As the ghostly timbers surfaced above the wet sand, memories of the 1949 stranding of a boat in unusual circumstances came back to haunt one of Tiree’s beaches last week.
Sheena and Charlie Berlie, Crossapol, were among the first people to notice the curve of iron ribs made visible by the low tides and force of the waves half way along the beach at the spring low tide mark.
The Oceana, a two masted schooner, was on passage between Ireland and the Baltic in March 1949 when a southerly storm blew the vessel onto Tràigh Bhàigh, now more commonly known as Crossapol Beach (as Crossapol has grown and Baugh shrunk).
Early that morning the local coastguard crew, led by Murdoch Cameron, Balevullin and Alec MacLean, Hough, were called. The boat was grounded over a hundred yards out and the beach party had to fire a rocket to the stricken vessel to allow the bosun’s chair to be used. The crew of around six were winched ashore. One observer remembers their “backsides dipping in the waves”.
The captain came ashore last, with his “cap glued to his head!” according to Archie Brown, Kilkenneth, the only surviving member of the coastguard team. The crew were taken to the Crossapol Hall and seemed to have left the island the next day.
The Oceana, 105 feet long, had been built in 1879 as a private yacht. At her prow she had a striking figurehead of a woman blowing a pipe. Engines were installed in 1923. Reasons for the boat’s grounding were hotly debated at the time. Some people said that the skipper had been confused by the lights on the aerodrome and was making for them. Others were sure the crew were drug smuggling. As the crew were Russian or Latvian, it is unlikely we will ever find out!
To see the remains, go to the centre of the beach at very low tide, park next to the war time huts and then walk 100 yards towards Crossapol.