One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Especially when that treasure is a Harbour Defence Launch (HDML) vessel that served as a navigation leader at D-Day on June 6, 1944.
In January, from his home in Wrexham, Wales, Simon Robins was scrolling through eBay looking for broken-down boats, as he was wont to do, and stumbled upon a find of a lifetime.
For £6,500, or about $9,140, he could buy a piece of history and save it from becoming scrap. But he had to get through his wife and business partner, Gemma, first.
Robins often spent his spare time repairing decrepit vessels, so his wife was initially unsure of the latest price tag. However, after realizing the significance of her husband’s find, Gemma was soon onboard.
“I didn’t really want a ship,” Gemma told CNN Travel. “But when I researched her history, I realized that she’s a really significant boat and there’s not many of them left in the world.
“It was just so heartbreaking to see her so neglected and abandoned. It pulled on my heartstrings.”
The pair, who run a business building camper vans together, estimated that is would take a decade to repair, to the tune of thousands of pounds.
Yet for Robins, the challenge is half the fun. “If it was a World War II plane, she would have been in a museum by now,” he told CNN travel. “I feel historic boats do not get the care, attention, and publicity they deserve, with a bit of love and hard work she will hopefully live a very long life.”
The couple, with the help of their two children, have begun to document their reconstruction in a multi-part Youtube series aptly titled, “Ship Happens”.
What started as a means to keep friends and family updated on their progress, has quickly ballooned to over 26,000 subscribers, with people tuning in from all over the world.
“We thought we’d get about 20 views,” says Gemma. “I try to respond to every comment. But now we have so many on YouTube, I can’t keep up.”
Because of the success of the Youtube channel and donations from subscribers, donations have significantly helped towards the cost of renovating the ship.
According to CNN Travel, the couple have spent around £8,000 on materials since purchasing the vessel in January and believe the total renovations costs will exceed £50,000.
The couple would ultimately love to get the ship seaworthy to once again cross the English Channel on the anniversary of D-Day but note that that goal is currently a long way off.
For now, the Robins family is using this time to bond. “It’s great to be able to do it as a family and spend time with the kids as well,” Gemma told CNN Travel. “They’re quite enjoying it and obviously they’re learning new skills.”