A couple who have been renovating a WWII ship they bought on eBay said it's "physically and mentally draining but we absolutely love it".
Gemma and Simon Robins who are camper van renovation specialists by trade purchased the 72ft ship called Sarinda in January 2021 after "falling in love" with the vessel. After first thinking it was just a "crazy idea" the couple made the ship a pandemic project when they found out she had been used in the D-day landings in June 1944.
The couple told the ECHO in April 2021 it was "a heart over the head decision" as they didn't have the budget for it. But Gemma and Simon fell in love with the ship after learning it would have been sold for scrap.
The couple spend almost any spare minute they have working on the ship and have already spent around £35,000 on the project. Gemma, 35, said although it's extremely labour intensive and costly the pair love the boat and have no regrets whatsoever.
The mum-of-two originally from Huyton but now living in Wrexham told the ECHO : "It's obviously very time consuming and labour intensive especially as we both work all week so can only really do it on the weekend. It's physically demanding but also very mentally demanding as we have to plan out and organise everything we do to ensure we have the right materials.
"We never switch off from it as we're always thinking about what we're doing next and obviously it's very heavy on the wallet. We're just a normal working class family so to put this much money into something has been difficult.
"But it's a passion project as we want to preserve the history more than anything else. We didn't buy it because we wanted a boat - that was never on our radar.
"We read about the history and how she played a big part as a navigational vessel for D-day so we thought it needed to be preserved for as long as possible."
The couple have been documenting the ship's progress on their YouTube channel called 'Ship Happens'. This has allowed them to find friends all over the world and build a community they never thought they'd be part of. Gemma even visited California recently to meet a friend who has been restoring an old cruise ship.
The YouTube channel takes up a lot of the couple's time outside of working on the ship itself but Gemma said it's important as its nice to interact with people and show the importance of restoring wooden boats. She said: "I didn't realise how much interaction they'd be but to speak with our viewers is really nice.
"She's obviously a wooden boat which is rare nowadays so part of our work is to preserve that level of craftsmanship. It's nice to show that side on YouTube as we risk losing traditional craft methods."
Gemma said the pair are currently undergoing one of their biggest pieces of restoration on the ship so far with the roof being completely stripped and rebuilt. The couple first predicted the work could take them around ten years but they have set themselves a new goal of the 85th anniversary of D-day.
She said: "It would be really nice to go and take the boat over on the 85th anniversary of D-Day and do the Channel crossing. It'll be a lot of work to do in the seven years but I think that would be an amazing thing to do with the ship.
"It would be a fitting reward for the ship to make that journey all those 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 seen here.