The Indefatigable was built in Yugoslavia in 1975 as the Sea Diamond, later changing hands and becoming the Chambon Bora and purchased by A.T.C.L. in 1984 and manned from Swansea. The company had already purchased two other vessels of the same class from the French company, "Compagnie Chambon" at Marseille.
These twin-screw, Kort nozzle, anchor-handling tugs were built by the Tito Shipyard, Beograd, Yugoslavia.
Principal particulars are:- Length 39.62m o.a.; Beam extreme 9.9m; Draught 4.39m; Moulded depth 5.31m; Fuel capacity 300 t ; Bollard pull 70 tons; Approximate speed 14 knots; Range 5000 miles; Classification LR + 100 A1 + LMC tug with "anchor handling and multipurpose vessel". Propulsion is by two Burmeister and Wain Alpha type 16V23 Diesel engines with an overload rating of 5200 bhp driving variable-pitch propellers in active Kort nozzles. The sophisticated heavy-duty deck machinery includes an anchor windlass capable of anchoring in water depths up to 1000 ft and a remotely-controlled anchor winch with a line-pull capacity of 225,000 lbs. Fire-fighting equipment includes two water monitors and two foam monitors.
The first vessel purchased was the Chambon Alize, originally built as the Sea Husky in 1975. She was acquired by A.T.C.L. Liverpool in January 1982 and renamed Redoubtable and manned from that port.
(This vessel had a truly mysterious end and this is covered at the end of this section.)
The Implacable was lost on December 24th 1984, 27 miles south of St. Catherine’s Point on the Isle of Wight, whilst on passage to the Falkland Islands. The only casualty was the Chief Engineer, John Townes, who had left our crew on the Indefatigable two weeks previously. This was definitely not the news anyone wanted to hear on Christmas Eve, even if we were thousands of miles from home.
This information was passed on to us on board the Indefatigable on Christmas Eve afternoon, where I was waiting to bring David Thompson Jones ashore, prior to us both flying back to the U.K. D.-T Jones had suffered back injuries while working with the BOS 400
A delivery crew left Swansea, via Heathrow, for Marseilles on April 26th, 1984. Captain Jack Jefferies and the Chief Engineer, Carl Gradage, a newcomer to the company, had spent the last week in Marseilles with some senior management from Liverpool and London, along with our Swansea Engineering Suptd., Glyn Burrows, overseeing the handover. The Chambon Bora had spent the previous 5 years working in the Arabian Gulf.
We left Swansea on the midnight train to Reading, and most of the crew had met earlier in the Windsor Arms, in St. Thomas, where a good deal of alcohol was consumed to ready us for what lay ahead.
After spending the first night in Marseilles in a bed & breakfast, we joined the vessel the following morning where the handing over activity was frenetic, to say the least. This being the third and last of the vessels purchased, the sellers decided to throw in all the deck and engine spares as a job lot, a decision that caused many problems with the French Customs authority and our backs.
After a hectic day, most of us decided to stay aboard and savour some of the alcohol kindly left by the previous tenants, but as always, a couple decided to head for the ‘delights’ of Port de Bouc and predictably, returned within the hour.
We sailed on the Saturday morning and after some pretty severe weather in the vicinity of the Balearic Islands we pulled into Gibraltar for a few hours to effect repairs to our radar.
After an uneventful voyage to Sheerness, we dry-docked in the companies Medway Dry-Dock facility. We endured a severe going over by H.M. Customs Black Gang on departing the vessel before boarding a coach bound for Paddington. We travelled home on the May Day Bank Holiday Monday, which also coincided with my singing debut aboard the Paddington to Swansea 125 train. A most colourful and entertaining journey was had by all.
The Indefatigable underwent a minor refit in dry-dock and we went back to Sheerness a couple of weeks later of store the vessel prior to starting towage operations
After sailing from Sheerness we proceeded on passage to Hartlepool, where we were to tow a loaded barge to the Morecambe Bay gas field, where we were to discharge a burn off flare stack and then on to Flushing in Holland with the rest of the cargo.
