IT sounds like the plot of the latest Netflix movie but a family from Wrexham really bought a World War Two warship on eBay.

But that was only the start of the "epic voyage" for Simon and Gemma Robins, who along with children Mason and Emilia, aged 12 and nine, are restoring the vessel on the Dee Estuary in Wirral.

It all happened one bedtime at the family home near Gwersyllt when Simon, who is originally from Knutsford in Cheshire, was scrolling through items for sale on the internet auction site.

The listing for the 72 foot-long naval harbour defence launch ML1392 caught his eye.

He thought Gemma would dismiss the idea, but she saw the history of the ship that served as a navigation marker during the D-Day Landings and even played a part in capturing a German submarine, she was very much onboard.

Simon, 41, said: "I've always had a passion for boats and have bought lots of boats on eBay. I saw her and thought 'I'll never get away with this'. I said 'check this out, Gem, it's only round the corner'."

Gemma, 34, added: "We saw it advertised and did a bit of research. It was more of a heart over the head thing where we thought we have got to save this boat.

"At first I said I don't want a boat that big, but the more I looked at her the more I thought there's not many left in the world, we've got to try and save her. It was more a case of wanting to preserve our history than wanting to buy a big boat just for the fun of it. If she was a Spitfire she would be in a museum by now, but boats just seem to get left and ruined. But she has such a brilliant history."

She added: "It was something that was never planned for or budgeted for. When we bought her, as we both work full-time and have two children, we thought it's going to be a very long-term project."

The couple have experience in restoration through their business Creation Campers in Cefyn-y-bedd that sees them create bespoke camper vans.

And now they travel to the Dee Estuary twice a week to work on the ship. It has become a real family project, especially for nine-year-old Emilia who "loves to get her hands dirty".

It won't be returned exactly to its 1943 condition because, as Gemma says: "What would we want a warship for?"

Although, as Gemma said, it was originally thought to be a long-term project, the family's YouTube channel has become so popular that they are hoping to move things forward more quickly.

The channel now has more than 20,000 subscribers and the couple's videos charting the progress of the project have had more than two million views. They have even launched "Ship Happens" merchandise.

Gemma, who originally hails from Huyton in Liverpool, added: "We expected 20 people to watch the videos, but all of a sudden its skyrocketed on YouTube.

"It's hard to put an end date on it, but it would be nice in two years to have it done. It will be so nice to get it out of the mud.

"Right now the problem is trying to find somewhere to put her because no posh marina wants a 'project boat'. Right now just getting to the boat is really hard for us because we have to walk across lots of mud and stuff like that. I've spoken to marinas in North Wales but none of them will entertain it."

But the couple want to keep the original ML1392 on her hull and keep the name "Sarinda" from her days as a a charter vessel on the Crinan Canal in Scotland and later as a luxury motor yacht based on the Mersey.

Follow the Robins' epic voyage on the "Ship Happens" YouTube channel at

History of the ML1392 "Sarinda"

  • Lauched in 1943
  • In June 1944 was part of the Operation Neptune Invasion of Normandy as part of the149th ML Flotilla ML1295, ML1309, ML1383, ML1387, ML1389, ML1391, ML1392, ML1393, ML1407, ML1409, ML1421. ML1422
  • On June 6, 1944 was a Channel Marker at Gold Beach on D-Day Distributing instructions in the assault anchorage after the first landings in Normandy
  • March 6, 1945 the ship and her crew captured a German Biber Type midget submarine off Breskens in the Scheldt Estuary. Eleven Bibers had sortied that day.
  • Post War, in 1946 repurposed as a Fast Despatch Boat FDB73
  • October 1947 renamed Valiant and served with HM Customs & Excise
  • 1974 renamed Sarinda and used for charter work on Crinan Canal in Scotland
  • 1980-91 Extensive conversion to luxury motor yacht
  • November 1995, base ported at Liverpool.
  • 2013, the Sarinda was decommissioned. After this date the boat was caught in a storm and was "decapitated"
  • January 2021 - purchased on eBay by Simon and Gemma Robins