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Wreck Report for 'Otto Mccombie', 1895

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Unique ID:16657
Description:BOT Wreck Report for 'Otto Mccombie', 1895
Creator:Board of Trade
Copyright:Out of copyright
Partner:SCC Libraries
Partner ID:Unknown


(No. 5081.)


The Merchant Shipping Act, 1894.

IN the matter of a formal Investigation held at the Sheriff Court, Glasgow, on the 30th and 31st days of January 1895, before Sheriff ERSKINE MURRAY, assisted by Commander BRAGG and Captain BIGLEY, into the circumstances attending the stranding of the British steamship "OTTO MCCOMBIE," of Glasgow, on or near Plough Rocks, Holy Island, Northumberland, on or about the 9th January 1895.

Report of Court.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the annex hereto, that the casualty occurred through an improper course being steered, and finds the master in default. The Court suspends his certificate, No. 31,969, for three months; but recommends that a mate's certificate be granted to him if applied for.

Dated this 31st day of January 1895.




We concur in the above report.









Annex to the Report.

The "Otto McCombie," official number 75,257, was a screw steamship built of iron by Messrs. W. B. Thomson at Dundee in 1879, her dimensions being as follows:—Length, 150 ft.; breadth, 22.1 ft.; depth of hold from tonnage deck to ceiling at midships, 12 ft.; her tonnage being 341.40 tons gross and 210.07 tons nett. She was schooner rigged, and was fitted with two direct-acting compound inverted cylinder engines of 60 nominal horse-power combined. At the time of her loss she was registered at the port of Glasgow, and Mr. Robert Brown Ballantyre, of 21, St. Vincent Street, Glasgow, was designated as her manager.

The "Otto McCombie," having loaded a full cargo of 390 tons of coals at the port of Amble, in Northumberland, left that place on January 9th at about 2 p.m., bound for Dundee, her draught of water being 11 ft. 2 in. forward and 13 ft. 2 in. aft. She appears to have been well found and equipped for the voyage, and had boats and life-saving appliances according to the Board of Trade requirements. Her crew numbered 10 hands all told, and she was under the command of Mr. Archibald Johnston, who holds a certificate of competency as master, No. 31,969. When the vessel left Amble she proceeded at full speed, 7 to 8 knots; the tide was about first quarter ebb, the wind light from N.N.W., the weather slightly hazy, but vessels could be seen four to five miles off. Various courses were steered to coast up along the English shore, and about 4 p.m., when the mate took charge of the watch, the North Sunderland Buoy was abeam to the westward, distant one and a half to two miles, estimated by the eye. The ship's course was then set N. by W., and altered shortly afterwards to N.N.W. at about 4.35; the Swadman Buoy was passed, bearing E.S.E., at an estimated distance of a quarter of a mile. The master stated that from this point he set the course N. by W. 1/2 W. magnetic, to pass between the Goldstone Buoy, which is painted black and marks the west side of the Goldstone Rock and the Plough Buoy, which is painted red, and marks the east side of the Plough Shoal. The vessel was still going full speed, the weather being still fine and clear and the wind about N.N.W., with a swell from the N.E. At about 5 p.m. a dense fog set in. The master appears to have been on the bridge, the first mate and a seaman, David Anderson, at the wheel, composing the watch. The mate about this time had relieved the seaman from the wheel to get his tea; but the seaman stated that he had scarcely got below when all hands were called on deck on account of the density of the fog. The mate stated that the master told him—the mate—to watch the clock, and let him know when 22 minutes had elapsed after passing Swadman Buoy. When this 22 minutes had elapsed the mate reported so to the master, when it is said the course was altered to N.; but the speed was not slackened, and while the vessel was in the act of answering her port helm to change the course, she struck the ground, as the master states, about 5.10 p.m. It will thus be seen that there is some discrepancy in the time of the running from passing the Swadman Buoy to the place of grounding, as from one event to the other, according to the evidence, 35 minutes had elapsed, and had the course been altered to N. at the 22 minutes run from the Swadman Buoy the vessel would have passed with safety through the channel. It may here also be remarked that although the patent log had been streamed and set at the Swadman Buoy, no notice had been taken of it while the vessel was running from the buoy to the place where she stranded. About two minutes after the stranding the engines were stopped, but not reversed, as the master stated he was afraid the vessel would sink in deep water. The vessel bumped heavily on the rocks, took a heavy list to port, and commenced to make water so rapidly that the engine-room pumps would have been unable to keep it under. The safety valves were now opened to let off steam, and in a short time the boiler fires were extinguished by the water rising. A flare-up was burnt, and answered from the shore by a rocket. A short time afterwards the weather cleared a little, and it was found that the vessel had stranded on the Plough Shoal, off Holy Island, coast of Northumberland, about 50 yards to the west of the red buoy before mentioned. The master now ordered the boats to be put out, and all the crew got away from the vessel safely. After some time the crew were taken on board a fishing smack, by which they were conveyed to Holy Island, and landed there at about 7.20 p.m. The crew lost most of their effects, but no lives were lost by this casualty. The vessel has since become a total wreck.

