Monday, 18 July 2011

Deal's bass wreck

For many boat anglers the wreck of the Mahratta has been a popular venue and over the years has proved to be the downfall of many bass. The shipwreck lies approximately three miles due east of Sandown Castle and her rusting remains lie just below the surface at low tide.

At the beginning of the Second World War the anchorage in the Downs was full to overflowing with ships awaiting naval officers from the Contraband Control. Neutral vessels had their nationality and countries flag painted upon the side of their hulls – this hopefully deterred the Germans or the British from attacking them on the high seas. Allied merchant vessels had their house and companies colours painted out with black paint to confuse the enemy on their origin.

The Mahratta had started her voyage from Calcutta at the outbreak of the conflict, and had received her paint job at a quick stopover in Gibraltar. After her long cruise, she was still obliged to anchor up in the Downs for inspection from the Contraband Control.

This was an unpopular task with the skippers, as they were always in a hurry to either complete or start their journeys. For the pilots who escorted the Allied ships through the British minefields, or to their destination, their painted out colours made it a nightmare to identify them amongst the other vessels in the anchorage.

On the night of October 6th, 1939, the Mahratta’s master, Captain Hill, had received orders, on the arrival of the Trinty House pilot, to proceed to her destination. His impatience cost him his ship.

Tod Carlton was the 37 year old Pilot that had been assigned the job of shepherding the Mahratta out of the Downs and up the River Thames to the London docks. He was looking forward to re-visiting the Mahratta, as he had spent time aboard her when he worked for the Brocklebank Line as 3rd officer.

Unfortunately, Captain Hill had already up-anchored and was slowly proceeding through the maze of ships. As he eased the helm to the east, to clear the tightly packed anchorage, he ran his vessel aground on the Goodwin Sands. With the calm sea and the ships slow speed the Captain thought the Mahratta’s halt was due to engine failure.

At this time the Trinty House pilot, Tod Carlton, had been searching for his charge in the darkness of that autumn evening. He found her hard and fast on the edge of the Sands, north-east of the anchorage.

As he boarded her, he reminded the captain of the dangers of the Goodwin Sands, and requested that he took all precautions to alleviate the situation. Over the next few day’s six tugs and the help of the deal boatmen could not assist in the Mahratta’s predicament and, eventually, when the weather became inclement the ships hull split in half.

If the captain had waited for the pilot, this disaster would have never happened. After the war Tod Carlton settled in Deal and in his later years opened an antique shop in Kingsdown. He died at the age of 81 and was sadly missed by his family who still reside in the area.

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