I thought, “it’s probably just a child’s way of seeing things’’ , but as the usual morning rush was on I decided, ‘’Best have a quick look.’’ Sure enough, there in the middle of the Clyde was a vessel lying at a very peculiar angle: it was the Captayannis just before she finally capsized.
The ship, with a cargo of sugar from East Africa, had anchored about half a mile off shore at the Tail of the Bank waiting to discharge at James Watt Dock, Greenock. But that Sunday night severe gales hit the West coast of Scotland and soon winds in excess of 60 miles an hour were lashing the Clyde. In these weather conditions the Captayannis began to drag her anchor. Orders were given to start her engines and make for shelter. But before they had sufficient power to get underway the ship was blown across the anchor chain of the BP tanker British Light moored nearby, ripping a long, gaping hole on the port side of the Captayannis. Her pumps could not cope with the water flooding in and soon she began to list to port. With the continuing atrocious weather and total power failure, the Captain and crew of 29 were taken off without loss of life or injury, leaving the Captayannis aground on a sand-bank in the middle of the Clyde.
According to newspaper reports, difficulties arose between the ship’s insurers and others who had an interest in the vessel, so salvage was not attempted and is unlikely to happen now. Greennok and Port Glasgow have a proud marine history and many from the area have been to sea so have a deep understanding of how the shipwrecked crew must have felt. The Tail of the Bank can be a difficult place to find a safe and secure anchorage but the price for not doing so can be great.
We can all learn lessons from this tragic event. If there had not been a storm the ship’s anchorage would have been adequate; but there was a storm and the anchorage proved unsatisfactory. The Captayannis is a witness to the power of the storm and also to the danger of inadequate anchorage. It’s easy to be wise after the event – but if they had moved to shelter sooner, the outcome might have been different. In life too we must make for shelter sooner rather than later; it’s so easy to keep putting things off. Shelter and a safe anchorage is available through Jesus’ death for us on the cross, but we must invite Him on board. Revelation chapter 3 at verse 20 shows us the way – “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in,” says Jesus. The Captayannis is a warning to mariners and to us all to make preparation for the storm and make sure we have a safe anchorage.
Pray for those whose lives are often in danger to bring us so many of the things we need.
Jim Jamieson, port chaplain S.C.F.S. (retired)
Jim Jamieson has worked as Port Chaplain with the Seamen’s Christian Friend Society for 38 years but is now retired. Jim has counselled many seamen over the years.