Lost a Keel & The Recovery of Martha

Sorry to keep the site in maintenance mode for so long but we thought it best while we sorted out a little problem we have had recently. I hope you're ready for a bit of a read as this could be a long post.

We had been at Brancaster Staithes for a week before the wind changed to a better direction for us to set off along the coast again, we had planned on leaving with the tide at 2am but postponed our departure until the following day as we had run out of cereal and only had enough porridge left for a couple of day.

On that evenings low tide we began to settle on the sand again but this time with a horrendous ripping sound quickly followed by a rush of water, I threw everything out from under the sink and pulled up the boards to find a large hole in the hull where the keel stub used to be. I quickly phoned the harbour master to let him know what was happening in the hope of getting some flotation bags but he turned out to be the most useless person I have come across to date, he had no interest in even suggesting someone local who could help and merely said “good luck with that” to the whole predicament. The insurance company were much more helpful however and within 5 minutes of my phoning them they were in touch with the salvor who eventually brought Martha in and away.

Leaving Suzanne on board to fill the dingy with as many of our belongings as possible, I headed into Brancaster to try and organise a tow into shore on the next tide and for somewhere to put Martha while I arranged a lorry to take her away. Again I was met by many useless people who didn't have any interest in helping, though fortunately the sailing club allowed me to keep our things in their garage so at least we had a place to put our gear.

By the time it was getting dark we had unloaded all the things we had rescued into my dads van, who had come down to give a hand, and we're busy stuffing a hole the full length of the keel stub with blankets, wrapping the Genoa around the hull as well in the hope of being able to stem the flow of water enough to bail Martha out until we could reach the shore.

Leaving Suzanne in the van we headed back to Martha ready for the tide, a quick sleep, coffee and last nights chilli passed the time until we heard the sound of water on the hull. The tide comes in quickly at Brancaster so it was only a few minutes before the water started entering through the keel stub, once the water had reached a few inches in the bottom of the saloon we went on deck and started jumping and swinging on the stays to try and get the keel to break off completely, the idea being if we could get it to part company with the hull we could get the Genoa to cover the hole and slow the water even more. After a few minutes the rocking worked, the keel came off and Martha began to come upright. We now began to bail furiously, dad inside with a bucket and myself pumping away madly on the bilge pump until I thought it would break. We carried on like this for some time hoping we could save Martha but eventually the water began coming over the stern and filling the cockpit without Martha's remaining keel lifting from the sand, we were at a rather precarious angle by this time and were walking outside the stanchions on a nearly level surface, we had also reached our deadline for heading back as it was now almost slack water and there's no way we'd be able to row ashore once the tide turned, with a great sadness we climbed into the dingy and after a short while holding on the stern we reluctantly headed back to the van. We had stayed on Martha and tried to save her until it was obvious it would not be possible, we let go of the stern at 1:30am, arriving at the van by 2am, Suzanne managed to find us a room at Kings Lynn for the night but I don't think any of us slept well.

We spent the next few days dismantling Martha to get her floating upright, staying at a nearby holiday cottage owned by friends, we removed the mast and unbolted the remaining keel, getting her to float off it after three more tides. We walked the mast ashore, dragging the sails and any last waterlogged, diesel soaked salvageable items in the dingy in relays.

From the first ripping noise to being removed from Brancaster Martha was being submerged twice daily for a week, thankfully the salvor was extremely good and had it not been for the need to wait for larger tides she would have been away sooner. One of the local fishing boats was also invaluable in retrieving Martha, they lifted the keels from the sand with their hiab onto their deck and dragged a semi submerged Martha to where the crane could get to her.

So ends the story of Martha, she has been declared an insurance write off and we have thankfully been paid out in full. Suzanne hasn't been put off by the experience and we have put an offer in on a Sadler 32, this has been accepted and providing nothing major comes up in the survey we should soon be back on the water.