Fine old lady of the Broads is rescued

With her gleaming mahogany timbers and fresh coats of paint this Broads cruiser looks just as she would have in her heyday. But six years ago the future was not looking bright for Maggie Jane as she lay in a boat “graveyard” slowly rotting away.

With her gleaming mahogany timbers and fresh coats of paint this Broads cruiser looks just as she would have in her heyday.

But six years ago the future was not looking bright for Maggie Jane as she lay in a boat “graveyard” slowly rotting away.

The cruiser was one of eight Judith class boats built by Martham Boat Building and Development in 1952 for their hire fleet.

The boatyard's present owner Gordon Curtis, 70, helped build the vessel, which was sold in 1984 to a man from Stalham who named her Maggie Jane after his wife.

After being sold on again, the cruiser became too expensive to maintain and ended up back at Martham where she was built.

But in the winter of 2000, Mervyn Southwell, from King's Lynn, came across the boat as he was helping a friend at the yard and, with no boatbuilding experience, he took up the challenge of restoring the vessel to her former glory.

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Now after six years toiling on their labour of love, Mr Southwell, 68, and his wife Marian, 67, are putting the finishing touches to Maggie Jane in preparation for her relaunch.

Mr Southwell said: “I was working on a friend's boat and was having a scout round the yard. This lady laid in the graveyard. At the time I thought to myself 'she won't take a lot of putting right'.

“We hauled her out with a JCB and the engine was about the only thing that was working. She was in a very sorry state. She needed to be completely refurbished and there was a lot of rot. Most of the frames were all right, it was the timbers that had gone.

“We had to do everything from scratch, from re-timbering and re-planking to painting and varnishing her. Only about 20 of the planks are original as is the engine, frame and wheel. Everything else had to be rebuilt.

“I am so pleased with the finished result. It makes all the hard work worthwhile because she looks beautiful now.”

The couple stayed in a caravan on the site so they could spend long hours working on the cruiser.

“We couldn't have done anything without Gordon (the boatyard owner) and his son Patrick,” said Mr Southwell, a former lorry driver and member of the Royal Navy.

“They have provided us with everything we needed from timber to nails and screws and more importantly their advice and expertise. We are looking forward to enjoying her now and getting her out on the Broads.”

Mr Southwell said he hoped his youngest granddaughter Carrie, 14, would launch the cruiser with Mr Curtis's youngest granddaughter Sorcha.

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