Freak Wave Traps Skipper in Cabin

Article courtesy of Fleetwood Chronicle January 1968

Provided by Les Howard

A freak wave which hit the Fleetwood trawler SSAFA homeward bound from Iceland left the ship in darkness and without even a compass to steer by.

The 426 ton trawler docked in Fleetwood early yesterday, and at his home in Galloway Road, Fleetwood, Skipper Charlie Pook aged 32 told how the wave locked him in his cabin. “I was dozing in my bunk when I felt the ship lurch and then there were no lights. I was ankle deep in water and the cabin door wouldn’t open.”

The sea hit the vessel just in front of the bridge, smashing the wheelhouse windows, Skipper Pook’s cabin porthole and dislodging wooden lockers from the bulkhead in the cabin. These jammed the door imprisioning the skipper.

The wave also swept over the casing behind the bridge carrying away fittings and the ship’s lifeboat.

“It’s a miracle that no one was hurt, especially on the bridge.” Said Skipper Pook.

On watch in the wheelhouse was the mate, Mr Stanley Treece Birch, of Derwent Avenue, Fleetwood, and two deckhands who were sent sprawling by the impact.
Crewmen kicked in the skipper’s door to release him and within minutes temporary lighting had been restored. But of the ship’s radio equipment only one transmitter was working.

Skipper Pook called the Armana, also homeward bound and five miles astern. This vessel is owned by J. Marr & Sons Ltd and commanded by Skipper Harold Daniels of Lowther Road Fleetwood.

“He signalled with his lights that he had received the message and guided us back to Reykjavik,” explaines Skipper Pook.

The journey took 12 hours and after temporary repairs the SSAFA, owned by Boston Deep Sea Fisheries Ltd. set off for home with about 1000 10st boxes of fish aboard. She later docked after 20 days at sea.

“One way and another,” reflected Skipper Pook, “it seems to have been a long trip.”