A couple who stumbled across an old WWII ship on eBay say the purchase was ‘a head over heart decision’ which led to them taking on the ultimate restoration project.
Gemma and Simon Robins, who are camper van renovation specialists by trade, purchased the ‘ML 1392 Medusa’ in January after they ‘fell in love’ with the vessel.
Buying the 72ft war ship was never part of the couple’s original life plan, however, Gemma, from Huyton, said after viewing it for the first time it pulled on her heartstrings because it had so much history.
Speaking to the ECHO, Gemma described the couple’s maiden voyage into the unknown saying: “We didn’t plan on buying a ship but Simon would always sit there at night and look at eBay.
“One night I was brushing my teeth and he was lying in bed and he was like ‘look at this boat’. I had a look at it and I thought ‘what are you thinking about?’
“Usually I would just brush him off with his crazy ideas but I was looking at it and realised what a historical boat she was.
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“I never ever wanted a boat that big in my life but it sort of pulled on my heartstrings.
“The people who owned the boat before the person we bought it off, they were going to scrap her and take the engines out and sell them.
“So the fella who we bought it off was like ‘you can’t do that, she is a piece of history ’.
The ship, now called Sarinda, has a compelling past having been a navigation leader during the D-day landings in June 1944.
She also aided in the capture of a German submarine in March 1945. Since then, the ship has had many homes and has unfortunately fallen into disrepair.
Gemma added: “She was a WWII boat on D-day and to see her neglected and left to rot, it was a heart over the head decision because we haven’t really got the budget to do it, so we went to look at it the next day and we fell in love with it.”
The ship was set for the scrapyard and Gemma revealed it was her mum who encouraged the couple to buy it, adding: “It was my mum, she was like, ‘oh Gemma, just buy, just buy it’ so she encouraged us to get it.”
“It’s hard to say how much it will cost to renovate and repair. She’s a massive boat, she’s 72ft long, she’s got five bedrooms, and she needs totally gutting and starting again.
“The superstructure is all rotten and falling apart and the only really good part of the boat is the engines, which still run and the actual hull, which is originally from WWII.
“When we bought her I said to Simon we could probably scrape enough money to buy her, but we haven’t got any money to fix her. So we knew it was going to be a long-term project.”
In order to track and document their progress, the couple decided to create a YouTube channel dedicated to the restoration of the ship.
Originally meant as a means to update family and friends due to Covid restrictions, the channel has caught the interest and imagination of big boat lovers.
In the space of three months, the channel, aptly named Ship Happens, has notched up 22,000 subscribers.
Gemma, who confessed she had no idea about YouTube or video editing prior, couldn’t quite believe the attention her new channel had received.
She said: “The whole YouTube idea, we only filmed it for the family. Because of Covid, no one could come and see it, so we said we’d film it so all the family could see it online and the channel just took off.
“We didn’t expect it at all, because we’re not YouTubers or anything like that, we’re just normal people.
“The channel just skyrocketed so we had to get a bit more professional because we’re not photographers and it’s taken me ages to edit videos because it’s all new to me.
“The support we’re getting on YouTube now is just phenomenal and because of the ship’s historical background, there are a lot of people who want to see her restored and back to a nice condition. It’s blown us away to be honest.
“People are sending us parts to help us with the project which is just great.”
The hard work begins now for Gemma and Simon who have laid the groundwork for future works on the ship to begin. The possibilities and potential of the former WWII ship are endless.
Gemma, a mum of two, added: “We didn’t really think of a plan when we bought her but there are endless possibilities whether it’s our private holiday home or whether we can rent it out.
“It’s hard work but it will be worth it in the end. Simon said he wants to keep it for life and retire on it.
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“We knew it was a big challenge and that’s why we gave ourselves a number of years to get it done. We knew it would be a very long-term project with a limited budget. We’re trying to do as much as we can with the time we’ve got and the budget we’ve got.”
Conscious that the renovation of the boat will cost them upwards of £50,000, the couple have been overwhelmed with the support and donations, not just by friends and family, but complete strangers who have taken an interest in their journey.
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.