Capsize and sinking of multipurpose fishing vessel Sarah Jayne with loss of 1 life

Location: 6nm east of Berry Head, near Brixham, England.

Accident Investigation Report 13/2013

Read our marine accident investigation report, which includes what happened, actions taken and subsequent recommendations:

SarahJayne.pdf (6,751.55 kb)


On 11 September 2012 fishing vessel Sarah Jayne was lost approximately 6 nautical miles east of Berry Head. While loading a catch, two waves swamped the deck, leading to flooding of the fish hold and eventual capsize. In a loaded state the vessel had an insufficient reserve of stability to withstand the sudden flooding and its associated free-surface effect.

The mate and crewman managed to swim clear of the vessel and were rescued from the water 20 minutes later by another nearby fishing boat. The skipper was lost with the vessel.

The liferaft failed to surface and inflate, probably as a result of its being obstructed. An EPIRB transmission, for reasons that cannot be determined, was not received. However, the carriage of an EPIRB remains an important safety precaution for fishing vessels.

Safety Issues

  • in its loaded state, the vessel had an insufficient reserve of stability to withstand the sudden flooding and its associated free-surface effect
  • the flooding of the fish hold and water entrained on deck following the swamping is concluded to be the only likely cause of flooding that contributed to the vessel’s loss


We have previously made recommendations to the MCA regarding loading, freeboard and future stability standards for small fishing vessels in MAIB Report 2/2013 on the capsize and foundering of FV Heather Anne.

As part of its intended development of new standards for small fishing vessels, the MCA is additionally recommended (2013/123) to review and include additional design and operational requirements as necessary to ensure that a vessel engaged in bulk fishing remains seaworthy when loading the catch into the fish hold at sea.

This report was published on 13 June 2013.

Post publication note:

On 24 December 2013, the EPIRB from Sarah Jayne was found on the shoreline to the west of Portland. Examination of the EPIRB found it was in good condition but with the battery fully drained. With a new battery, the unit was found to be fully functional. The most probable explanation for why no distress message was received after the accident is that the EPIRB was released at some stage during or after the sinking of Sarah Jayne but became snagged. While underwater, the unit would have been activated but, as it was not floating on the surface, the distress signal would not have been received. Two days or so after activation, the battery of the EPIRB would have been exhausted. When the EPIRB subsequently broke free, it would have floated to the surface and drifted across Lyme Bay without transmitting.

Published 23 January 2015