Collision between gill netter Lady Hamilton of Helford and dory Blithe Spirit resulting in netter sinking

Location: Falmouth Bay, Cornwall, England.

Accident Investigation Report 8/2008

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

LadyHamiltonBlitheSpiritReport.pdf (763.15 kb)

Annexes (3,135.86 kb)


At approximately 0622 on 3 October 2007, Blithe Spirit and Lady Hamilton of Helford collided. The crew of Lady Hamilton of Helford were thrown to the deck and covered in debris. Lady Hamilton of Helford was holed above and below the waterline and started to rapidly take on water. Her skipper used a mobile phone to inform the coastguard while his crew launched a liferaft. The liferaft did not fully inflate and was unusable. Fortunately, a local pilot boat quickly arrived on the scene and recovered the skipper and his crew. The damaged vessel was taken in tow but sank at 0646. When the two vessels collided, the skipper of Blithe Spirit hit his head on a chart plotter on impact before landing on the deck of his boat. It would appear that he then lost consciousness for a short period. After coming to, Blithe Spirit’s skipper took the boat back to Falmouth, arriving there at about 0715.

Safety Issues

Neither skipper saw the other vessel immediately before or after the collision and both concluded they had struck semi-submerged objects. The investigation identified a number of factors which led to the collision. In particular, neither skipper maintained an effective lookout.


Recommendations have been made to the MCA and Premium Liferaft Services, which seek to improve the reliability of liferafts carried on smaller vessels. A further recommendation to the MCA aims to improve the safe operation of fishing vessels capable of fast speeds.

This report was published on 15 April 2008.

Published 23 January 2015