The Erskine was built by John Reid and Co Ltd., Whiteinch and launched in June 1903. Constructed of steel and powered by a steam engine, she was designed as a chain ferry. Her dimensions were 52.0′ x 38.6′ x 4.6’.
This vessel was originally built to work on the important ferry crossing from Erskine to Old Kilpatrick and operated very successfully on this duty until 1935 when she was replaced by a larger ferry to increase the capacity of the crossing. She was sold to the Mr William McDonald of Viewfield, Inverness operator of the Kessock ferry and was planned to operate on this crossing from Inverness to Ross-shire.
She left the Clyde under tow by the tug Flying Cormorant on 28th February and headed south on the first leg of a long trip that was planned to round the Mull of Kintyre and take the two ships up the west coast and through the Caledonian Canal to their destination at Inverness. The ferry had some structural adjustments made to allow it to enter and pass through the canal and it is speculated that perhaps these changes resulted in a weakness because en route they encountered heavy weather and, later that day, when still off the east coast of Kintyre at the south end pof Kilbrannen Sound, the Erskine developed a leak and started to fill. It was soon obvious that the ferry was doomed and eventually the tow rope was cut and the vessel foundered thankfully without loss of life as no-one was aboard the ferry itself.
The Wreck Today
The wreck of the Erskine lies 3.5 miles south east of Davaar Island in position 55°23.342’N, 005°28.100’W (WGS84). The wreck is almost completely intact and lies upright in 35 metres of water oriented on a north south axis. The wreck rises 2 metres above the surrounding muddy seabed and has an large fishing net entangled on one side. This net makes the wreck easier to locate by echo sounder but care is needed in poor visibility to avoid problems for the diver.
In common with most of the wrecks in the area, the Erskine is completely covered in colourful sealife which almost mask the shape of the vessel itself. Shoals of small fish live in around the wreck making it an interesting dive on what has become a living reef. The site is exposed to wind from most directions but not subject to any tidal flows. However good boat cover and delayed surface marker buoys are still essential for a safe visit.