Le Sillon (French trawler wreck) – A year on!

Le Sillon formerly La Marisa

Le Sillon formerly La Marisa

February 1st 2014 the French trawler Le Sillon lost power and steering about 5 miles off Trevose Head after it was battered by heavy seas. All six of the crew were saved after a dramatic and lengthy operation involving a Sea King helicopter (Rescue 193) from RNAS Culdrose and the Padstow All-Weather Lifeboat, Spirit Of Padstow.

In heavy seas at about 4am the following morning the abandoned trawler eventually made landfall, it succumbed to the unforgiving north-Cornish coast in extremely rough weather. An EPIRB from on-board Le Sillon that must have activated as she went aground gave away the rough location of the vessel but for only a short time, as it too was dashed to pieces shortly afterwards.

At first light Padstow and Newquay Coastguard Rescue teams were sent out to try and locate the wreck in the Park Head area. Joined by a Coastguard spotter plane and the unmistakable stench of diesel it did not take long to discover the trawler at the bottom of Higher Butter Cove, lodged in the intertidal zone but at that point in time being completely overwhelmed by the spring high tide and huge swells rolling in relentlessly from the north Atlantic.

Later in the day as the tide dropped away it was obvious that the entire bridge structure on the trawler had been swept away, there was also a very large dent on her starboard side, apart from this she obviously very much still resembled a large fishing trawler lodged in a very exposed and vulnerable position on the north side of Park Head.

As the tide dropped out the damage becomes apparent.

As the tide dropped out the damage becomes apparent.

So it's February 2015 and I felt the need to go down to Higher Butter Cove and have a look to see what a year in an extremely hostile environment has done to this 114 ton fishing trawler. With big spring tides and two friends we set off to Porthmear. Up over the cliff to the north and down a slippery cliff into Lower Butter Cove. I would not recommend any of this to anyone unless you know the area very well and can read and understand tide/time charts and the condition of the sea and weather etc. Off across Lower Butter Cove heading south to a cave that is wet and slippery but takes you through (on mega low tides only) to Higher Butter Cove. From here its a short walk and we are soon confronted with the upturned bow section of Le sillon. There is still paint, some blue and some older green paint from her previous colours. Her identification number is still just legible SB. 713529. Through a door and inside this upturned section is a whole load of fishing gear, ropes, nets, fire hoses, bags etc. Its all ruined and tangled in a big mess.

full of gear, ruined after a year in the sea

full of gear, ruined after a year in the sea

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As the tide today is so far out we can move further down the cove where we see the mass of strewn debris from mid and stern sections of the trawler, the sea is still washing over the stern section but it is possible to clamber around this rusty, slippery and greasy tangle of cables, drums, pumps, port-hole covers, engine, wiring, pipework, and heavy steel plating. The power of the sea has bent, smashed and twisted Le Sillon into a great big rusty pile of wreck! There is an anchor, too heavy to even consider moving, there are shackles and all assortments of gear that all relates to this vessels previous role as a bottom trawler.

Too heavy to move

Too heavy to move

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As expected the sea has reduced much of Le Sillon to rust and the great bulk of her has gone but there is still so much to see. If it was all in a scrap yard I do not think there would be as much appeal to go and visit this wreck site but given the situation, the beauty and the power of this place and the story of how she came to rest here in Higher Butter Cove in such modern times when wrecks are so rare I feel it was well worth it and I hope that this has been of some interest.

Le Sillon SB 713529, Built 1987. Length 21.42 metres, Width 7.32 metres, weight 114 ton.  Formely La Marisa. Home, Saint Brieuc, northern Brittany.

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