History of the Wreck
The "M.Y. Alastor" started her life as "M.Y. Vita", built in 1926 by the
renowned shipyard Camper & Nicholsons for the millionaire Sir
Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith, the man behind the famous World War I fighter
"Sopwith Camel", and the World War II "Hawker Hurricane", to name only two
of many. In the shipping world, he was renowned for several nearly successful
attempts to bring the "America's Cup" to Britain, using purpose-built sailing
yachts also supplied by Camper & Nicholsons, and for having built
the biggest ever privately owned diesel yacht in the United Kingdom, "M.Y.
Philante". Sir Thomas Sopwith used the Vita for "ocean-wide pleasure
cruises" until 1929 , when he sold her to buy the bigger "M.Y. Vita II".
Vita shortly after launch
According to "Lloyd's Register of Yachts", the Vita was 143.0 feet
(43.59 m), 24.0 feet wide (7.32 m), and had a draft of 9.6 feet (2.9 m).
Driven by two 6-cylinder oil engines providing 300 bhp each, and twin screws,
the steel yacht displaced 340 t (Thames Measurement), and grossed 345 t,
respectively, resulting in a 100A1 classification through Lloyd's. She is
equipped with electric lights, and a teak deck, and was commissioned in July
Vita in 1927 or 1928
In 1929, Vita was then bought by Sir John Courtown Edward Shelley-Rolls,
a son of Sir Charles Shelley, who in turn was a nephew of Mary Shelley, best
known as the author of "Frankenstein", and her husband, the poet Sir Percy
Bysshe Shelley. After acquiring the Vita, Sir John C. E. Shelley-Rolls
renamed her "M.Y. Alastor", presumably after the famous poem of the same
title by his great-uncle Sir Percy Bysshe Shelley about the Greek god of
revenge for crimes and blood feuds.
Sir John C. E. Shelley-Rolls kept the Alastor until 1939. In July
1939, she was acquired, most likely by compulsory purchase, by the Ministry
of War Transport. During the war years, Alastor was repeatedly refitted
and equipped with ASDIC to act as an armed transport and coastal anti-submarine
vessel. She served at a number of ports around Northern Ireland and Scotland.
In February 1945, the Alastor was transferred to Belfast where she
stayed until the end of the war. The Admiralty kept her until 1946,
when she was considered redundant and sold to the Greek government.
The Alastor presumably met her end sometime between 11th and 16th
March 1946. At that time, she was relocated to Ringhaddy Sound, where she
anchored on the mooring of the local sailing club, to be repainted at a later
date in preparation for her new role in Greece. At some time during the 11th
March 1946, a fire broke out on board, the cause of which has never been
established. The crew managed to abandon ship safely and someone alerted
the Fire Brigade, with units from Belfast and Bangor rushing to the site.
However, the Alastor was anchored too far from shore, and the firefighters
could not reach her. The yacht eventually burnt out completely. The burnt
out hull stayed afloat for an unspecified number of days, but by 16th March
1946, she had finally sunk.
The local newspapers give the name of the stricken vessel as "Allister" rather
than "Alastor", which means that there will always remain a certain amount
of doubt about the true identity of the yacht. However, the vessel is attributed
to Sir T. O. M. Sopwith, and her displacement is given as 350 t, which also
approximately fits the Alastor's listed 345 t displacement prior to
the modifications carried out during World War II. Furthermore, due to the
measurements taken on the wreck matching very well the dimensions of the
Alastor, and the fact that there is no record whatsoever of a yacht
called Allister anywhere in the world prior to World War II, and the
total lack of any yacht with similar dimensions in the 1947 Lloyd's Register
of Yachts, it is reasonable to assume that the reporters of the Belfast
Telegraph and Down Recorder misspelled Alastor as the English
Further historic details and a bibliography can be found in the full report,
please see the Downloads section.