A ship in port is safe, but that’s not what ships are built for

Zora is a 38 foot steel yacht that almost sank in 1998 on a trip around the world under a Swiss skipper. A fire that gutted her interior along with 15 years of neglect meant that she had to be rebuilt from the ground up. We bought Zora in February 2018 after much of the steel work was complete, and a fresh coat of primer was laid down. The next 8 months were spent sanding, painting, rigging the mast, wiring the engine and getting the boat ready for launch. Launch day came in August 2018, on a warm and sunny afternoon. The 100 tonne crane moved her without a hitch, and the next few weeks were spent preparing for a small voyage to a new home, roughly 8 hours of sailing away (Kinsale Co.Cork Ireland). For the next few years or so we built Zoras interior from the ground up, many long days and late nights we set sail on our travels in April 2021 .

In c.1998, Zora sailed into Baltimore harbour, West Cork, under a Swiss skipper that was on his way around the world. As stories tend to do when they aren’t documented at the time, the ones about Zora were passed by word of mouth over the years until we heard them for ourselves. On their way up to Ireland via the Med, Zora and her then Skipper were at some point on their way past Morocco where they were approached by two small wooden boats with armed pirates aboard. Zora was used as a battering ram and one of the boats suffered major damage as a result, leaving the other boat busy enough that Zora could slip away unharmed. Whether or not this story is true is up for debate, but as the saying goes there is no smoke without fire. Speaking of fire, Zora and her Skippers plans were cuts short as one night while at anchor in Baltimore harbour she burst into flames and had to be towed to the nearest pier where a fire engine was waiting.

Zora was then bought from the insurance company by a local yard owner and sat relatively untouched until 2012. In that time rust had taken a significant hold on the metal especially on the deck, which resulted in a large part of the boat full of holes and unrepairable steel. To most, the boat was too far beyond economic repair and would need a huge amount of vision and work to get back to a useable standard. This is where Nick, a local boat builder in search of his next challenge, stepped in to take on the task.

He heard that the boat was going to be scrapped along with the steel shed that was surrounding her and made an offer to buy it. The offer was accepted and the work began in a local boat yard (Hegartys Boat Yard, Old Court) soon after.Nick worked tirelessly for years on Zora from 2012 up till 2017 removing every inch of badly rusted steel which resulted in a new deck from bow to stern and much of the hull repaired. The cockpit was moved a foot aft and the aft cabin was taken up with an extra couple of feet in the cockpit, which resulted in a nice helm position and extra space in the cockpit for crew.

The hull was also strengthened by adding a compression post to both port and starboard, and extra ribs were addeed to the underside of the deck. An unisusred boat broke its mooring in a storm and was wrecked loaccaly as as payment for cleaning the beach that the boats seldon mast, good sails and sole engine from the boat was acquired for Zora. Once all the steel work was finished Zora was then sand blasted and coated with quality primer inside and out to protect the hard work that was done from rusting again. One paragraph can’t do justice to the level of work that was done to Zora, nor can it show the quality of the work completed, however when seen in person it speaks for itself very well.

It was then that Nick came across a boat he had wanted for a long time going for a reasonable sum and decided that he would buy it, leaving him torn between finishing Zora which would take several more years and a not inconsiderable amount of money or to improve the boat he just bought. He chose the latter which resulted in the ad that Rhys had seen but his change of heart meant she was marked as sold. (Incidentally, Nick has been a huge part of the project and to this day we still share ideas very often. As someone who didn’t have much experience in boat building, we are very grateful for the guidance, help and friendship that resulted in buying Zora from what turned out to be the right person)


What made us buy Zora?

After crossing the Atlantic (Rhys) the passion for owning a boat grew and visions of adventures to be had ignited a spark in both of us. Seeing the stars in their millions in a pitch dark sky, or the vibrant bioluminescence that spill out along the top of the waves, and the flying fish bursting out of the water as you slowly trundle by toe rail to toe rail are memories one will have forever.  After spending 23 days at sea, arriving in Martinique and exploring the islands for the next few weeks, we both arrived home to  find our own boat and begin our own little adventure.

Two weeks later we were standing in a wet and windy boat yard in West Cork looking up at a Rival 32 project that was for sale. Despite the legendary status of the Rival 32 as capable cruiser for 2 it didn’t take us long to realise that 32 feet might be a little bit small for what we personally wanted from a boat. While standing on the deck of that Rival however, we spent some time looking around the boat yard at all the other potential projects. In the corner standing quite a bit taller than a lot of her neighbours was that same Dick Koopmans bare hull that had been advertised in the classifieds when Rhys found Frantic. The cogs started turning. Miraculously, the owner (Nick, which Rhys had been in contact with years prior) still owned the boat and even better, he was willing to part with it. Zora , here adventurous stories in tow, became our boat and we were determined to get her back in the water and are determined to get her sailing the world.