MV Captayannis lies on a sandbank in the Firth of Clyde, midway between Helensburgh and Greenock. Known locally as the sugar boat, the wreck can be seen from most towns and villages on the upper firth, and by travellers on the coastal railway line between Glasgow and Helensburgh.
Built by A/S Nakskov Skibbs of Denmark, and originally launched in September 1946 as Norden the ship was of 4,576 gross tons, 126 metres length, 17 metres beam, 8 metres draught, and powered by a B & W 6 cylinder engine of 2,300 bhp. Sold in 1963 to M & SJ Paleocrassas Bros, Piraeus, Greece, the ship was renamed Captayannis.
Captayannis had visited the Clyde in 1973 to deliver raw sugar from the Caribbean to the sugar terminal in James Watt Dock, Greenock, for processing at the Tate & Lyle Westburn Refinery, which closed on August 29, 1997.
While the links below show the Captayannis shortly before her loss in the clyde, we received a surprise from a collector in Mozambique, who provided an image of Norden as seen on a postcard, thanks to an interest not in ships, but the sugar trade.
In January 1974, Captayannis had arrived in the Clyde and anchored at the Tail of the Bank (the upper firth anchorage near the promontory of Ardmore Point) with a with a cargo of sugar from Lourenco Marques in Portuguese East Africa, and was waiting to enter the James Watt Dock where the cargo would be offloaded at the sugar terminal. Ships have to wait for high tide before using this wet dock as this is normally the only time the caisson is opened to allow large ships to enter or leave.
On the night of January 27, 1974, the weather suddenly deteriorated and a severe gale hit the west coast, with winds exceeding 60 miles per hour in the normally calm anchorage. Captayannis began to drag anchor, and Captain Theodorakis Ionnis ordered the engine started, with the intention of making for the more sheltered waters of the Gare Loch. Also anchored at the Tail of the Bank was the 36,754 ton BP tanker British Light, recently arrived from Elderslie dry dock. Before Captayannis could be brought to power, the gale had blown the cargo ship towards the tanker, and although the two vessels did not touch, the taught anchor chain of the tanker ripped through the passing cargo ship's hull. It was quickly apparent that the ship's pumps could not cope with the seawater flowing in through the ruptured hull, and the captain made for the sandbank in the hope of grounding the stricken vessel. Although he reached the sandbank, the profile of the hull meant the grounded vessel was not stable, and began to heel over to to port, causing all power to be lost as the seawater flooded in, and Captayannis eventually settled port side down on the sandbank.
The crew were rescued without injury by the tug Labrador and the MV Rover of Clyde Marine Service, apparently able to simply jump off the stricken vessel on to the decks of the smaller craft. 25 crew members were taken to shore on board Rover, while Captain Ionnis and four others waited on board the tug as it stood off for a time. The cargo of raw sugar was lost to sea.
The grounded vessel lies where it came to rest in 1974.
Reported to have been the subject of a huge dispute between all parties involved, issues such as ownership and insurance were never satisfactorily resolved, and although the wreck lies in relatively shallow waters there has never been any attempt to salvage the remains, which are slowly rusting away in the Clyde. About eight metres of the hull lie below sea level, with the starboard side about four metres above, appearing to be small island from some viewpoint.
Due to the shallow water water and long presence of the wreck, it is not considered a hazard to navigation.
The structure has been stripped if all its fittings, and has become haven for wildlife such as seabirds and fish, and a well known attraction for divers.
- Captayannis arriving at James Watt Dock, 1973
- Captayannis: The Clyde's Most Obvious Wreck. Clydesite magazine.
- Bird's Eye view
- Anniversary of landmark 'sugar boat' sinking | Helensburgh & Lomond | News | Helensburgh Advertiser Retrieved February 08, 2014.
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