Blizzard at Skegness 1919
Vessel Drags its Anchor
Serious Damage Done to the Pier
Lifeboat Taken Out
Vessel Lies on Skegness Beach
Cyclonic conditions were fell along the East Coast on Thursday and Friday last, the wind blowing from the North-east with terrific fury.
One of the worst features of the gale with regard to Skegness was the damage done to the Pier by the motor schooner Europa of Amsterdam. Otherwise the damage caused by the gale was practically nil.
Early on Thursday morning the lifeboatmen and coastguard saw a schooner riding at anchor to the north of the Pier, about a mile and a half from the shore, opposite the Sea View, on the Outer Middle, a most dangerous position when the wind is blowing from the east, and throughout the day as the wind freshened fears were entertained with regard to its safety.
As night approached the height of the cyclonic wave was developed, blowing from the Danish coast to its centre in Somersetshire where it subsided in a dead calm. Heavy seas sprang up with a dead set for the shore, which drove the ship slowly towards the Pier, dragging her anchors as she strained after each wave.
At eight o’clock when the tide was at its full , the mast head light of the ship was noticed much nearer to the shore, and the coxswain of the lifeboat began to make preparation for a launch directly signal of distress were shown.
A few minutes past nine the inhabitants were startled by the lifeboat signal going off, the two bombs with their red light showing up in the sky, bringing quite a large number of spectators to the Parades and lifeboat house. The horses were quickly got together and the boat started out for the launch, but upon arriving opposite the ship it was noticed she was riding in about five feet of water safe on the sands. Therefore as there was no immediate danger the boat was housed again.
As the tide receded and left the motor schooner dry, the coxswain of the lifeboat, Mr Matthew Grunnill, went to the skipper, informed him of the dangerous position he was in, and pointed out the possibility of the tide and wind throwing the ship into the Pier, but the skipper evidently did not realise the seriousness of the situation and apparently did not take any further precaution.
After the lifeboat was housed, the coxswain left the station, but the situation of the vessel preyed upon his mind that he got out of bed at three o’clock in the morning, and again appealed to the men to get up and lay out further cables or leave the boat as the set of the tide would drive her into the Pier.
However the skipper thought he was perfectly safe and did not take advantage of local knowledge.
Soon after daybreak many persons were on the sands to watch the vessel on the incoming tide, and it was quickly seen there was not any hope of the anchor holding the vessel away from the structure.
At about eight o’clock the sweep of the tide threw the stern of the vessel under the Pier and with every lift of the waves wrestled the decking up, shearing it off for about 150 feet. The danger to the sailors became apparent both to themselves and the people who were on the Pier watching, and ropes were thrown over the side and the sailors were pulled up on the Pier. In their hurry to get clear two of the men clamboured on the underside of the ironwork and were lost to view and at first it was thought they had been washed away, and the helpers had a few anxious moments as they tried to find them in the water, but it was discovered they had crept along the under-structure to safety.
When th masts came in touch with the ironwork a large piece about 60 feet long dropped down on the boat.
As the tide receded the vessel was lodged in the large opening with the bowsprit underneath the decking of the end standing out to sea. The men again took possession and began to make preparation to get clear on the next tide.
It is estimated that £4,000 will be required to repair the damage to the structure, which is about midway between the first and second shelter.
Some 37 years ago a vessel crashed through the Pier about the same spot, but on that occasion the boat was first sighted at Chapel bottom upwards, and swept along the coast, crashing through the Pier, and along to Gibraltar Point. On that occasion the crew was never heard of again. It is very singular that Coxswain Matthew Grunnill went out to the vessel when it was off Chapel St Leonards.
The “Europa” suffered severe damage, her shrouds were chaffed asunder, the main booms broken, the bowsprit damaged beyond repair; whilst the deck house was much battered, and the plates sprung in several places. On Sunday the vessel was opposite the Clock Tower in a line with the Pullover, where the agents came and inspected it with a view to sending down tugs to get her off and take her to Grimsby for repairs. Over £1,000 damage was done to the vessel.
Chatting to the skipper on Monday, he stated he was going from Amsterdam to Wisbech in ballast to get a load of dried potatoes to ship to Holland. He anchored during Wednesday in about seven fathoms of water, ready yo proceed on daybreak. The wind freshened considerably and he settled down to wait until the storm passed before proceeding. As the gale increased he put out another anchor and was perfectly safe until his main anchor snapped in two. The vessel then dragged her anchors until she bumped upon the shore. He did not show any signals of distress because he did not think he was in any danger, and was convinced if he had not be blown into the Pier would have been able to got off alright again and proceed on his voyage.
There will, no doubt, be litigation to ascertain who is responsible to repair the damage, and some knotty points of law will be thrashed out. If the vessel had dashed into the Pier on Thursday evening, there is not the slightest doubt the plea that it was “an act of God” would have easily stood good, and the Pier Company been responsible for all the damage, but aqs the vessel was left high and dry, and the skipper did not try to further anchor and try to stay the vessel, it becomes a moot point in law as to whether the owners of the vessel will not be responsible. And when the whole question has been thrashed out in Court, then comes the most important question was the owner insured against third party risks, or is he wealthy enough to pay for the damages.
Whatever happens with regard to who is responsible, we are afraid the damage will not be repaired this side of July, if the structure is repaired with iron to match the design. Probably reinforced piles will be utilized with reinforced stretcher girders, which could be done much quicker.