Trawler Collision 1983

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In October 1983 whilst at Anchor off Brixham harbour in the south of England there was a loud bang at 6AM in the morning........

thanks to Keith Agar for saving a crumpled cutting from the local paper


A transcript from the front page of the "HERALD EXPRESS" local Torbay paper 26/10/83

A BRIXHAM trawler crashed into a naval ship just off shore today as thick fog reduced visibility to 100 yards.

Only the water-tight bulkhead inside the bows of the 52ft wooden side trawler, the Esther Colleen stopped it sinking with its two fishermen onboard.

The boat was on its way out of Brixham for a day's fishing when it smashed into the frigate, Ambuscade, Which was anchored only a few hundred yards out to sea off the Brixham breakwater

The crash led to an angry reaction from Mr. Bob Curtis, the Brixham pilot, who claimed the frigate was anchored in a daft place."

Mr. Curtis said: "When trawlers go out round the breakwater they turn for Berry Head, he should have anchored in the middle of the bay. These are no rules or regulations, but I would have thought commonsense would have prevailed. You do not park in somebody's driveway."

The collision severely damaged the bows of the trawler, which started taking in water.

The Ambuscade alerted The Brixham coastguards who made direct contact with the Esther Colleen.

Its skipper, Mr. Ian Bagwell, and crew, Mr. John Bosley, reported there was no immediate danger. Another Brixham-based trawler, the Livine, went alongside and towed the stricken fishing vessel back into Brixham. A Brixham Coastguard official said: "they just did not see the warship in the fog and hit her. It was as simple as that. They were extremely fortunate that the water-tight- bulkhead held. It would have sunk otherwise."

After limping into Brixham harbour, courtesy of the Livine which is skippered by Mr. Malcolm Cooke, the Esther Colleen was beached.

A local salvage expert, Mr. Tony Ridd, put a pump on board and started removing the vast amount of water the vessel had taken in.

Mr. Bagwell, whose father Stan Bagwell of Exmouth, is understood to own the boat, was waiting for the tide to go out before the full extent of damaged could be established.

The Royal Navy in Plymouth said that the Plymouth based type 21 frigate suffered only superficial paint damage after being struck amidships.

He added: "I do not know exactly where she was parked so I could not comment. What Mr. Curtis is saying is only a matter of opinion. All we know is that there was thick fog."
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