The Gracehill was a general cargo steam coaster of 172 nt. built by the Forth Engineering and Shipbuilding Company at Alloa and launched in 1918. Her dimensions were 162.0′ x 25.2′ x 12.4’.
At 9:53pm on the evening of 8th March, 1957 the radio operator at Portpatrick Radio Station received the first message indicating that the Belfast coaster Gracehill, en route from Londonderry to Ayr, had gone aground in dense fog at Sanda west of the Lighthouse on the notorious Boiler Reef. Captain James Smith and his nine crew on the Gracehill were in no immediate danger but required the urgent assistance of the lifeboat.
Aboard the ship there was no panic but they soon realised that they were far from safe with their ship being pounded heavily by the swell as it surged over the shallow reef. The Gracehill had hit the western end of Boiler Reef that lies about a quarter of a mile from the Sanda shore. She had run almost over the top of the reef and was now lying with bow submerged and stern high on the rocks. A quick inspection by the captain found that the engine room was flooded. As a precaution he ordered his men into the lifeboat to wait alongside the ship for the arrival of the lifeboat, now speeding south towards them. By 2am they were all safely back in Campbeltown none the worse for their adventure but their ship was lost.
The captain returned to his ship the next day but it was clear that salvage would be extremely difficult. The following day a more thorough inspection was made which found that the ship was flexing badly in the swell and that the boiler had already shifted indicating severe damage to the hull. The starboard side was also badly damaged and rudder and propeller were smashed. She was declared a total wreck.
The Wreck Today
As with all of the wrecks in this vicinity the activity of both salvors and the prevailing weather have reduced the wreck of the Gracehill to an unrecognisable tangle of metal. The wreckage lies on the north side of Boiler Reef in position 55°16.527’N, 005°35.837’W (GPS).
Gracehill Dive slideshow
The boiler and engine are the most recognisable items but there is a lot of other wreckage strewn around in depths of between 7 and 10 metres. The site is very exposed and undiveable with any wind above F3 from a southerly direction.