The MV Captayannis – a Greek sugar-carrying vessel – keeled over and capsized on a sandbank midway between Greenock and Helensburgh on the morning of January 28, 1974.

The 4,567-ton 'sugar boat’ got into trouble on the night of January 27, when a fierce storm hit.

The vessel anchored at the Rail of the Bank, with a cargo a cargo of sugar from Lourenco Marques in Portuguese East Africa, and waited for high tide to offload it at the James Watt Dock sugar terminal for processing at Tate & Lyle’s Westburn Refinery.

However, a severe gale hit the west coast with winds of more than 60mph and the Captayannis began to drag anchor.

Captain Theodorakis Ionnis ordered the engine to be started, intending to make for the more sheltered waters of the Gare Loch.

Also anchored at the Tail of the Bank, however, was the 36,754 ton BP tanker British Light, recently arrived from Elderslie dry dock.

Before Captayannis could power-up, the gale blew her towards the tanker, and, although the two vessels didn’t touch, the tanker’s anchor chain ripped through the passing Captayannis’ hull.

Seawater immediately started pouring in, and the pumps couldn’t cope.

The captain made for the sandbank to try to ground his ship, but, when he reached it, the profile of the hull meant the vessel wasn’t stable and began to heel over to port. This resulted in all power being lost, and Captayannis eventually settled port side down on the sandbank.

The crew of 25 men and 30 Greeks and Africans were rescued without injury by the tug Labrador and the MV Rover of Clyde Marine Service.

By 10am wreckage from the ship had already been washed ashore at Helensburgh.

The vessel has lain in the same spot since the sinking and is not considered a hazard to navigation. She remains unable to be removed due to a wrangle between the owners and the insurers, and plans to have her blown up were shelved due to fears over damage to the nearby Ardmore Point bird sanctuary.

Former Provost Billy Petrie said he was always puzzled as to why the wreckage was never removed, however locals didn’t seem to mind it as it became a popular attraction for young fishermen and even tourists.

He said: “It was always a puzzle to me why the boat was never removed. I remember discussions about it in the council at the time and we got in touch with the Clyde Navigation Trust, who said it wasn’t a navigational hazard. I think the main issue with the removal was that no one would accept responsibility for it – between the owners and the insurers.

“If it had been in the English Channel or something it would never have been allowed to stay there.” Billy added that the boat became an attraction in the area for both tourist and locals.

He added: “The Waverley and small ferries used go on a detour to go and see it.

“It was a big point of conservation in the town at the time. I went round it myself a few times in a small boat and it really was quite a hulk – it was some size. It felt a bit like being in Robinson Crusoe or something, it was such a big area, like an island.

“You used to see boys sat on top of it fishing – whether they caught anything or not I don’t know.

“The sugar load was never seen again – just like when you put sugar in your tea, it just dissolved in the water.”