Stand almost anywhere around
the upper reaches of the Firth of Clyde and you will hardly fail to notice
one of it's most famous landmarks.
Locally referred to as "the sugar boat" she lies on a sandbank at the
Tail o' the Bank (the upper firth anchorage) near to the promontory of
Ardmore Point and was the 8325 grt Greek cargo ship CAPTAYANNIS.
On the evening of 27th January 1974 the area suffered from a terrific
storm which blew the vessel from its anchor (it was waiting to deliver
sugar to the James Watt Dock) and caused it to collide with the BP tanker
BRITISH LIGHT. The tanker suffered no damage but the anchor chains of the
tanker holed the sugar boat allowing water to pour into her.
Her captain decided to try and make for the sheltered waters of the
Gareloch but realised the waters were flowing in so fast she was in
imminent danger of sinking, the best thing to do was beach her in the
shallow waters over the sandbank and he steered her to the desired spot
where she stuck fast and started to heel over. The pilot boats, the tug
LABRADOR and Clyde Marine Motoring's ROVER came to assist.
The vessel had heeled over so far it was possible for the crew to simply
jump onto the deck of the diminutive passenger vessel! 25 of the crew were
taken to shore, but the Captain and four other crewmen waited on the
LABRADOR standing off the stricken vessel.
ROVER, who helped rescue the crew. She still plies the Firth to this day. (Photo 2005 John Crae)
Next morning the ship finally succumbed and went over on her side and she
has lain there ever since, rusting away, most, if not all of her more
valuable metals and fittings have been removed by looters. Little remains
of her split-style superstructure and through time she has become a 'home'
to marine life and birds.
Why has she never been removed? Much confusion surrounds the
identity of her owners, and no-one is willing to be responsible for her
removal. There were once plans to have her blown up, but Ardmore Point is
a sensitive bird sanctuary and there were fears such a drastic course of
action would have negative repercussions - so it seems she will
remain there until every piece of metal has rusted away.
She is a melancholy sight indeed, and evinces much public interest, but
little is known of her by onlookers, all they see is the rusting remains
of a sugar boat. So, to balance that up, along with pictures of her as she
is today, the last picture on this page will depict her in happier times.
My thanks to John Crae, Tom Carreyette, David Watson, Paul Strathdee and
Andrew Vaughan for posting these pictures on ClydeShipping's forum along
with other information that has helped make this article possible.
The story on the front page of the Greenock Telegraph on the day after she
first encountered difficulties (Posted on CS by Tom Carreyette, the
picture at the top of this page was taken by Tom in 1984)
A misty day with the wreck lying on its side (taken by John Crae)
Andrew Vaughan posted this as part of a set of (rather gruesome!) pictures
of her as she is today
Very few people have ever seen a picture of her as she was. This splendid
shot comes from the lens of Robin Wilson and shows her entering James Watt
Dock in 1973 - Robin would never have guessed her fate shortly after would
be so violent, and so close at home. Posted by Paul Strathdee.