The steel motor trawler Blue Crusader was launched from the yard of John Lewis and Sons, Aberdeen on 21st May 1958. She measured 120.9′ x 25.1′ x 11.4′ and her tonnage was 274 gross tons, 90 net tons. She was powered by a 7 cylinder 2SA diesel engine by H Widdup and Co Ltd., Keighley, delivering 640 brake horse power. Owned by the Crusader Fishing of Aberdeen she operated mainly on the Icelandic and Faroese fishing grounds.
At 9:30 am on 13th January 1965 Blue Crusader left Aberdeen heading for the fishing grounds around the Faroes under the command of her skipper Fred Baker with a crew of thirteen men aboard. They proceeded north for most of the day when Baker radioed the Scottish King, another Aberdeen fishing vessel, and confirmed that they were both heading for the Faroese fishing grounds. As the evening wore on the air pressure began to drop and the two skippers agreed to check in with each other for weather updates as they continued north. At around 2am the skipper of the Scottish King radioed Blue Crusader which was approximately three hours ahead of the Scottish King but could not raise them on the radio despite a number of attempts to do so. Sheltering off Stronsay in what had become a northerly force 8 or 9 gale, the Scottish King’s skipper continued to send out messages but the Blue Crusader did not respond. The gale finally subsided and the Scottish King resumed her voyage north. A second Aberdeen fishing vessel, the Bracondene, had also been in touch with the Blue Crusader between 8:00 and 8:30pm on the night of the13th This was the last conversation with the crew of the Blue Crusader.
As the days passed without contact from the Blue Crusader, which was on a planned fourteen day voyage, the personnel at the managing company’s office became increasingly concerned about their whereabouts. Finally, on 26th January, an article appeared in the local press in Aberdeen raising fears for her safety. The coastguards were alerted to a possible problem and a search was initiated which eventually involved lifeboats and aircraft but no signs could be found of the missing fishing boat. On the 5th February two hatch covers were discovered at Start Point, Sanday and a lifebuoy with Blue Crusader name and number on it was discovered on Auskerry. It was clear that the Blue Crusader had succumbed to the storm which had passed through the area east of Orkney on the night of the 13th and 14th with the loss of everyone aboard.
The location of the loss of the Blue Crusader remained a mystery until 2010 when a wreck first surveyed in 2006 lying in position 59° 03.206’N, 02° 03.619’W was investigated by divers from Orkney. Initial scans of the vessel on the seabed were matched to the plans of the Blue Crusader indicating that the wreck profile closely matched the profile of the Blue Crusader. The identity was finally confirmed when divers visited the wreck the following month. She lies in 65 metres with a least depth of 58 metres on her starboard side oriented 071/251 degrees. The hull is holed on both port and starboard sides and the deck housing has been damaged probably by trawl gear at some later date.
We would like to thanks Lloyd’s Register Foundation – Heritage & Education Centre for allowing us to reproduce documents from their archive in this article.