COWAN, steam trawler: When returning to Lyttelton from the fishing grounds on March 9, 1948, the steamer struck the Port Levy rocks at about 9.30 p.m. The vessel was severely holed on the starboard side, filled rapidly, and sank within seven minutes. The crew of seven were all saved, one man jumping on the rocks as the steamer struck. Three men were in the lifeboat clearing it away when the Cowan suddenly heeled over and sank, leaving the other three men in the water.
The master was drawn down with the steamer, but managed to get clear, and all three were picked up by the lifeboat. The man on the rocks having been taken off, the boat was beached at Starvation Bay, where three men were landed, and the remainder then proceeded in the boat to Little Port Cooper, where they arrived about midÂnight. There they were cared for by the families of the signalmen at Adderley Head. An inspection of the position in Starvation Bay, where the Cowan sank, was made on March 10, and even at low tide there was no sign of the vessel, which was a total loss.
Beyond expressing the view that the course should have been checked, the Court of Inquiry into the sinking of the Cowan decided that no further reprimand was called for. The finding said that the vessel had been steered for some time by an uncertificated member of the crew without the master checking the course. This might have been customary, but when the captain came to the bridge to make the signal it should have been apparent from the harbour lights that the Cowan was off its course, and verification should have been made. The steersman had obviously allowed the vessel to drift inshore through not keeping to the course instructed. As the captain was close to the wheel at all times the court did not think him remiss in leaving the wheel.
The Cowan, No. 136,388, was a wooden, screw steamer of 67 tons gross and 30 tons net register, built at Sydney in 1914, and her dimensions were length 83.6 ft., beam 18.4 ft., depth 9.4 ft. Her engines were of 24 h.p. The steamer was owned by Messrs. P. Feron and Son Ltd., of ChristÂchurch, and was under the command of Captain G. Mouncer.