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.