Skipper’s poor safety ‘nearly cost lives’

TWO fishermen who went to sea unprepared put themselves and others in ‘significant danger’, a marine investigation has found.
Skipper Jim Reid, 75, and his grandson David Irvine, 35, sparked a massive North Sea search and rescue effort when they vanished in thick fog on an early morning trip in their 16ft creel boat Water-rail last May.
They were feared dead after several lifeboats, two search and rescue helicopters and numerous civilian vessels spent days combing the coast for the boat, which had no radio on board.
They were eventually found alive and well by a passing deep sea trawler, having drifted almost 50 miles out to sea.
But the Marine Accident Investigation Branch criticised their lack of preparation and ‘poor safety practices’.
In a report published yesterday, investigators said the skipper ‘lacked the competence necessary to navigate safely in the prevailing conditions placing himself, his grandson, his boat and other vessels in significant danger’.
The lack of a radio on the boat contravened safe practice, the onboard compass was not set up properly and Reid’s grandson lacked formal training and should not have been a regular crew member, the report concluded.
‘The skipper of Water-rail and his grandson were extremely fortunate that they were spotted and then rescued by the crew of the trawler Sylvia Bowers.
‘This incident has identified the skipper’s poor safety practices, which resulted in his rapid loss of situational awareness, an unnecessary search and a difficult experience for his family.’
The two men had left Gourdon harbour, on the Aberdeenshire coast, at 4am on May 20 to tend their creels in Bervie Bay. But when they failed to return at noon that day, the search got underway.
The men spent two days lost in thick fog and cold conditions, surviving on bottled water and biscuits, as they were swept further and further out to sea.
By the morning of May 22 the search had been called off, with the men presumed dead. However, the crew of the Sylvia Bowers trawler later found the small boat in the deep waters of the North Sea.
The trawler’s skipper contacted the coastguard, and an RNLI lifeboat crew from Montrose picked up the men.
The marine investigators said: ‘Had the skipper given due consideration to the expected visibility and the limitations of his equipment it would have become apparent that proceeding to sea was unsafe.
‘The subsequent decision to press ahead and attempt to cross Bervie Bay, based on a flawed assumption that the fog would dissipate, was ill-judged and almost cost the skipper and his grandson their lives.’