Ben Nevis and the Shipwreck
Know by the locals as the "Ben Nevis shipwreck' or the 'Corpach shipwreck' what is the story of this iconic beached boat that faces Ben Nevis?
I went for a swim in Loch Linnhe today, swimming from Corpach, past the Caledonian canal and onto Caol, with Ben Nevis dominating the horizon. As I swam I passed a large wooden boat on the shore, halfway between the low and high tide marks where it has been for nearly a decade. I had spoken to the owner on a number of occasions and over several conversations, he told me the sad tale of his boat.
It is one of the iconic photos of the West Coast of the Scottish Highlands. The wooden trawler stranded, listing on the beach with Ben Nevis in the background. Photographers from all over the world spend hours with a tripod and camera composing the perfect photo. But what is the story behind the Ben Nevis shipwreck?
The wooden trawler stranded, listing on the beach with Ben Nevis in the background
Originally called the ‘Golden Harvest’ she was built in 1975 by J & G Forbes in 1975 in Sandhaven, she is a traditional wooden-hulled fishing boat. But by 2000 her golden days harvesting mackerel and herring was over and she was in poor repair tied up the pier at Kinlochleven, near Glencoe. I drove past her a number of times and often wondered who she belonged to and what her story was.
2008 she caught the eye of Lucas Pomaha a highly skilled carpenter and boat builder from the Czech Republic. He had renovated several smaller wooden boats and was looking for a new challenge and a home for him and his wife.
They used their time and skills to repair the hull, refit her and make her a home and renamed their floating house the ‘Dayspring’.
‘‘We bought the boat to do it up and live on it. One, for the love of boat building and, two, also for our own home.’
'Concerned friends helped by securing her to the shore with heavy marine ropes.'
She was towed to a small bay opposite Ben Nevis called Camusnagaul (Bay of the Foreigners in Gaelic). In the winter of 2011 Lukas and his wife Alla were away visiting family when a fierce storm ripped her from her moorings. Most storms on this part of the Scottish coast have a westerly wind, so Dayspring was pushed from her moorings westwards towards the shingle beach at Caol (pronounced ‘cool’). When he was contacted by the Coast Guard the practical-minded Lucas told them not to risk hurting themselves trying to save his home and ship. But the coastguard knew what she meant to her owners and helped give her a controlled landing onto the beach.
Concerned friends helped by securing her to the shore with heavy marine ropes.
Loch Linnhe at sunset:
‘…there used to be small jetties everywhere along Loch Linnhe and now they are ruined and not in use. I like the Highlands, the scenery, the wilderness. But we have somehow lost touch with the sea and marine activities.’ Lukas Pomaha
Many of the local Coast Guard are volunteers and the friends of Lukas who secured her are local. Having survived one tragedy with the help of the community it was a horrible sight that greeted Lukas when he returned.
The boat became a target for looters and vandals, they used power tools to rip fittings from the boat, even her propeller was stolen. What could not be taken was smashed, even their living quarters were ransacked.
It seemed it could not get any worse for Lukas and ‘Dayspring’.
‘When people started cutting ropes, that made me feel sick,’ said Lukas.
‘Now people realise there’s nothing to steal, they have gone for just purely destroying things.’
Ben Nevis with Loch Linnhe. Camusnagaul, where the boat was moored before the storm is on the bottom right.
'.....as one mans dreams and hopes among the storms..'
Not satisfied with damaging a man’s dream and hard work, some people wanted to see it destroyed. He tried to repair the boat, in between his work at a local shipyard, but when he came back all his work would be gone.
But has this made the Czech born shipwright bitter?
No, the traditionally skilled shipwright still has a vision for a future for the ‘Dayspring’, a vision that might even involve those that looted and damaged her.
‘I’m a person who wants to keep the old-fashioned skills, learn it and then pass it on, there used to be small jetties everywhere along Loch Linnhe and now they are ruined and not in use. I like the Highlands, the scenery, the wilderness. But we have somehow lost touch with the sea and marine activities.’
‘I feel for this area and would like to do something the community can benefit from. Instead of throwing stones at it, let’s make it useful and serve people.’
Now, when I pass Dayspring I don’t see her as a prop for landscape photographers but as one mans dreams and hopes among the storms, the kindness of strangers and friends and hope for a better future in our Highlands.
Wild Mountain Guides offers a range of lower level walks to explore the history and heritage of the Scottish Highlands
*All direct quotes from Lukas are taken from an article in the Oban Times as I did not take quotable notes when talking to Lukas, https://www.obantimes.co.uk/2019/06/07/one-man-and-a-boat-the-story-of-mv-dayspring/