Yellow submarine brings skipper a net loss

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The Independent Online
FOR THE AVERAGE Cornish fisherman, the rescue of a Royal Navy submarine might be a cause for celebration in the expectation of salvage fees.

John Leach and his crew could have been forgiven for thinking so after they found just such a sub in their fishing nets last year, but any celebrations were decidedly premature.

After the crew of his boat, the Britannia V, caught the 11ft yellow submarine after it bobbed to the surface off the coast near Falmouth, Mr Leach said that he was hiding it from the Ministry of Defence until an agreeable salvage fee was paid.

The Remote Counter Mine Disposal System, to give it its proper name, was initially valued at pounds 1m and Mr Leach had hoped to claim up to pounds 150,000. Thus the RCMDS, normally used to track mines and shipwrecks, languished in a barn at a secret location in Cornwall while the two sides argued over the salvage fee.

Yesterday, a chastened Mr Leach, who has finally been awarded pounds 50,000 for his part in salvaging the lost submarine last March, took the view that if he had the misfortune to see another one floating past his trawler, he would take no notice.

"I had hoped that it would be settled before now. The money will be divided between the crew but, as it stands, we are out of pocket because of legal costs. If we saw another one and it was up to me I would probably say leave it where it is because it has been more than enough hassle."

Charles Hattersley, Mr Leach's lawyer, said yesterday that an agreement had been reached without the case having to go before the Admiralty Courts in London. "My client provided a very good service, carrying out a difficult salvage extremely carefully and very professionally," he said.

The RCMDS was lost from HMS Cromer during the Royal Navy's search for the Newlyn fishing boat Margaretha Maria off the French coast in December 1997.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence confirmed that an "amicable out-of-court settlement" had been reached.