Ship Happens — How An British Couple Wound Up With A Piece of History

Photo Credit: Ship Happens / YouTube
Photo Credit: Ship Happens / YouTube

Gemma and Simon Robins of Wrexham bought a boat on eBay in January. Not just any boat, but the ML 1392 Medusa, which took part in the D-Day landings. The couple are camper van renovators by trade, but they “fell in love” with the boat after discovering it online and learning about its history.

Calling it “a heart over head” decision, the couple are hoping to raise over £50,000 to get the boat seaworthy again.

How do you even buy a boat?

The couple was not looking to purchase the 72-foot vessel, but it caught Simon’s eye one night when he was looking through eBay. When he told his wife about it, she was skeptical. But when she realized the historical nature of the boat, she began to fall in love with it.

Screencap of the couple from the Ship Happens channel
The Robinses on the ship. (Photo Credit: Ship Happens / YouTube)

The people who owned it before the eBay seller bought it from them were planning to scrap it and sell the engines separately. So he bought it and put it on eBay to sell to someone willing to restore it.

The Medusa was a navigation leader during the D-Day invasions in 1944. It also helped in the capture of a German submarine in 1945.

After the war, the ship — now called Sarinda — has been passed around to many owners. Lately, it has been left to sit and rot.

Gemma’s mother encouraged the couple to go through with the plan to buy the boat. But they only had enough money to buy it. They didn’t have enough to do the necessary work to get it back on the water. “We knew it was going to be a long-term project,” Gemma said.

Ship Happens is their ongoing project to restore the vessel

The couple made a YouTube channel to share their progress with friends and family since no one could come to see the boat during the pandemic lockdown. The channel, called “Ship Happens,” gained 22,000 followers in its first three months of existence.

The vessel in disrepair
The vessel is a bit of a fixer-upper. (Photo Credit: Ship Happens / YouTube)

With renovations expected to exceed £50,000, the couple has been thrilled with the generosity of their viewers.

The ML 1392 Medusa was part of the Neptune invasion of Normandy on D-Day in the 149th ML Flotilla. It was used to distribute instructions in the assault anchorage after the initial landings on that day. One year later, it captured a German Biber Type submarine off Breskens in the Scheldt Estuary.

Gemma said she originally dismissed the idea of owning such a large boat but came around after realizing the history of the ship and how few ships from WWII are left. She said it would probably be in a museum already if it were a Spitfire, “but boats just seem to get left and ruined.”

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After the war, the Sarinda was used by the military as a fast dispatch boat. Then in 1947, Customs & Excise bought it and renamed it the Valiant. In 1967, she was sold to a private owner and named the Fro-Pejo. Then in 1974 it was sold again, named the Salinda, and used for private charters on the Crinan Canal. In 1980, it was converted to a luxury motor yacht and used that way until 1991. In 1995, it was ported in Liverpool where it was left to rot until the Robinses purchased it.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE