20th July 1967

President Garcia is re-floated in Saints Bay

President Garcia was the leader of the Philippines from 1957 until 1961. It was also the name of a 10,826-ton Philippine President Lines cargo ship that ran aground in Saints Bay on 13 July 1967. It took seven days to refloat her.

The ship had been travelling at 12 knots when its crew apparently mistook a navigation light for a lighthouse. En route from Freetown to Rotterdam with a cargo of copra onboard, she showed no sign of slowing until she struck the rocks and got wedged.

“She went aground with a good crunch in Saints Bay,” reported The Guardian, “sinking some small, moored craft in the harbour and damaging others.”

In a retrospective, published in 2007, the Guernsey Press reported that “incredibly not one moored boat had been hit by the lost ship”

According to The Times, an unnamed police sergeant said, “She is lying across the bay, lights blazing and towering over everything. Her bow is on the rocks. The stern is afloat. I don’t think there is a lot of damage.”

An unusual attraction

Even at high tide, she was still two feet too deep to float away. This immediately turned her into something of a spectacle for locals and visitors alike.

As The Mirror reported, “To add to the indignity of the thing, holiday-makers rolled up in their thousands to take in the new attraction. The rush wasn’t really necessary. The vessel seems well and truly aground, and it may be several days before there is a tide high enough to refloat her.”

In the words of the Guernsey Press retrospective,

The police made special arrangements and a field was opened for use as a car park, with the proceeds suitably going to the RNLI. Out in the bay… boatowners from all over the island chugged in to have a closer look and swimmers donned masks and snorkels to take an alternative view.

Worse was to come. A couple of days after running aground, the rocks, which had been bending her bow already, finally pierced her hull. The damage had to be repaired as part of the salvage operation.

An unexpected consequence

By then, even the ship’s cargo of copra, which is dried coconut kernel, was starting to cause problems. The Mirror reported on 18 July that,

A plague of beetles had his the sunny Channel Island of Guernsey. The beetles, or “copra flies” are coming from the copra cargo… The island’s tomato growers fear their products will be affected. Health Officer, Dr A Thomas, has said the beetles are not germ carriers but has warned housewives not to leave meat exposed.

Initially, her crew of around 55 (reports range between 50 and 60) remained onboard. However, the Birmingham Daily Post reported that some swam ashore three days after the collision. Some used planks of wood as floats and reported that there were in fact four holes in the hull.

Three Dutch tugs came to help with the salvage operation, part of which involved removing 300 tons of her cargo. This both lightened the vessel and gave access to the damaged parts of the hull from inside.

Finally, with the help of a high tide, the tugs started to pull her off Guernsey’s rocks at 5pm on 20 July and, just over an hour later, she was back in deep water. They dragged her stern-first to Rotterdam for further repairs.


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Other events that occured in July

Guernseyman Edward Tupper killed by cannibals 1st
Alderney is occupied by German forces 2nd
Seigneur of Sark, Michael Beaumont, dies aged 88 3rd
Guernsey hosted the Island Games 2003 closing ceremony 4th
New coins are minted for Guernsey 5th
Royal Guernsey Light Infantry Museum opens 6th
Victor Hugo statue is unveiled in Candie Gardens 7th
First Commando raid of the Second World War 8th
Birth of Sark-based writer Mervyn Peake 9th
Guernsey nurses go on hunger strike 10th
ITV broadcasts first episode of Island at War 11th
A Guernsey man posted himself to Sark 12th
Murderer Peter Robin sentenced to death 13th
Victor Hugo plants his United States of Europe oak 14th
Point Law runs aground off Alderney 15th
Racing yacht Westward is blown up off Guernsey
BBC made its first ever Channel Islands broadcast 16th
The Star received some “grave” news 17th
The Guernsey Martyrs were burned at the stake 18th
Prince Charles and Camilla visit Guernsey 19th
President Garcia is re-floated in Saints Bay 20th
Typhoid suspect holidaymaker flies home 21st
Guernsey Controlling Committee’s Sir John Leale died 22nd
Alderney to Guernsey radio connection established 23rd
Val des Terres was first opened for traffic 24th
The BBC broadcasts from Sark for the first time 25th
Guernsey court escapee was caught again 26th
Braye du Valle was gifted by the crown 27th
Murderer sentenced to death in three hours 28th
Guernsey bought Herm from the mainland 29th
Albert Lamy appointed Guernsey Police Chief Officer 30th
Guernsey to Jersey plane crashed into the sea 31st