After thought

I’ve been thinking about the “Ceres” and the last entry in my grandfather’s notes on her.

“Foundered midnight Nov 24 1936. Bideford Bay, Crew saved by lifeboat.” This after 125 years of active service.

It’s not the crew I’ve been thinking of. I met them when I was young – they survived.

It’s what happened to the ship that fascinates me. How did she settle?

Did she go down bow first, stern first?

Did she settle upright? (She was carrying approximately 80 tons of slag as cargo).

What happened to the mast, the rigging and the sails?

I guess the captain’s cabin filled pretty quickly. I saw a picture of it once. My grandfather’s office was lined with wood paneling that matched that cabin.

More relevantly, how does she look now – on the floor of Bideford Bay – sixty years or so later?

I thought of her the day I delivered Blue Mistress for her haul out.

While waiting for the hoist, I walked from Turnchapel back to Oreston to fetch the car.

The walk skirts Hooe Lake which is a tidal inlet on the south bank of the River Plym.

At the east end of the Lake, I took these pictures.


Hooe Lake 1 Hooe Lake 3 Hooe Lake 2

This is a sight you can see on any of the major rivers, estuaries and inlets of the Westcountry, (the Fal, the Fowey, the Dart, the Tamar, the Plym, the Exe and on). Indeed throughout the UK and Europe too, and, I guess, around the globe – in the mud, beneath tree-lined banks, wooden vessels of a certain age gently decay, slowly fading into their surroundings. Biodegradable, most of the materials they were made of allow that to happen. A slow end to a hard, romantic life.

Well, that was then. What about now.

Wrecks still happen.
MSC Napoli
This one (MSC “Napoli” ) within the last few months – a greater spectacle, with more visual impact, and a great deal more environmental consequences than “Ceres” – or the three wrecks above. This is not a wooden vessel – no biodegration here.

OK, the wreck was a result of heavy weather and a judicious (?) decision on where best to beach her – (as it happens, off a World Heritage coastline).

Looking west towards Sidmouth and Exmouth

You might say, “These things happen. However skilled and careful mankind is, major disasters will occur. It’s how we deal with them that marks us out.”

That may be so, but some “disasters” can be anticipated and maybe we should be ready for them. Try this for example:

In years to come, we will have to deal with another environmental concern. This one will creep up on us: Where are all those yachts and boats that fill our marinas, harbours and rivers going to go after we’ve finished with them? Will they slowly fade into their surroundings? I hope we will enjoy them for many more years. And when we’ve finished, pass them on to new owners for their turn. But will they last 125 years? The boats themselves might not, but the materials they’re made of will. For certain, tree-lined banks of tidal inlets will not be an option.

I am not wishing to make a huge issue about this, nor am I despondent about man’s ability to cope. But I am interested, (and I hope you are too), because it is one small aspect of a much greater concern that is beginning to concentrate our minds and will continue to do so over the next decades – What are we going to do with all these indestructible materials?

I won’t be here to find out the answers, probably neither will my children, but my yet-to-be-born grandchildren will . . . and I care about them and their generation.


One thought on “After thought

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