A couple who are renovating a WWII ship they bought on eBay said it was ‘physically and mentally exhausting, but we love it’.
Gemma and Simon Robins, motorhome refurbishment specialists by trade, bought the 72ft vessel called Sarinda in January 2021 after “falling in love” with the vessel. After initially thinking it was just a “crazy idea”, the couple made the ship a pandemic project when they discovered it had been used in the D-Day landings in June 1944.
The couple told ECHO in April 2021 that it was “a decision taken above the head” because they didn’t have the budget for it. But Gemma and Simon fell in love with the ship after learning that it would have been sold for scrap.
READ MORE: Couple buy 72ft WWII ship on eBay in ultimate restoration project
The couple spend almost all of their free minutes working on the ship and have already spent around £35,000 on the project. Gemma, 35, said that although it was extremely laborious and expensive, the couple loved the boat and had no regrets.
The mother-of-two from Huyton but now living in Wrexham told ECHO: “It obviously takes a lot of time and work, especially as we both work all week so we can’t really do it. weekends. It’s physically demanding but also very mentally demanding because we have to plan and organize everything we do to make sure we have the right equipment.
“We never stray from that because we’re always thinking about what we’re going to do next and obviously it’s very heavy on the wallet. We’re just a normal working class family, so putting that much money into something was difficult.
“But it’s a passion project because we want to preserve history more than anything else. We didn’t buy it because we wanted a boat – which was never on our radar.
“We read the history and how it played a big role as a navigation vessel for D-Day, so we thought it should be preserved for as long as possible.”
The couple documented the ship’s progress on their YouTube channel called “Ship Happens”. It allowed them to find friends all over the world and create a community they never thought they would be a part of. Gemma even traveled to California recently to meet a friend who restores an old cruise ship.
The YouTube channel takes up a lot of the couple’s time outside of work on the ship itself, but Gemma said it was important as it was fun to interact with people and show the importance of restoring wooden boats. She said: “I didn’t realize how much interaction they would be, but talking with our viewers is really nice.
“It’s obviously a wooden boat which is rare these days, so part of our job is to preserve that level of craftsmanship. It’s good to show that side on YouTube because we risk losing the artisanal methods traditional.”
Gemma said the pair are currently undergoing one of their biggest restorations on the ship to date, with the roof completely stripped and rebuilt. The couple had initially predicted that the work could take them around ten years, but they have set themselves the 85th anniversary of D-Day as their new goal.
She said: “It would be really nice to go and take the boat on the 85th anniversary of D-Day and cross the English Channel. It would be a lot of work to do over the seven years, but I think it would be a amazing thing to do with the ship.
“It would be a fitting reward for the ship to make this voyage all these years later.”
Donations to Gemma and Simon’s Restoration Journey can be made here and you can follow their progress via their popular Ship Happens YouTube Channel. A video showing the progress of the ship’s renovation can be viewed here.