Hugh Brown, the South African businessman leading a project to provide Mozambique with its first ever maritime research vessel, has paid tribute to South African workmanship required to fulfill his dream.

A team of wooden ship specialists poured over 1000 hours of work into the restoration of The Reef Explorer, coordinated by Saldanha-based Cleanships Marine. The vessel is due to leave for Mozambique in late August. “It’s very tough to find the skills these days to do this,” Brown told SABBEX. “To have her completely restored, inside and out, in all respects, it’s a massive job.”

“I feel extremely privileged to have acquired this vessel, and to have sailed all the way to Cape Town from the Baltic Sea,” Brown said.

The restoration project was managed by Craig Middleton, one of South Africa’s most respected sailors. To begin with the team had to strip off aluminium plating essential to the ship’s previous mandate – to conduct research in the ice floes round Greenland and elsewhere in the arctic circle. “Then there were specialist people who closed all the pinholes from the plating,” Brown explained.

Next all the old caulking was removed and replaced by new caulking. Then came sealing with epoxy, then epoxying the rest of the hull, then primer and then paint.

“The hull is basically brand new, the same with topsides and decks,” Brown enthused.

He said the next challenge is to remain fit enough to keep up with the vessel as it flits between Mozambican islands, carrying out much-needed marine research. “It’s a really fantastic venture, far bigger than I would ever have expected. It’s all very exciting and we should be leaving for Mozambique by the end of August. It will be the first research vessel to work in Mozambique, ever.”

“It’s something nice to do at my age,” Brown said.

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