Historic Fishing Boat Back to Sea After 13 Years Ashore

Historic Fishing Boat Back to Sea After 13 Years Ashore

Icom UK have recently supplied Eleanor Gassman, a 24-year-old sailor and blogger, an Icom IC-M323 fixed VHF/DSC radio for her 53ft (35 tonne) 1948 wooden Scottish fishing boat. She has transformed the MFV Elizmor after it had been in a boatyard, out of the water in Preston for 13 years. The vessel purchased in November 2013 is now on the full road to restoration and is moored in Brighton marina.

Elizmor was a working vessel until the late 1980’s, when her previous owner converted her into a live aboard vessel. For the past thirteen years, Elizmor has been lying on the hard ground in Preston Marina, Lancashire.

Eleanor said, ‘I had been working hard to get her back into her natural habitat, recommissioning her for sea and sailing her to her new home in Brighton. The whole project was a massive unknown. It feels really surreal to be here in Brighton…especially after the eventful journey I had getting Elizmor down to Brighton…and that is where the Icom VHF radio came in ever so useful.’

Eleanor begins her story

‘When I bought MFV Elizmor, she was structurally sound as the previous owners had looked after her well over the 25 years they had lived on her. To get her ready for the 600 miles journey after so much time out of the water, we had a long list of jobs to complete including installing a new bilge pump, sorting out the antifouling system, sorting out the electrics and replacing most of the instruments. Nothing was fused and there was no control for the engine.’

‘I knew that transforming a 53ft, 66 year old wooden boat was no small undertaking. Some of my friends thought I was nuts sailing the vessel which had just come out the water down the Irish Sea. I was accompanied by my dad who also doubled up as chief engineer and my good friend Nora Bergin who has produced and edited a documentary short about the whole project and voyage down to the south coast.’ ‘After making 300nm and 46 hours non-stop at sea we were just off the Lizard, with a nice swell building when the engine room fire alarm alerted us to the fact that the engine exhaust was so hot that it had started to smoulder the deckhead above it. We managed to contain the situation – Dad was amazing, getting down in the engine room and pouring buckets of water all over the wood before flames had a chance to appear, so there was no actual fire. In line with my best assessment of the situation at the time, I put out a Pan Pan call on the Icom VHF, and the coastguard soon sent out a tow to take us in to Falmouth. The whole situation was absolutely textbook; if I had waited a few more minutes before making that Pan Pan I would have seen Dad was able to control the smouldering. We would probably have been able to carry on under our own steam after continuing to douse the wood with water for the last 2/3 hours into Plymouth. But those few minutes are crucial, and the situation could so easily have ended up very differently. That smoke alarm probably saved Elizmor from a very different ending.’

This wasn't the end of Elizmor’s eventful journey. Eleanor went on to say, ‘We spent a night in Falmouth, and managed to source some extra thick exhaust lagging and made good the exhaust situation. We filled up with diesel, set off in the morning for the rest of the passage to Brighton. About 10 miles south of Plymouth, there was suddenly a horrible massive clunking noise which came from the prop shaft. We jumped to our action stations again and Dad’s engine room assessment quickly told me all I needed to know: “It’s over.” There was a foot-long gap in between the gearbox and the prop shaft where the coupling had somehow just disappeared (later fished out of the bilge in tiny pieces). We turned the engine off, checked we weren't taking on water, and realised we would have no choice but to ask for assistance. Of all the lists of work and precautions we had undertaken to get the boat ready this eventuality was one that nobody had imagined. We spent an hour or so waiting for the Plymouth lifeboat to come and tow us into Plymouth, and Warship Lancaster was standing by 1nm away throughout – hearing ‘Elizmor, Elizmor, Warship Lancaster, Warship Lancaster, over’ on the VHF went a little way towards cheering me up about the whole situation. I was gutted. Dad was gutted. Nora were gutted. But there was nothing we could do, so we had to accept this setback and try not to feel too bad about having to get the RNLI out again. We knew we had done everything we could to prepare Elizmor for the trip and this was one of those things that we couldn't have foreseen. At least we didn't have a hole in the boat and massive water ingress to deal with. Absolutely massive respect and appreciation for the RNLI; that’s my lifetime support gained, and many beer tokens going their way.’

‘Now we’re here on the south coast everything seems a bit more manageable. Elizmor is getting her own character back; she is no longer ‘Elizmor of Preston’ or ‘Elizmor who’s been sat in a boatyard for 13 years’ or ‘Poor old Elizmor’; she is Elizmor, the historic wooden ex-Scottish fishing boat who has had a new lease of life and has made it further south than she has ever been before in her life.’

‘Thanks Icom for supplying the VHF…without it, Elizmor would not be on the South coast today.'


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