THE sea is unforgiving. Small errors, a simple failure of equipment or an unexpected change in the weather can have catastrophic consequences as this flotilla of vessels found to their cost.
The earliest wreck here is of a Dutch barge which came to grief in December 1959 when the tug towing it dragged anchor in Tor Bay during rough weather. This barge was one of three which broke loose and narrowly missed smashing into the walls of Torquay harbour.
A contingent of Royal Marines were called to sink it, and, holed by machine gun fire, it settled on Torre Abbey Sands where it became part of the seascape for years.
Another ship caught out by a change in wind direction was the Northwind, driven ashore in December 1964 on Hollicombe beach at Preston. The crew were rescued by shore-based coastguards using the Breeches Buoy pulley system. The ship was refloated.
Teignmouth has seen a succession of beaching, owing to the shifting sands and shallow water at the entrance to the port. This picture from December 1972 (the Christmas month seems to be portentous) show the German coaster M V Kaiserberg which went adrift in the river.
Some ships in peril on the sea, did make it safely to harbour, including the Merak pictured here in 1961 entering Brixham harbour. It had developed a list while crossing Lyme Bay and called for assistance, which was provided by Brixham's celebrated salvor Ernie Lister.
They had hoped to salvage the original Golden Hind tourist attraction in 1987 when it sank while being towed to Dartmouth to have a new keel fitted.
A pump had failed and it settled in 40ft of water off the Mewstone. The 1945 converted coastal defence vessel was refloated and taken up river to the Phillips yard but was judged a right-off. Another old hulk had to be converted to resume tourism duty in Brixham's inner harbour.
The most frequent casualties are among South Devon's fishing fleet, often with tragic loss of life. Thankfully the crew had got off the Guyona when it sunk in Brixham harbour in November 1989. It was refloated only to sink again in 2008 off the Channel Islands when its scalloping gear snagged the seabed. Three crewmen jumped for their lives and were rescued by the Guernsey Lifeboat.
The most dramatic wreck on the South Devon coast in recent years was the Demetrius which went aground near Prawle Point, Kingsbridge during a storm. It was being towed up the Channel to be scrapped and nobody was aboard.
Wreckers came from far afield to strip her of valuable, easy removable parts. Professional salvors finished the job although parts of the hull are still visible at low tide.
With autumn coming, what will the wind and waves throw up this year?