The Comet II was a wooden hulled paddle steamer built by James Lang at Dumbarton and launched in 1821. Her wooden hull had dimensions of approximately 81.0’ x 13.8’ x 9.0’. The vessel was powered by a simple single cylinder steam engine supplied by Duncan McArthur of Glasgow.
One of the earliest and most catastrophic of all steamship disasters to take place on the Clyde was the loss of the Comet II. She had been built to replace the Comet I, the pioneer of commercial steamship navigation, which was wrecked off Craignish Point, Argyll in 1821.
In the early hours of Friday 21st October, 1825 the Comet II, inward bound on her regular run from Inverness to Glasgow, sank after colliding with the paddlesteamer Ayr. The collision occurred off Kempock Point, Gourock, the Comet II sinking in three minutes, taking with her around seventy three passengers and crew. The final death toll was never fully established, as the check of passengers leaving or joining the vessel at intermediate ports was not kept. However, thirteen people managed to struggle ashore including her master, Duncan McInnes.
Meanwhile, the Ayr had put back to Greenock without making any attempt to save those struggling in the water. Much was made of this in the newspapers of the day although, as the Ayr was badly damaged and presumed to be in a sinking condition, the master of the Ayr decided to return to Greenock immediately to avoid further loss of life.
An attempt to raise the Comet II was made during December 1825, but was hampered by various problems, not least by the weather. The wreck lay off Kempock Point in seventeen fathoms until the following summer, when a further attempt was made. The salvage contract was let to a Mr Brown of Aberdeen, who submitted the lowest tender. Salvage works took almost two weeks, the wreck finally being beached on 21st July, 1826.
The cause of the collision was attributed to the lack of navigation lights and bow lookout aboard the Comet II. Captain Duncan McInnes was later charged with culpable homicide, culpable neglect and reckless command in steering the vessel. He received a three month jail sentence.