Remembering the OSV Voortrekker

There are a number of shipwrecks that resonate in South African history, the biggest being the loss of the HMT Mendi,  the sinking of the SAS Paul Kruger and finally, the sinking of the OSV Voortrekker which was lost on 10 September 1993.

This page is dedicated to the crew and families of the OSV Voortrekker.

The OSV Voortrekker 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.

The often extreme weather around our coast claimed the vessel on 10 September 1993 off Mossel Bay whilst she was attending to the oil rig. The Voortrekker 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, some images are from my own collection. The memorial to the Voortrekker in Mossel Bay was photographed by Robert I. Sadler.

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. 


On 31 January 2016,  Peter Tighe crossed the bar, his ashes being scattered at sea. 

© DRW 2016-2021.  Recreated from post at allatsea 16/09/2016

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