The Loss of the OSV Voortrekker.

Many people contributed to this page, and it is dedicated to the crew and families of the OSV Voortrekker.

The offshore oil industry in South Africa was never a very large one, most of the activity seemingly taking place off Mossel Bay. One of the participants was the anchor handling supply vessel OSV Voortrekker, which was built in 1983 in Durban by Dorbyl Marine and operated by Unicorn Lines.

Voortrekker Commemorative Envelope

Leading Particulars of OSV Voortrekker.

Length 62 m, Beam 13,33 m, Draught at deep load: 5.06 m. Deadweight 1165 tons
Cruising speed 12 Knots.

Main engines: 6000 B.H.P. Bollard pull in excess of 80 metric tons.

Combined towing and anchor handling winch: 200 tons working load. 300 tons static load.

The vessel was built for towing rigs between drilling stations, handling and running out the rigs anchoring systems, supplying and ferrying of drilling equipment and materials between the base and the rig as well as safety standby. On commencement of her service she was placed on a long term charter to Soekor for servicing the semi submersible rig “Actinia” in the PE area.

Unfortunately the extreme weather around our coastline claimed the Voortrekker on 10 September 1993 off Mossel Bay whilst she was attending to the oil rig.
The vessel remained afloat although upside down for two days before finally sinking taking her crew of 10 with her. Also lost was Lighthouse; the ship’s cat.

Voortrekker Crew
Captain – Cameron Vermeulen
Mate – Allan Sillence
Bosun – David Joseph
Able Seaman – Christopher Damon
Able Seaman – Kenneth Grewar
Able Seaman – Thulebona Gambushe
Greaser – Clement Ndaba
Greaser – Gaga Mzimela
Cook – Michael Mchunu
Steward – Gerald Mkhize
Ships cat – Lighthouse

What made this particular accident remarkable was that after being upside down for two days in really rough seas, the Chief Engineer – Paul de Barry, 2nd Engineer – Peter Tighe and Greaser – Clement Ndaba managed to escape from the capsized vessel. All 3 men were in the engine room at the time of the disaster and it was from here that they managed to escape. Although salvage attempts where made, the vessel sank after 2 days and settled into soft mud upside down making a recovery operation of the deceased impossible. Divers did make numerous attempts to gain entry into the vessel, whilst she was still afloat, but the adverse sea and strong currents made this dangerous and impossible.

Of all the crew that were lost on that fateful day only two bodies were recovered. Greaser Clement Ndaba passed away due to injuries sustained escaping, and Able Seaman Christopher Damon’s body was recovered during the initial diving operations. All the rest went down with the vessel.
Today the Voortrekker and her crew is commemorated in the garden of the port authorities of Mossel Bay, where a black granite memorial was erected in  remembrance of her. While the local SPCA has a  framed memorial for Lighthouse the ships cat in their office.

Special thanks to Deene for the information I have used here, images are from my own collection. The memorial to the Voortrekker in Mossel Bay was photographed by Robert I. Sadler of (link no longer active).

In 2012 divers erected a cross on the wreck of the Voortrekker in memory of those who died in the disaster, and those who lived. 

Update: 17/02/2016.

I received an email today from Patricia, sister of Peter Tighe, one of the two survivors off MV VOORTREKKER.

“…after spending 22 hours under the water, three men managed to extricate themselves, but only Peter and Paul du Barry, survived. Peter had another 22 years given to him and in that time did a lot of work at Jerico Mission ( a promise he made to God while under water) close to where he and his wife, Linda, lived in Port Edward.
He also went back to sea, as that was his love. He retired 5 years ago and kept busy making nautical knotting boards, doormats and swings to sell at the local Uvongo Flea Market on weekends.
Two years ago he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and Dementia, which led to Alzheimer’s, complications of his condition led to his passing on the 31st January 2016.
We, his family, mourn his loss with Linda, may he rest in peace, his ashes were scattered in the sea, where he loved to be.
Paul & Anita du Barry joined us for his Service….”

© DRW 2009-2018. Moved to blog 16/03/2014, updated 17/02/2016, 16/09/2016

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