The mystery voyage of the Keewaydin

This story appeared recently in The Herald, to whom we are indebted for the following extract. Personally, I love the discretion which is applied to the crew’s apparent condition upon the arrival of the Coastguard:
The website promises would-be mariners an experience they will never forget and the chance to learn how to sail by crewing on an old-fashioned trawler.
But after watching their captain become unwell and their ship run aground, and then taking part in a bizarre stand- off with the Coastguard, the crew of the Keewaydin must have been relieved to set foot on dry land yesterday.
The boat limped into Kennacraig on the Mull of Kintyre early yesterday and was immediately detained and impounded by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.
Details have yet to unravel fully, but according to Clyde Coastguard, the first signs that the crew was indeed having “a completely different kind of holiday” came at 6.30pm on Wednesday.
The Coastguard received a Mayday call that the vessel was aground about half-a-mile north of Ardminish on Gigha and taking water.
It immediately called on the nearby Ministry of Defence vessel Tormentor to help.
A spokesman for the MCA said: “The Tormentor launched a rescue boat with a line to get a tow on the Keewaydin, but by 8.30pm the distressed vessel managed to free herself and the crew claimed they would then be heading for Jura or Islay.”
Clyde Coastguard gave the crew advice on a direction to take, with a warning about local conditions.
But the Tormentor crew became concerned when, less than 30 minutes later, their radar showed the trawler making only one knot.
A spokesman said its course “had significantly changed which may have led it into further danger”.
Clyde Coastguard agreed that the Tormentor should investigate and also called out the Islay lifeboat.
The MCA spokesman added: “By 10.30pm the sailing trawler was secured alongside the Tormentor and the skipper and crew assessed for signs of illness as their course appeared to be erratic and they had passed several buoys on the wrong side.
“The skipper appeared dehydrated and the crew seemed unsure whether they were taking water as claimed earlier.
“The master of the Tormentor was concerned by the relative inexperience of the Keewaydin crew and the very poor condition of the trawler.”
The Keewaydin crew was reported to be acting “strangely” – switching off all the navigation lights and refusing to go aboard the MoD vessel or be towed to a safe berth ashore.
The spokesman added: “The lifeboat reported that the Keewaydin crew were refusing all help and assistance or water. They were advised that it was an offence not to make passage or go to anchor without correct navigation lights.”
Eventually, the “reluctant” crew agreed to be towed to safety.
The Keewaydin limped in to Kennacraig yesterday with a large chunk missing aft. It was moored at the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry terminal, until the boat’s owner, Paul Welsh, travelled from his home in Wales, to move the vessel.
Last night, Mr Welsh insisted that the unnamed skipper was experienced and reliable. He said: “He made a navigational error because he was ill. He had diarrhoea from eating food that had been open for a few days. The boat had been moored while he was on the mend. But after three days, he decided to set sail, perhaps he should not have done.”
Mr Welsh confirmed the crew were friends whom he had offered a free holiday as there were no takers for the £375 cruise from Oban to the boat’s winter mooring in Wales.
He said that the crew would not have had to fend for themselves. He said one of the other crew members was a qualified sailor who “had previously sailed the Atlantic”.
Mr Welsh intends to repair the ship in time for next summer’s holiday season.
A spokesman said the MCA planned to assess whether Mr Welsh was competent to own such a vessel and planned to inspect the vessel’s logbook.
A Strathclyde Police spokesman said that the force would be taking no action.


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