In the four years I have spent in the Isle of Lewis, the hazards of life at sea have been amply illustrated in a number of tragedies and accidents. A common theme ran through three of these, which I'm highlighting below. This entry is dedicated to the memory of those lost at sea.
6 November 2008
A fishing boat went down off Bayble, some 5 miles east of Stornoway. Fortunately, all crew were saved uninjured. An inquiry has revealed that the skipper had left the wheelhouse of the Faithful Friend II a few minutes beforehand to make a cup of coffee, leaving the boat to proceed on auto-pilot. She struck a rock, which was well charted, and sank fairly quickly. A quick Mayday call, nearby vessels and a rapid response from the Coastguard prevented loss of life. The owner of the Faithful Friend II has been forcefully reminded of the necessity of watch-keeping on his boats at all times.
1 June 2006
Fishing boat Brothers leaves the harbour of Gairloch in Wester Ross (southeast of Stornoway) and proceeds to head west across the Minch. It never returned to port, and sound nor sight was seen of it again. A massive search was launched in the Minch, but the wreck of the Brothers was finally located beneath 40 feet / 12 metres of water off an island just north of Skye. The bodies of the two men on board were not in the wreck. One of them turned up in Gruinard Bay, 35 miles to the northeast 3 weeks later. The other was never found. It is thought they left port after a few drinks the evening before and dropped off to sleep. When the boat ran aground, it must have sunk quickly, leaving them no chance to save themselves.
19 December 2004
Fishing boat Audacious leaves Stornoway harbour in the early hours of the morning. The crew leave the boat on auto-pilot, which appears to malfunction. At 6.30 a.m., the boat runs aground just south of the lighthouse at Arnish. The skipper drowned, but two other crew were rescued.
A memorial to the skipper was later erected near the lighthouse.