Cape Town - A Pre-dawn drama unfolded on the Cape coastline on Thursday when a trawler ran aground, leaving its skipper dead.

Sources on the scene on Wednesday morning said it appeared the trawler, from Hout Bay, had been crayfishing at around 4.30am.

Crew later told rescuers they had been sleeping.

The vessel was in the vicinity of the Betty’s Bay suburb of Sunny Seas, where the houses closest to the Palmiet River mouth are positioned on the rocks.

“They obviously got too close – and once you’re in those currents you’re buggered,” said Dan Fick, chairman of the local ratepayers’ association and deputy of the community policing forum.

Another source described the coastline as “rough, rocky and dangerous”, and said the vessel had been marooned on the rocks at high tide.

“When we got there it was being hammered against the rocks,” Fick said.

By mid-morning on Thursday, the vessel had been left high and dry on the rocks, its “back broken”, referring to the vessel’s structural damage.

The National Sea Rescue Institute’s Craig Lambinon said the captain had been declared dead on the scene – apparently after he had tried to jump off the vessel.

A source said he had smashed his head on the rocks in the fall.

But the remaining crew had managed to leap to safety and hiked to the main road, where they flagged down motorists.

A helicopter and full complement of rescue services were soon on the scene.

A slick of diesel could be seen in the ocean where the vessel ran aground, and was possibly being washed in the direction of Betty’s Bay’s main bathing and surfing beaches, causing environmentalists concern.

It was not known by the time of publication why the vessel was so close to the shoreline, or whether it was there legally.

But a source in the environmental protection fraternity said various authorities had been warned last week that trawlers were fishing there illegally – but that “nothing was done”.

Cape Argus