The steel motor trawler Ben Barvas was launched from the Aberdeen yard of John Lewis and Sons Ltd. on 11th June 1957. She measured 125.0′ x 25.4′ x 12.0′ and her tonnage was 294 gross tons, 101 net tons. She was powered by a 6 cylinder diesel engine by Mirlees, Bickerton and Day Ltd., Stockton delivering 690 brake horse power.
She was owned by Richard Irvin and Sons Ltd. of Aberdeen who operated one of the most successful fishing fleets on the east coast. Her fishing number was A175.
At 10:15am on 3rd January, 1964 the Ben Barvas left her home port of Aberdeen under the command of her usual skipper Joseph Berry with a crew of thirteen experienced fishermen heading for the Icelandic fishing grounds. By mid afternoon she was abeam Rattray Head with one of the deckhands at the wheel and the course was altered to NNW taking the trawler on a bearing that would take her between Duncansby Head and the Skerries … the usual route taken by Aberdeen trawlers on the outbound route to the fishing grounds but the first such voyage undertaken by the skipper. Berry returned to the wheelhouse at 6:30pm when a second deckhand took over the wheel but almost immediately returned to the radio room where he was talking to other trawler skippers who were in the Iceland area to ascertain the success of their catches and the possible location of fish.
At around 9:30pm a third deckhand now at the wheel reported a light close off the starboard bow. The skipper finally ordered a course change to WNW but almost immediately after the Ben Barvas ran hard aground at the south end of Little Pentland Skerries. She sent out a distress call and radioed Longhope lifeboat station for assistance. She was hard aground, clearly holed and began listing as the tide rose. This caused enough alarm to launch a boat and five of the crew climbed aboard. They attempted to launch a second boat but a large swell swept over the deck and washed it overboard. Thankfully the lifeboat arrived soon after and managed to get a line aboard the stranded vessel. The remainder of the crew were safely taken off by breeches buoy. Another trawler picked up the five men from the liferaft.
The subsequent enquiry found the loss of the Ben Barvas to be entirely due to the skipper’s failure to navigate his vessel with due care missing multiple opportunities to verify the position of the Ben Barvas before she ran aground on the Skerries.
The vessel became a total wreck. Her deteriorating remains are high and dry where she went ashore and are visible at all states of the tide in approximate position 58° 40.446’N, 002° 54.626’W.
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