The steel steam trawler Malta II was launched from the Port Glasgow yard of Murdoch and Murray (Yard No 124) on 11th March 1892. She measured 104.96′ x 20.0′ x 10.0′ and her tonnage was 143 gross tons, 110 net tons. She was powered by 2 direct acting steam engines by Hutson and Corbett, Glasgow delivering 58 net horse power. Built for John Muirhead of Ednburgh the Malta II was purchased by Samuel Drennan of Granton after Muirhead Trawlers went into liquidation in 1904. She was registered there GN39.
On 17th January, 1911 she left Granton under the command of skipper Frederick Brae with a crew of eight hands. They headed north to the fishing grounds off Orkney stopping off at Kirkwall for provisions. On 20th January, while fishing off Mull Head, Papa Westray the engineer noticed that one of the stud bolts on the check valve was broken causing a significant leakage from the boiler. He advised the skipper who decided to raise the trawl and head to St Marys on the Orkney mainland for repairs. When steaming through Weddell Sound, with his vessel sitting lower than usual in the water due to boiler leakage and the resultant loss of pressure and speed, she briefly stranded but floated off on the tide and current. At this point skipper Brae decided to head for Kirkwall instead. Almost immediately the Malta II stranded again but luckily almost as quickly refloated and they finally made it back to Kirkwall. At Kirkwall it was discovered that the other bolts securing the check valve were also defective. All the bolts were replaced and the Malta II was ready to return to her fishing duties.
Two of the hands left the vessel at Kirkwall before she headed back to sea on the 25th January. They headed out to a position nine miles east of Auskerry Lighthouse where the skipper intended to set out his first trawl. As was the usual practice the engines were stopped while the trawl was let out but it was at this point that the engineer below noticed a sudden inrush of water. He switched on all the pumps and rushed to tell the skipper what was happening. It was immediately obvious, due to the volume of incoming water, that the vessel was in real trouble and the order was given immediately to prepare the ship’s boats for evacuation. Radio distress signals were sent out and the crew abandoned ship in the boats. Thankfully the messages were picked up by the wick drifter Cordelia which was fishing nearby and arrived to pick up the crew within thirty minutes. By this time the Malta II was awash to deck level making any attempt to tow her useless.
The subsequent enquiry focussed on the repairs made to the vessel in Kirkwall but concluded that the leakage and the resultant foundering were not a result of any defect in the repair or any leftover problems resulting from the previous strandings. Skipper Brae was exonerated from any blame for the loss of the Malta II although his actions when the initial bolt problem occurred were criticised and he was held to blame for the strandings but not the loss of the vessel. The panel chose not to suspend his certificate.