Angus Macleod, who has fished Scottish waters for more than 30 years, told how crewmembers became alarmed when their nets began to “overtake” his 62-foot trawler, Aquarius.
Speaking to the Sunday Express last night, he said: “We were midway through a trip when the boat started to slow down by around two-thirds of a knot, which can happen when the pots start to collect.
“We started to haul the nets in, and suddenly there was an external force pulling our nets ahead of the boat with some considerable force. This is something we’ve never experienced before. We always have to be ahead of the nets to keep our propeller clear.
"We caught up with them, and we continued hauling, but the nets ran forward again. The starboard net continued to lead out aft. We had to do this several times, and the winches which were hauling in the nets were beginning to strain.”
Mr. Macleod, 46, added: “At the time we just went through what needed to be done to get out of that situation. We had to keep our propeller clear – that’s our main propulsion. But afterwards we sat down as a crew and we discussed what we’d seen. There is little doubt in our minds that this was caused by a submarine.”
“Between the five of us, we’ve had 110 years fishing experience, and none of us have ever seen anything like it. It was a really uncomfortable position to be in. Afterwards, we realised this was the closest we’d ever come to not coming home at all.”
He confirmed that it would be impossible to claim on insurance, and that the damage to his rudder and other equipment, as well as lost profits from the abandoned voyage, would cost “thousands of pounds”.
His wife, mother-of-two Mary Catherine, added: “Angus was calm when he told me, but as I was listening I realised there was almost a real chance I would never see him again. It was an horrific experience.”
Last night senior Royal Navy sources confirmed there no British or Nato submarines were operating in the area, 10 miles east of the Butt of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides.”
In January the Royal Navy was forced to call on two US Navy-operated P3 Orion aircraft to hunt for a Russian nuclear submarine which was reported to be ‘spying’ on the movements of Trident submarines leaving the Faslane base.
With Operation Joint Warrior, a major tri-service amphibious military exercise expected to begin in just two weeks, it is “no surprise” to see Russian submarines prowling Scottish waters, said Tim Ripley of Jane’s Defence.
There is little doubt in our minds that this was caused by a submarine
Last night a senior former Royal Navy submariner said Moscow was keenly trialing their brand new Borei-class submarine.
“It is big powerful and very quiet. They will be testing their capability to get under our nose and sit there and no be detected by us. It is called 'silent running' and to honest they are good at it".
Dr Jonathan Eyal, or the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, said: “The reality is that Moscow is making it impossible to put cold wars days behind us. The difference now is that, unlike in Cold war days, there is no mutual system of advanced notification.
“So we see Russian aircraft flying in crowded European skies, sometimes even switching off identification beacons and risking an air collision, and now we have a near accident with a trawler – these are disasters waiting to happen. This isn’t just about aggression, it’s also about a real danger to human life.
“Russia is doubling its military spending but for this Government, it remains a unmentionable subject before these election. Neither the Government nor Labour are prepared to discuss the reality that the world has changed and defence expenditure has to keep up.”
The Foreign Office refused to comment, but a source said the FCO was waiting for the outcome of a investigation by the Marine Accident Investigation Branch.