Goole Shipbuilding & repair Co
Off Number
Length Ft
Tons Gross
Yard Number
Breadth Ft
Tons Net
19 Mar 1908
Apr 1908
Engine Builder
C. D. Holmes & Co, Hull
Registered PINTAIL H982 Owners Kelsall Brothers & Beeching.
Renamed HMT PINTAIL Owners 1914 - 1919 Admiralty
  PINTAIL H982 Owners 1919 - Kelsall Brothers & Beeching.( John Slater, manager )
    Owners 1936 - Brixham Trawlers Ltd, Brixham ( Managed Dugdall & Son managers )
    Owners Dec 1937 - -Dugdall & Son Fleetwood
Fate : 26.2.1949: stranded about 300yds southward of Bull Point Light, Rathlin Island, Co. Antrim
Admiralty Requisition
Pennant No
Oct 1914




(No. S.414)

s.t. "Pintail" O.N. 124830

In the matter of a Formal Investigation held at The Town Hall, Fleetwood, on the 23rd day of August, 1949, before R. F. Hayward, Esq., M.C., K.C., assisted by Captain J. W. Grimston, Captain C. V. Groves and F. Bee, Esq., into the circumstances attending the stranding of the s.t. "Pintail", on Rathlin Island, on the 26th February, 1949.

The Court, having carefully inquired into the circumstances attending the above-mentioned shipping casualty, finds, for the reasons stated in the Annex hereto, that the certificate of the skipper, Robert Stafford, be suspended for six months from the 23rd August, 1949, and that he be ordered to pay the sum of £100 towards the costs of the Inquiry.

Dated this 24th day of August, 1949.

R. F. HAYWARD, Judge

We concur in the above Report,



The Court's answers to the questions submitted by the Ministry of Transport are as follows:—

