THE ONGOING MYSTERY OF THE H C GRUBE
Since I first sailed along the Tay in the mid-1950s I have taken a keen interest in ships and shipping on navigable rivers and inland waterways and later as a passenger across the great rivers and canals of the continent of Europe.
Today, vessels described as river sea ships can be seen more or less weekly alongside the quays of the South Esk and entering or leaving Montrose. Ports, large and small around the coasts of the UK and Ireland to which they trade, are far in excess of what was known by many as “Home trade” and/or “Elbe/Brest Limits”.
It was therefore a surprising experience a few weeks ago to see the Danish-flag coaster Saturn with a traditional, if rather old-fashioned profile, working at the North Quay. Discharging a shipment of white painted, heavy duty, flanged oilfield tubulars, her call on that occasion was relatively brief.
Homeported at Norresundby, she was initially completed as the Wilma Frank in 1966 by NV Scheepswerf “Vooruitgang” Gebr. Suurmeyer at Foxhol in The Netherlands for a German owner based in Brake. Having had something like a dozen owners and six names over her more than half a century of trading, she still looked in tip-top condition paintwise i.e. red hull and white upperworks. On a previous occasion she arrived at Montrose with a large-diameter cable reel as deck cargo. Interestingly, she has a Montrose connection which was found out during some research through the pages of a bound volume of the “Review” which had been published during World War One and two websites, one headed only “H C Grube” and the other relating to when the Saturn was named Dorca between 1979-89 and owned by H. C. Grube. This was the name of a trading schooner which arrived quite unexpectedly off Montrose on 24th November, 1916 having grounded on the Annat Bank.
Her story began as the direct result a severe spell of “coorse weather”, similar to Storm Eunice, blowing itself out at the time of writing. It had been a busy period for the crews of the Montrose lifeboat Marianne Atherstone and the area Rocket Brigade service. While the local RNLI lifeboat had not long arrived back from rescuing the crew of the Danish schooner Alma, registered at Thuro in Denmark, which had driven ashore in Lunan Bay, her crew were alerted to the potential plight of the H C Grube. A three-masted trading schooner, she was beset by a heavy sea as her crew endeavoured to reach the entrance to the South Esk estuary.
Strong winds drove her relentlessly towards and eventually on to the Annat Bank. The Rocket Brigade were already positioned on the Sands and were joined by the lifeboat crew together with members of the Royal Flying Corps who waded waist deep into the sea to assist in launching the lifeboat.
After a rough passage the lifeboat reached the six-man crew of the stranded iron-hulled schooner and brought them safely ashore. The H C Grube, under the command of Captain Svane was registered at Marstal. She had been on a voyage from the Faroe Islands to Grimsby with salted fish. During the voyage she had lost her rudder and drifted until off Montrose. She was later re-floated and brought into port for repair departing on 13th December, 1916.
A website, headed only “H C Grube”, gives technical details of a Danish-owned schooner registered at Marstal. Denmark, Captain Svane, 251 registered tons steel-hulled, built 1902, ticked most of the boxes, despite a number of minor discrepancies. She was eventually wrecked near Casablanca, Morocco in 1920.
Was she the same vessel? - I wonder.
Caption: Saturn alongside the North Quay, Montrose in early February, 2022.