The incident

At about 1550 on 23 September 2019, the 6.2m fishing vessel, Anna-Marie II, capsized as it entered the mouth of the Brora river while returning from its creel fishing grounds.

The vessel broached and capsized in the waves, resulting in both its skipper and crewman entering the water.

Neither was wearing a personal flotation device. As a result, the crewman managed to swim ashore but sadly the skipper drowned.


The MAIB investigation found that:

  • Anna-Marie II capsized because it broached and was turned side on to the breaking waves as it crossed the bar at the entrance to the Brora river.
  • The skipper struck his head during the capsize, which might have affected his ability to swim. The lack of a lifejacket led to the skipper being unable to keep his head above water.
  • The waves at the time of the accident were very unusual for the Brora harbour entrance and had developed very quickly to a height of approximately 3 to 3.5m.
  • The experienced skipper underestimated the risk of capsize in the prevailing conditions and was caught out by the unusually high waves that he encountered.


  • Anna-Marie II capsized as the skipper lost steerage when the vessel broached, slewing it to starboard and placing the vessel broadside on to the next wave.
  • Anna-Marie II capsized and inverted because the size and steepness of the waves encountered were too great and the vessel had insufficient stability to resist the heeling moment.

While the stability of the vessel might have been adequate, an open boat design has a dramatic loss of stability as soon as the bulwark rail enters the water as there is no further righting moment and catastrophic flooding occurs,

...the report reads.

  • It is likely that the skipper was conscious when he cleared the upturned hull but drowned as his ability to swim was affected by the blow to the head he sustained during the capsize. The lack of a lifejacket led to the skipper being unable to keep his head above water.
  • The unusually high waves created by an easterly swell were not evident in any weather forecasts.
  • The skipper of Anna-Marie II had extensive experience of the local conditions but was caught out by the size of the waves, which were more difficult to judge from out at sea.
  • The skipper’s numerous previous successful entries into the Brora river potentially led to a reduced awareness of the risk of capsizing.
  • Despite the inherent risk of capsize and persons falling in the water while entering the Brora river, PFDs were not worn by the skipper and crewman on board Anna-Marie II.

Explore more herebelow:

UK MAIB report