Q. 1. By whom was the s.t. "Pintail" owned?
A. The Brixham Trawlers, Limited, of Fleetwood.
Q. 2. Did the s.t. "Pintail" sail from Fleetwood on a fishing voyage on 15th February, 1949?
A. Yes.
Q. 3. Was the s.t. "Pintail" seaworthy when she sailed from Fleetwood on her last voyage?
A. Yes.
Q. 4. With what compasses was the s.t. "Pintail" supplied, and where were they placed on board?
A. Two magnetic compasses: one overhead in the wheelhouse; one hanging compass in the skipper's berth.
Q. 5. When were the compasses last adjusted?
A. The compasses had been adjusted on the 15th October, 1948, and had practically no deviation.
Q. 6. What sounding appliances and navigational aids, other than compasses, were on board, and were they in working order on the last voyage?
A. A Marconi echometer Type 424, reading to 90 fathoms. This got out of order some days before the casualty. A 141b. deep sea lead, a 71b. hand lead, and 100 fathoms lead line.
Q. 7. Was the s.t. "Pintail" fitted with a wireless transmitter, properly serviced, and in working order?
A. No.
Q. 8. Were charts, sailing directions, Pilots and publications, adequate for the voyage, supplied?
A. The "Pintail" had a full set of fishing charts for the West Coast fishing ground, including the Irish Sea and Morecambe Bay. The skipper had a sextant and there was a parallel ruler and a pair of compasses on board. These were adequate for the voyage.
Q. 9. On the last voyage, was the s.t. "Pintail" properly equipped with life-saving appliances?
A. Yes.
Q. 10. Did the s.t. "Pintail" carry a crew of 12 persons all told?
A. Yes.
Q. 11. Did the s.t. "Pintail" leave the Donegal Bay fishing grounds at about 1.30 p.m. on Friday, the 25th February, 1949, for Fleetwood?
A. Yes.
Q. 12. At what time on the 25th February, 1949, was Tory Island Light observed.?
A. Between 8 and 9 p.m.
Q. 13. What course was steered from Tory Island Light to Inistrahull Sound?
A. East magnetic.
Q. 14. (a) Was an alteration of course made, to pass through Inistrahull Sound?
A. Yes.
Q. (b) If the answer is "Yes", what was the new course, and at what time was it set?
A. East South East magnetic at 1.10 a.m.
Q. 15. How was Inistrahull Light passed?
A. On the port side distant two to three miles.
Q. 16. At the time Inistrahull Sound was reached, what were the conditions of wind, sea, and visibility?
A. West South Westerly gale and heavy sea, with very good visibility between squalls.
Q. 17. What chart was used for navigating the s.t. "Pintail" at this time, and were positions and courses plotted on the chart in use?
A. Blue Back Fishing Chart 014.C. A position 2 miles S.S.W. from Inistrahull Light was marked on the chart.
Q. 18. At what time, after reaching Inistrahull, did skipper Robert Stafford leave the bridge to go below, and at what time did he return to the bridge?
A. At about 1.45 a.m., and he returned at 4.30 a.m.
Q. 19. Was the bosun, Thomas Harrison, in charge of the watch on the bridge, during the time the skipper was below?
A. Yes, after 2.30 a.m.
Q. 20. What instructions did the skipper give to the mate when the skipper went below, leaving the mate in charge?
A. To be called at 4.30 a.m.
Q. 21. What were the conditions of wind, sea and visibility when the skipper went below, and had such conditions deteriorated when the skipper returned to the bridge?
A. West South Westerly gale, heavy sea, and rain and hail squalls. These had inc eased when the skipper returned to the bridge.
Q. 22. At what time was Bull Point Light sighted, and how was it bearing?
A. At about 4.15 a.m., and bearing about a point to a point-and-a-half on the starboard bow.
Q. 23. What alteration of course was made after Bull Point Light was sighted, how long after the light was sighted, and by whose orders was the alteration made?
A. When the skipper came on to the bridge at about 4.30 a.m., he altered the course to south east southerly, bringing the Bull Point Light in line with the port rigging.
Q. 24. Was the log re-set off Inistrahull Light, and was it found impossible to read the log when Bull Point Light was approached, because of a broken log line?
A. Yes.
Q. 25. How long was it, after the skipper returned to the bridge, that Bull Point Light was obscured by thick drizzly rain?
A. About half-an-hour.
Q. 26. (a) What speed had the "Pintail" been making up to the time Bull Point Light became obscured?
A. The estimated speed was 7 knots through the water, and about 7.6 knots over the ground.
Q. (b) Was speed reduced from that time?
A. Yes, to an estimated speed of about 3 knots.
Q. (c) Was any other safety action taken?
A. The course was altered to south east half south.
Q. (d) What lookout was kept?
A. The skipper and the deck-hand kept a lookout through the open windows of the wheelhouse.
Q. 27. At what time did the s.t. "Pintail" strand, and where?
A. About 5.30 a.m., on the 26th February, 1949, about 300 yards to the southward of Bull Point Light.
Q. 28. Were all 12 members of the crew saved by breeches buoy worked by a shore rescue party?
A. Yes, save that a deck-hand got ashore hand-over-hand on a hauling line which had been hauled ashore and made fast by men from the lighthouse.
Q. 29. Was any action taken to save the ship, by sounding her, pumping, or any other means?
A. The ship's engines were put full speed astern without result. No other action was taken.
Q. 30. What was the cause of the stranding of s.t. "Pintail"?
A. Careless navigation.
Q. 31. Was the stranding and ultimate loss of the s.t. "Pintail" caused or contributed to by the wrongful act or default of her skipper, Robert Stafford?
A. Yes.


The "Pintail", a steel single screw, single deck, fishing vessel, with open floors, was built in 1908 at Goole, and engined by Earle's Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, Limited, of Hull. She was of 198 tons gross, 110 feet in length, and 21.6 feet beam, and 11.67 feet in depth. She was owned by the Brixham Trawlers, Limited, of Fleetwood. The "Pintail" was a flush deck type with deck house containing the skipper's berth and wheelhouse, and aft a small engine casing and galley. She was fitted with four watertight bulkheads, and hand operated steering gear. Her compasses were an overhead wheelhouse compass and a hanging compass in the skipper's berth. These were last adjusted in Fleetwood on the 15th October, 1948, and were practically without deviation. The ship was fitted with a Marconi echometer, Type 424, which had been serviced on the 12th January, 1949, but which went out of order some few days before the casualty. She was fitted with the usual leads and lines, and her life-saving appliances were up to Ministry standard.

