Thursday, 11 February 2010


She was a big boat and had been an Exmouth boat and was named The Saucy Sam until, a Topsham man, Joseph Newman, bought her. He changed her name to Sarah Ann Fanny and she brought him no luck. In the season of the year 1925 she brought home all too few herring but Joseph Newman pinned his hopes on the new season. On Friday 15th January 1926 a fleet of motor drifters set out in the afternoon and came home at night. The Sarah Ann Fanny sailed with them. The catch was disappointing. The fleet brought home only a few hundred herring between them.

The next day, the Saturday, the weather was unsettled and most of the skippers chose not to venture out to sea. Five boats, however, set out in squally weather and one of these was the Sarah Ann Fanny, her owner desperate to make a good catch. In the late afternoon they found good sized shoals and each of the boats netted some ten thousand herring before making for home. Four of the boats came home before midnight but the Sarah Ann Fanny stayed longer in the fishing grounds and all the time the tide was turning against her. By the time she reached the channel the night was as black as pitch and the ebb was running against her bows. Just opposite Conger Rocks she struck the channel side of the Pole Sand. The tide was falling rapidly now and the breeze was freshening. There were four of them on board, Joseph Newman, George Pym, Jim Bowers and Isaac Perry, all experienced fishermen. For a desperate half hour they tried to move the Sarah Ann Fanny off the bank but there was nothing they could do to float their boat. Cold and wet they saved themselves by climbing into their dinghy and rowing through the choppy waters to land near the Coastguard station. Then they rowed hard against the tide as far as the dock in search of help. Four men were prepared to risk their lives in a bid to save the drifter, George and Abe Edworthy of the motor drifter, Quartette, Bruce Pym, the pilot, and Percy Bradford. At about half past two in the morning these eight men rowed back to where the Sarah Ann Fanny was lying. Around the stranded vessel was now a seething turmoil of broken water. The wind was blowing at gale force and had brought with it a blinding rainstorm. It was soon clear that there was nothing that the eight could do but return and wait for the dawn.

When dawn came at last Joseph Newman saw that his boat had been smashed to matchwood by the force of the sea. His thirteen drift nets, his ten thousand herring and all his gear had been washed out to sea. The notorious Pole Sand had broken yet another boat and yet another boatowner

The loss of the Sarah Ann Fanny was reported in the Exmouth Journal of 23rd January 1926.

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