Drunken skipper ran ship aground on bank

The stricken Corantine
The stricken Corantine

A drunken sailor and his crew had to be rescued from their ship when the skipper crashed into a sand bank.

Captain Michael MacEachern, 45, downed seven pints of cider on shore before attempting to navigate the 60-tonne Jersey Seaboat through the harbour at Fleetwood.

MacEachern at court yesterday

MacEachern at court yesterday

But in his drunken state, the skipper lost control of his boat and careered into the sand bank, known as the Tiger’s Tail, leaving his crew stranded.

MacEachern, of Sherwood Grove, Huntington, York, pleaded guilty to being in charge of a boat with excess alcohol, an offence which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison under the Rail and Transport Safety Act.

The whelk trawler, the Corantine, had to be refloated when the tide came in at the Wyre Estuary.

Philip Clark, prosecuting, told Preston Crown Court: “Officers arrived at the Esplanade at Fleetwood beach and spoke to Mr Sumner, the coastguard, who explained the RNLI were in the process of taking the crew from the ship and bringing them ashore.

There were five Eastern European males who were confirming their belief that the skipper was under the influence of alcohol

“There were five Eastern European males who were confirming their belief that the skipper was under the influence of alcohol.

“He was still on board and was unwilling to leave the boat.”

Volunteers from the RNLI were called to the harbour in the early hours of June 7 after reports a boat had run aground.

The captain eventually left the vessel and was taken to Fleetwood Police Station where breath tests revealed he was well over the legal limit to captain a boat - which is the same as the drink-drive limit.

MacEachern has a previous conviction for being drunk in charge of a boat off the coast of Pembrokeshire in 2012, the court heard.

Daniel Harman, defending, said: “As is often the case in North West England, from Morecambe to Southport and beyond, some of the waters are very difficult to navigate out of the area.

“He accepts his judgement would have been skewed.

“He is no longer able to be employed as a skipper because they can not get the insurance for him but his employers have kept him on as a deckhand. It will be perhaps never, but certainly years before he can captain a boat.

“At 45 years of age his skippering days are done.”

Recorder Mukhtar Hussain, sentencing, sentenced MacEachern to eight months in prison suspended for two years.

He told him: “You were the captain of a vessel which ended up being grounded at Fleetwood. That ended up being grounded partly, if not fully for the reason that you were drunk. You were the captain and you had a crew of five men.

“This is a harbour which is difficult to navigate and the dangers are in my view obvious on this occasion.

“It is right to observe that there was no damage or injury but there could have been.

“It is the potential for danger that the law tries to protect from.

“You admitted having six or seven pints of cider - that in itself is serious enough but of course you have a similar offence that occurred four years earlier.”