The "Pintail" left Fleetwood for a fishing trip in Donegal Bay on the 15th February, 1949, manned by a crew of 12 hands all told.

On the 25th February, at about 1.30 p.m., her trawling winch having broken down, she made for home. At between 8 and 9 p.m. she passed Tory Island Light at a distance estimated to be 5 miles, and steered a course of East magnetic passing Garvan Islands at an estimated distance of about 1 to 2 miles.

At this time the tide was beginning to flood. When about 2 miles West South West of Inistrahull Light at 1.10 a.m., on the 26th February, the course was altered to East South East, the log was set, and the skipper marked his position on the chart. At this time there was a West South West gale and heavy sea with rain and hail squalls of varying duration. At about 1.45 a.m. the skipper went below leaving orders with the mate in charge that he was to be called at 4.30 a.m. At 2.30 a.m., the mate was relieved by the bosun who duly called the skipper at 4.30 a.m., informing him that he had sighted Bull Point Light about a point and a half on the starboard bow. The skipper immediately came on the bridge and saw the light. The bosun relieved the deck-hand at the wheel and thereafter the deck-hand and the skipper kept the look out. The skipper estimated the distance of Bull Point Light to be about 7 miles, and the bosun agreed with this estimate.

The skipper sent the bosun aft to read the log, and it was discovered that the log line had parted. The ship's course was altered to S.E. Southerly to make for Rathlin Sound, with a view to avoiding the heavy race anticipated off Altacarry Head, and the speed was maintained as estimated at 7 knots through the water and 7.6 knots over the ground.

According to the skipper, Bull Point Light dimmed during the first squall after he came on to the bridge, and in the second squall was wholly obscured at about 5 o'clock and was not seen again. He stated that the light had broadened about half-a-point in half-an-hour on to a bearing of about E.S.E. The skipper eased the speed to an estimate of 3 to 3½ knots and went below and consulted his chart. He did not, however, lay off the bearing of the light, nor his estimated course line; had he done so, he would have seen that it crossed that line at very much less than his estimated 7 miles from the light, and that, if this estimate was approximately correct, he must have been well to the northward of that assumed track, and if the "Pintail" continued to be set to the northward as she apparently had been she would certainly strand on the west side of Rathlin Island even on her new course of S.E.½S.

Navigating purely by guesswork or "estimate based on experience", the skipper set a course of South East half South in order to make a middle course through Rathlin Sound. Thereafter, nothing was seen or heard until the ship stranded about 300 yards to the southward of Bull Point Light at about 5.30 a.m. on the 26th February. On stranding, the engines were put full speed astern for a few minutes without result, and as the engine room was rapidly making water the engineers were ordered on deck. Rockets were fired and the trawler's whistle was blown so long as steam remained. At dawn two men from the lighthouse were seen on shore, and a line was passed to them by Schermuly rocket pistol. They hauled ashore the end of a 3 inch line which they secured to a rock, and one of the trawler hands very dangerously reached the shore along this line. Portrush Lifeboat came out, but could do nothing, and finally, at about 10.30 a.m., the remaining eleven members of the crew were safely landed by the Rathlin Island Life-Saving Company.

The ship at all the material times before stranding was under control of her helm and engines, the skipper saw and recognised the light from Bull Point Lighthouse, which remained in view for about half-an-hour, but within about half-an-hour of its obscuration the "Pintail" stranded within a few hundred yards of it. These facts manifestly call for an explanation by the person concerned. In the course of his evidence the skipper's only explanation of the cause of the stranding was bad weather and bad visibility, and no better explanation was submitted on his behalf.

The Court is of opinion that the skipper was lacking in proper seamanlike care in failing (a) to take further and better measures to ascertain the trawler's position, in particular by laying off bearings on the chart, or (b) by hauling his ship further away from the danger which he last sighted only half-an-hour before stranding.

Having regard to the good record of the skipper, but also having regard to the fact that he lost no employment by reason of the casualty, the Court recommends that his certificate be suspended for a period of six months from this date, and that he be ordered to pay towards the cost of the Inquiry the sum of £100.

The Court would add that in its opinion it would be of considerable advantage for trawlers to be provided with Admiralty charts, and their skippers advised to use them.

R. F. HAYWARD, Judge.

We concur,