Photo:Arosette in serious trouble

Arosette in serious trouble

Photo:Manoeuvering at very close quarters

Manoeuvering at very close quarters

Photo:Captain Paul Levesley at Senlac's controls

Captain Paul Levesley at Senlac's controls

Photo:Louis Marchesi approaches Arosette

Louis Marchesi approaches Arosette

Photo:Louis Marchesi comes in close for the axe to be passed across

Louis Marchesi comes in close for the axe to be passed across

Photo:Deck cargo being jettisoned

Deck cargo being jettisoned

All photos courtesy of Ray Griffiths & Mick Cutler. Hi-res images from Newhaven Museum

Drama off Eastbourne

By Mick Cutler - Words by Andy Gilbert

On the 3rd July 1978, the German coaster Arosette got into serious difficulties off Eastbourne. Her internal cargo of steel had shifted and she had taken on a heavy and dangerous list to starboard.

Newhaven Lifeboat Louis Marchesi of Round Table was despached but it was the car ferry Senlac that was first on the scene. Her Master Captain Paul Levesley displayed some superb ship handling as he manoeuvered Senlac to create a lee to protect Arosette. This meant getting Senlac as close as possible to the stricken coaster and then keeping station with her as she drfited.

This was achieved, as can be seen in the photos of Captain Levesley at the starboard bridge wing telegraphs on Senlac, by putting one engine ahead and the other astern. Together with a matching rudder movement, this will tend to swing the ship on the spot. It's also possible to use the ship's bow thruster to assist this manoeuvre, but in these circumstances, it's likely that it wasn't used as it could have ingested some of the floating timber.

The photo of Captain Levesley at the controls shows Senlac's port engine astern, starboard engine ahead and port rudder applied, swinging her to port. This is a commonly used manoeuvre on a small twin screw vessel like a tug, but much more difficult, and therefore uncommon, on a ferry of Senlac's size. What's more, Captain Levesley had to keep this up for quite some time.

Newhaven Lifeboat arrived and managed to pass an axe to the crew of Arosette, enabling them to cut free the remainder of her deck cargo of timber, creating quite a large 'wood slick'. This corrected the list enough for Arosette to be brought safely into port.

This excellent sequence of photos was taken by one of Senlac's engineers, Ray Griffiths, and passed to his colleague, Mick Cutler. Newhaven Museum holds slightly better quality prints and Curator Peter Bailey has kindly allowed Our Newhaven to scan them and use them here.

This page was added by Mick Cutler on 30/04/2010.
Comments about this page

The pictures do not give an accurate impression of the state of the waves, needless to say it wasnt very pleasant. The captain of the coaster had his family trapped in a cabin below with the bulkhead door jammed because of the list to his ship. Having shed some of her deck cargo of timber Arosette limped towards Shoreham escorted by the Newhaven Lifeboat, which was constantly having to dodge baulks of timber as the coaster continued to lighten her deck cargo. That's a long way to list over without having capsized especially in the prevailing conditions and the fact that they got away with it is in a large part due to the quick actions of the Senlac. In the background of the second picture you can also see one of the 'Arco' dredgers who had also responded and stood by.

By Rob Patten
On 02/05/2010

Captain Paul Levesley is my Godparent and is now enjoying his retirement in Seaford.

By Nicholas Dunn-Coleman
On 08/08/2014

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