Reaper’s vital role in rescue

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IN modern times, the Reaper fishing vessel has become a leading symbol of seafaring gala day celebrations, a top visitor attraction in Anstruther and a prominent guest at sea festivals around the country.

However, the 109-year-old herring drifter has netted a place in the news in recent days – and also played a leading role in a rescue.

A conflict of interest has forced the cancellation of three proposed trips by the 70-foot Reaper to the Bell Rock lighthouse, to support and celebrate the lighthouse’s bicentenary.

Organised by the Scottish Fisheries Museum Boats Club, sailings from Arbroath had been scheduled from July 28-30 for guests, in return for a donation towards the cost of maintaining the boat.

But the club was advised that taking individual and group bookings for these sailings – and funding them through donations – could affect both its essential charitable status and the rating under current MCA regulations, relating to a commercial trading element.

Boats Club chairman John Firn explained: “As it is very important that we protect Reaper’s status as a core member of the UK’s Historic Fleet, the Boats Club has decided, with much regret, to cancel the Bell Rock sailings from Arbroath.

“We realise this will disappoint those who have made enquiries about coming aboard on these sailings, and we send them our apologies.

“We trust the reasons for our decision will be understood, as it is important that the basis of funding the continuing existence and operation of this iconic and historic boat is fully protected.”

Meanwhile, earlier this month, the century-old Reaper was first on the scene when the 14-strong crew of a fishing trawler had to be rescued after fire broke out in its engine room.

The Faroese-registered Vardborg was about six miles off Fraserburgh when the alarm was raised, with an RAF rescue helicopter, plus the Fraserburgh and Peterhead lifeboats, also involved in the successful operation.

The 70-foot Reaper was en route to the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy when her skipper picked up the Vardborg’s mayday call.