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

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

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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October 2017

Clear blue skies and sunny spells have kept boats afloat longer this month, extending the season that usually ends in October for most waterborne folk.  We are seeing this year after year – just as the traditional season comes to an end – a month of good weather falls upon us – and this year was no exception.  Lessons were learnt from last year and so our regular customers delayed their lift outs and enjoyed one more month afloat.  That allowed time for clearing and tidying the yard getting ready for lay up season which consists of busy days lifting and storing ashore on every tide.

‘Papillon’ a 60′ widebeam canal barge turned up brand new on a lorry but had to go into the shed for 3 days prior to launch as she had been damaged in transit.  Once repaired and repainted, she was launched and headed off for her new home in Bass’s Dock, Ferry Quay. ‘Hannah Rose’ a Westerley 33 bilge keel arrived be water from further down the Deben, to be lifted out and gel stripped ready for Osmosis work later on in the winter. Buster – A historic Atlantis 27 originally designed to be dropped from aircraft to rescue people in the sea, returned to the yard for her winter quarters.

Simper’s 1950’s wooden dingy ‘Shuffler’ came in for a gentle shot blast inside and out, taking off all the old paint and vanish to restore her to her original wood.  She looked tiny in the crane brothers, which lifted this precious load onto a road trailer so she could head back home for a fresh vanish coat and storing ashore until next season.

A notable moment this month was when Simon (who unashamedly prefers twin diesel engines to a stick and rag set up) was finally persuaded to go sailing on a small 28′ Mirage.  Now he will tell you he hated it – but he was witnessed racing bigger expensive yachts, outstripping their efforts with his earthy style of haul in the sails, fight the weather helm and hold her tight to the wind.  I don’t think that Mirage has been sailed so hard since she was first launched in1978 but she held up and outperformed even Simon’s expectations.

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September 2017

Excitement prevails on the yard this month, as we greet the arrival of a new crane.  The old one, purchased by Mel in 1991 was already an elderly lady from the ’60s, but she has served the yard well over the years and was certainly the stalwart of the yard until the travel hoist arrived in 2000. Nevertheless, it was time for a little modernisation, a move from man handling outriggers to hydraulic legs and a little extra height for lifting longer masts.  The new crane is much smaller and easier to manoeuver round the yard, which seems quite small in the winter when full with boats on the hard.  An added benefit, is a tiny bit more comfort in the cab, a move from plywood to foam and vinyl and the door shuts.

The arrival of the new crane sparked a drive to repaint all the plant equipment on the yard and now anything that isn’t moving has been refreshed in Tonka Toy colours. Even the travel hoist has had a wash and epoxy preparation ready for it’s own fresh coat of JCB yellow with black trimmings.

Another significant event this month was the departure of ‘Ginger Dot’.  Affectionately known as the giant white slug by our river wall walkers, she had sat in our marina for 15 years while her owners raised the funds for her completion.  Finally the day came when she departed to Foxes Marina for the completion of their dream to restore this 1922 classic motor yacht to her former glory.  He place in our berth has already been taken up by a 40′ Degroot and a 41′ steel blue water yacht returning from her travels in the Mediterranean.


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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

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.