up. This is not a job for the faint-hearted or weak willed. A few moments rest has been welcome after hours of hand-balling heavy blocks and engine parts. The digger has played it’s part too and now some fresh gravel carpets the area beside the quay creating a fresh new look.

The Bruce Roberts 58′ has left the extendable mobile workshop; she now sits on the quay resplendent in her new coat of paint. The workshop has been swept clean and feels unusually large as it houses small jobs: fitting foam and vinyl to new head-linings, varnishing a mast and housing a diesel fuel injector pump awaiting repair.

High spring tides and strong South-Westerlys have led to flood warnings with one particularly high tide flooding the far end of the quay.

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November 2015

To those who love being out on the water, escaping the seemingly mundane life of landlubbers, Nov 1st often signals time up on this idyllic life – but with the current mild weather many have been eking out their time afloat.  The demand for lifts and lay ups stretches beyond each days’ available tide so boats wait patiently in the basin for their turn in the hoist.  The smell of the sea lingers in the air as each boat is lifted and pressure washed, scattering barnacles and weed onto the quay.

The Deben is strangely quiet. The holiday feel has gone, moorings are becoming empty and there is a workman like feel to those using the river.  Boats are heading with a purpose rather than floating wherever the wind and tide take them.  A few hardy folks who prefer to paddle their small vessels can still be seen, but their course is a training one and they pass by with a determined pull rather than a relaxed sweep of an oar.

Life on the yard also has a purposeful pace with the whole team making the most of every moment of high water and natural light. As the afternoon light fades earlier and earlier their focus turns to finishing workshop jobs ready for the next day’s list.

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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.