Around the Cape of Good Hope and up the Madagascar strait, and all was going well. Day after day, we cadets chipped anything that took the Mates fancy! It was a Friday evening, and we were closing on the Seychelles. The Mate had us in his cabin for mock Orals questions. Just after ten, we got together in the senior cadets cabin to crack a few cans from our beer ration. At about 1030 we hit Wizard reef. The ship shuddered and ground to a halt, from full sea speed. We shot out onto the boat deck and as the overside lights came on we were hit with the strange sensation of the ship, stopped in the water, with the engines still banging away at full ahead. Eventually the engines were stopped.
The crew headed for the boat deck, with as much gear as they could carry. We were sent to sound round.
The result was, we were hard aground, but with no signs of water ingress. We subsequently got off the reef at around dawn, with much scraping and grinding, but under our own steam. However it soon became apparent that some of the shaft bearings had been displaced as a result of the grounding. This was an obvious cause for concern. After closer inspection, and l imagine, much discussion, we proceeded to Mahe on reduced revs. I think we spent a couple of weeks at the Mahe anchorage, where we had divers down to inspect the hull plating and a number of classification surveyors inspections. As l understood it there was considerable damage to the hull plating, particularly in way of the shaft tunnel. Hence the issue with the bearings. Eventually we were allowed to proceed, at reduced revs, on our discharge programme, to a number of Red Sea ports and then to Singapore for dry dock, for the necessary repairs. Unfortunately l had to fly home from Jeddah, for personal reasons, and did not get to see the extent of the damage.
Wizard Reef is within the Farquhar group of Islands, some 600m SW of Mahe. As I understand the situation, we were heading NE’ly, about 650miles from our destination, and should have passed well clear of any danger. However, it seems that we were further to the west than thought, and hence the accident. This is the region of the south equatorial current and the equatorial counter current and this may have been a contributory factor.
Re the radar, this was the days of Raymarc’s and Marconi Mark IV’s, which were not renowned for their reliability. I am aware that some Master’s did like to limit their use, in the hope that they would work when they were most needed. However I am unable to confirm that this was the case on the Taybank.