Norfolk Broads cruiser restored to former glory
It was a forlorn sight by anyone's standard – listing wildly with rotten wood inside and out.
However, when Alison Russell saw the boat advertised for sale on a poster in the window of a Wroxham business she fell in love with her.
Despite never having set foot on a boat before, she and her partner Bruce Peckham went straight off to Coltishall and promptly bought her – in its half sunk state – for the princely sum of £6,000.
Eight years on, after hundreds of hours of restoration, Lapwing was finally ready on Tuesday to be launched on the River Bure, her gleaming wood even more perfect than the day she emerged from the Somerleyton yard that built her in 1969.
Rob Marriott, manager at Belaugh boatyard near Hoveton, where seven boatbuilders have lavished their attention on her during the long restoration, said: 'Steve Truss, the surveyor who inspected the boat at the end of the work, was blown away by the quality. He said she would be the best motor cruiser on the rivers for years to come.'
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The couple have regularly travelled to the Broads from their home in Hawkhurst, Kent – twice a month since 2010 – so Mr Peckham, 65, a retired heating engineer, could help with the work.
He said: 'I have done the plumbing and central heating and a lot of the preparation work myself. It has been an incredible journey with all the people it has brought us into contact with – and one we would do again.'
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One of those people, Graham Noble, from Barnsley in Yorkshire, spotted the cruiser as it was being restored during one of his many visits to the Broads and got into contact via the boatyard.
Mr Peckham said: 'He told us that when he was 14 years old, his family were the first to go out on Lapwing after her launch.'
He helped the couple piece together the history of the boat which was designed by hovercraft inventor Sir Christopher Cockerell who owned the former Ripplecraft boatyard in Somerleyton.
Lapwing, at 35ft 6in, was the largest and last of the traditional timber cabin cruisers built by Ripplecraft.
The full restoration has seen nearly everything replaced from the engine and plumbing to the sides and canopy.
The interior has been remodelled from eight berths to five berths and luxury fittings have been added, including a modern shower room, that are a world away from the rudimentary originals.
Iroko, a tropical hardwood, has been used on the hull while utile mahogany has been employed to rebuild the sides.
Mr Peckham has lost count of the 'many thousands of pounds' spent on the restoration, but the couple have been given the good news that their pride and joy is likely to be worth £200,000 if sold to the right buyer at the Southampton boatshow.
Ms Russell, 57, is now looking forward to using their new 'flat on water' which will be moored at Belaugh between cruises around the Broads.
Mr Marriott, 27, who arrived at the boatyard a year ago, forming a partnership with his father-in-law Gerry Hermer and the existing owner and master boatbuilder Paul Dennis, said the launch was a landmark in the firm's continuing revival.
He said: 'We are currently doing a rebuild on a 28ft yacht and have loads of work coming in. Things are going well and the business is a lot more sustainable.'
Mr Marriott is looking to increase their five-strong team and is considering taking on an apprentice.