We experienced steerage problems on passage and the autopilot was disengaged for a few hours, reverting to the old system of hand steering, all of which coincided with a severe stomach upset for Clifford Hughes, which surprisingly cleared up as the same time as the autopilot problem was resolved. Cliff’s medicine was affectionately known as ‘North Sea Jake’ and its powers when aligned to engineering problems were legendary.
Everything went according to plan and we sailed on schedule. The towing winch had been witnessed being operated prior to the vessel being purchased, by A.T.C.L. management , with both wires having been run out to their bitter ends. So what came next was a big shock, after being told that apart from routine maintenance, at this stage, no work was required on the winches.
After clearing the Tees Fairway buoy we started lengthening the tow and it was then that we encountered problems with the winch. After running out about four wraps of wire, the winch just jammed up with the next lays being buried beneath the rest. With the tide starting to ebb, it was decided to recall the tug that had assisted in the sailing to help us to berth the barge. The problems with the winch were duly resolved and we proceeded North about to Morecambe Bay where we discharged the flare, stack something that I would find myself moored alongside 17 yrs later, when serving on the Dutch diving support vessel Markab.
In September 1984 the Indefatigable left Swansea to tow a materials barge from Brest in North West France, to Point Noir in the Congo. After safely delivering the barge, the crew, under Captain Glyn Fethney proceeded to Douala in the Republic of Cameroon, where our crew, under the command of Captain Jack Jefferies relieved them on November 8th.
After a few days alongside in Douala we proceeded south to rendezvous with the French crane barge BOS 400. Our main task was anchor handling, along with any other tasks that occurred. The BOS 400 was a fairly new vessel , a combined crane and lay barge, used in the construction of oil platforms and the vessel was capable of lifting 1,000 tons and was owned by Bouyges Offshore, a subsidiary company of ELF, the French state owned petroleum company.
On June 26th, 1994, the BOS 400 was on passage from Point Noire in the Congo to Cape Town under tow of the Azerbaijan registered tug Tigre ( ex Neftegaz 23), when she encountered one of the notorious Cape of Good Hope storms. In mountainous seas, the towing line parted and the BOS 400 ended up being driven ashore. Salvage attempts were later made, but due to the severity of the weather, she ended up as a constructive total loss.
The owners of the BOS 400 attempted to claim $80 million from the owners of the Tigr, the Azerbaijan owned Caspian Special Maritime Rescue Company , for the estimated value of the vessel. This case finally ended up in the House of Lords and a small fraction of that amount was awarded.
Once capable of lifting 1,000 tons.
The Redoubtable was sold by A.T.C.L. in November 1990. She was renamed Britoil 3. She was sold on again in 1994 and renamed Geronimo 2. In 2002 she was again sold and renamed Theseus until being sold for the last time in 2004 when she became the Jupiter 6. She was damaged by fire in July 2004 while working in Trinidad.
The JUPITER 6 left Cuba in November 2004, towing the bulker ITHOMI (previous names were SATSANG then POINTING).
The Master, Chief Engineer and Chief Officer were Ukraine nationals and the other ten crew members were Indian.
Called Port of Spain, Trinidad, left January 6th 2005 and reached Fortaleza in Brazil on 18 March 2005.
After a short call, the tug left Fortaleza on March19th and reached Walvis Bay in Namibia three and a half months later, on July 1st 2005. The average speed during this crossing of the South Atlantic was 1.3 knots. On arrival at Walvis Bay the vessel went to dry dock where extensive repairs were carried out.
The tug left Walvis Bay on August 9th 2005 and sent its last position on September 5th 2005: 35.52 S 23.26 E with the final destination being the ship breaking yard at Alang near Bhavnagar in the Indian state of Gujarat. An intermediate call in Mauritius was probably foreseen.
On 25th September the towed ITHOMI was found drifting by the bulker POSEIDON drifting in position by 37.48 S 28.59
The tug SMIT AMANDLA was sent to recover the vessel. It found the tow line snapped and indications that two emergency towing wires had been rigged. This suggests that problems were encountered towing this vessel.
The conspiracy theories still abound in 2013 and there have been suggestions that the ship was taken by pirates. The crew were once reported to have been imprisoned in Lisbon and awaited a visit from the Indian Embassy officials prior to their release and one of the most confusing issues of all was the EPIRB being activated some time after the tug had disappeared.