The Aberdeen built steamer SS Garrawalt ran aground at Portlethen on a foggy March day and was stranded for several weeks. Fortunately this particular incident didn’t result in any loss of life and the crew made it safely ashore.
What was the cause of this particular incident? If the Board of Trade enquiry held in Aberdeen is to be believed then there were two reasons – neglect by the captain and the speed the vessel was travelling at.
The actual circumstances of the stranding aren’t readily available but during the enquiry held about a month after the incident, the Board of Trade were particularly scathing of both the captain and his mate and the roles that they played in the hours prior to the vessel running aground and the local press quoted from the enquiry as follows:
“The Court were of the opinion that the Garrawalt was stranded owing to the observance of an undue rate of speed during thick weather, and a failure to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel at and prior to the time of casualty. They were of opinion, moreover, that in the state of the weather, and having regard to the position in her voyage in which the vessel then was, it was inconsistent with the safety of the vessel for the master to remain below for three hours. They accordingly found the master in default, the plea of misadventure urged on his behalf being clearly and absolutely inadmissible. The vessel throughout the voyage navigated by the master’s direction at a speed which, in the state of the weather, was excessive, and the master, besides neglected to satisfy himself by personal inspection of the log as to the distance which the vessel had actually run.
The Court therefore suspended the master’s certificate for six months. The responsibility of the mate had been the cause of much embarrassment to the Court, as they could not endorse the plea that his discretion was ousted by the orders he received from the master; but, although of opinion that he did not exhibit the seamanlike care required of him, they had come to the conclusion that the primary cause of the stranding of the vessel was the culpable failure of the master to ascertain and verify the position of the vessel when he devolved the command on the mate, and that the ends of justice would be sufficiently served by a reprimand of the mate, and a warning to him to act with a distinct view to his own responsibilities in the future. The Court agreed to recommend that the master should, in respect of his previous good character, receive a mate’s certificate”.
As an interesting footnote the following advertisement appeared in the “Aberdeen Journal” on 15th March under the title of “Sale of Wreck and Salved Fittings”:
The subscriber has received instruction to sell by Public Roup on Monday, the 21st March, within the yard of Messrs ALEXANDER HALL & Co., Footdee, Aberdeen, the entire wreck of S.S. “Garrawalt”, with machinery and fittings left on board, as she now lies on the rocks, near Portlethen. There will be exposed at same time the following salved goods, viz: - Two boats, sails, winch, anchors and chains, warps, copper steam pipes, and other fittings. Sale to commence at 11 o’clock. Terms cash. GEORGE GORDON, Auctioneer.