Project Background

Originally built and launched by JL Thornycroft back in 1938, the classic motor yacht Shemara has a rich maritime history and often featured in the worlds media under her original owners, Sir Bernard Docker and his wife Lady Norah who famously enjoyed the yacht amongst the trappings of the French Riviera with prestigious guests of the era including Grace Kelly and Marilyn Monroe. The yacht was sold on in the 1960s, and soon found herself laid up in Lowestoft, Suffolk, where she sat idle and out of the limelight until acquisition by the current owner.

The new Owner had a vision to transform Shemara and restore the vessel to her former glories via a meticulous refit, including modern yacht technology and propulsion systems whilst sympathetically retaining the best of her heritage features. She was towed to Portsmouth from Lowestoft in 2010 where the refit works began; to coincide with the start of works the Owner created Shemara Refit LLP to control and manage the refit himself - this organisation organically evolved into The SMS Group of today. 

Our Work

Initially our involvement in the project was an underwater inspection carried out in the port of Lowestoft by our diving team to ascertain the condition of her hull. Once declared fit for sea, Shemara was towed to Portsmouth where our technical management and engineering team completed the strip-down and removal of the old superstructure and interior prior to taking her out of the water on the adjacent Roll Royce Syncrolift. 

She was then transited to the neighbouring shed where Shemara Refit LLP managed her extraordinary transformation. All the marine engineering, structural repairs and renewals, and the mechanical installation/s we’re all managed by our technical staff. Additionally, we supplied the project with SHE and infrastructure support services, and the management team to complete both interior and exterior outfit. The whole refit / program of works was handled in-house. Once the refit was complete we relaunched the vessel and provided riding crews on her delivery to the Owner. The refit report is available online at

Resulting Success

On 16th April 2014, after more than three years of work, Shemara was launched back into the water from the ship lift facility at the top of Portsmouth Harbour.  Following her launch, she was taken under tow to Southampton for final fit-out, commissioning and sea trials.

The refit was a resounding success and proof that the UK has the expertise and knowhow to rival superyacht refit yards of Europe and further afield. It also helped to establish The SMS Group as a serious contender in the support and restoration of classic yacht refit projects.

We continue to support Shemara today with yacht management assistance and also marine procurement services via our sister company, Global Services.

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client testimonials

You should be very proud of all that you do, it is wonderful.
Classic Yacht Owner
Many thanks for your rapid work today; we are back in action again
Chief Engineer, Solent Ship Operator
Please pass on my thanks and also the thanks from my Chief Executive and Operations Director, the support of the SMS team is very much appreciated
Head of Engineering, Solent Ferry Operator
Many thanks for your teams hard graft, the work was completed and as always I am extremely happy with the quality
Colour Sergeant, Royal Marines HM Naval Base Devonport
Thank the welders, the work that they produced was to the highest standard and were great to work with
Project Manager, UK Shipyard
ship repair call-out 2 hour response zones.
ship repair 2 hour response