The Board of Trade desire the opinion of the Court upon the following questions:—

1. What number of compasses had the vessel, where were they placed, were they in good order, and sufficient for the safe navigation of the vessel?

2. When and by whom were they last adjusted?

3. Did the master ascertain the deviation of his compasses from time to time, were the errors correctly ascertained and the proper correction to the courses applied?

4. Whether proper measures were taken to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at or about 4 p.m. on 9th January and from time to time thereafter?

5. Whether safe and proper courses were set and steered at and after 4 p.m. of the 9th January, and whether due and proper allowance was made for tide current and beam sea

6. Whether, having regard to the state of the weather after 4 p.m. of the 9th January, the vessel was navigated at too great a rate of speed?

7. Whether a good and proper look-out was kept

8. Whether the total neglect of the lead was justifiable?

9. What was the cause of the casualty?

10. Whether the vessel was navigated with proper and seamanlike care?

11. Whether the master and mate are, or either of them, is in default?

12. What was the value of the vessel when she left Amble on the 9th January last?

13. What were she insurances effected upon or in connection with her?

In the opinion of the Board of Trade the certificate of the master should be dealt with.

Dated this 30th day of January 1895.




Solicitor representing

the Board of Trade.

Answers by the Court.

1. There were three compasses, of which only two were in working order, viz., the pole compass, about 6 feet above the upper bridge, and the steering compass in front of the wheel on the lower bridge. They were in good order and sufficient for the navigation of the vessel.

2. They were last adjusted about 1889 by Messrs. Wilson, North Shields.

3. So far as the evidence goes this was the case.

4. No such measures were taken at or about 4 p.m. on 9th January, nor was any such measure taken subsequently, except that the master instructed the mate to inform him when the vessel had run on the course set from Swadman Buoy for 22 minutes, the period that he considered should elapse before the course should be changed. This measure, however, was insufficient.

5. A safe and proper course was not set and steered after passing Swadman Buoy, as the course then set led them directly to the place where they struck. No allowance was made for either current or sea, as they were supposed to balance each other.

6. The vessel was not navigated at too great a rate of speed up to 4.50 p.m. on 9th January, but the fog setting in then, she was navigated at too great a rate of speed thereafter.

7. A good and proper look-out does not appear to have been kept before the fog came on, but thereafter three men are stated to have been placed for that object on the forecastle head.

8. The total neglect of the lead was not justifiable.

9. The course being set and steered after passing the Swadman Buoy, which being continued unaltered became an improper course, and placed the ship on the rocks.

10. The vessel was not navigated with proper and seamanlike care.

11. The master alone was in default.

12. The value of the vessel was about 4,500l.

13. The vessel's hull and machinery were insured for 4,100l.; besides insurances on premiums and disbursements of 900l. and 100l. on freight.

In the circumstances the Court considers that the master was in default, and suspends his certificate for three months from this date.












81564—203. 180.—2/95. Wt. 60. E. & S.


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