SOUTH Tyneside’s last boat builder is feeling washed out after his workshop was swamped during the worst floods in recent history.
Fred Crowell worked against the clock to save his equipment as the Tyne flooded his workshop in Wapping Street, South Shields, during the tidal surge earlier this month.
The man who was called in to try to save the stricken trawler Grenaa Star, which is grounded at Littlehaven, South Shields, after colliding with the pier, has his own battle with the sea.
Despite receiving advance warning, Mr Crowell was stunned to find his 110-year–old building under 4ft of water, and he lost £7,000-worth of specialist equipment.
He said: “We were told there was a chance the water would be higher than normal, but there was this sudden surge and within a few minutes the place was filled with water.
“Nobody down here can recall seeing anything like this within the last 60 years.
“We were up to our waists in water trying to collect things which were floating about, but the motor for the lights, which puts out 440 volts kicked in so we got out of the water quite swiftly.”
The biggest loss to Mr Crowell, of Cleadon Village, is a 50 year old Colchester Master Lathe, which he bought from South Tyneside Marine and Technical College 20 years ago.
The tool is used to shape metal and create bearings and, unlike modern digital tools, is operated manually.
He said: “The motor and the control board have gone. We have saved most of the bits, but we can’t use it.
“I am hoping perhaps an old engineering firm might have one lying about. You never know.”
Mr Crowell, who also lost timber and numerous other tools, wasn’t insured for his losses and is now having to pass his work elsewhere.
He said: “Due to where the workshop is, right on the river, no insurers would touch me, so it’s just a case of having to clean up, which we’re still doing, and getting on with it.
“There’s been quite a bit of mess.”