IT sounds like a tall tale fit for the high seas.

But the skipper embarking upon a 3,000-mile Mediterranean odyssey fears his exotic trip was scuppered before he even left Scottish waters – after being hit by “a submarine or whale”.

Captain Carl Ramsay claims his ferry – which used to travel between Lerwick in Shetland and the Fair Isle – was struck so sharply it punched a hole in the bow and ultimately left the vessel marooned on an East Lothian beach.

Now the Reaper II, its latest skipper and first mate Gavin Osborne have ended up stranded after the patched-up vessel sustained further damage during an attempt to upright it.

Mr Ramsay claims he is an experienced boatman and had made the vessel sea-worthy before beginning the sail.

The 35-year-old is trying to get the boat, formerly called Good Shepherd II, afloat again, but there are fears the operation could end up being one of salvage.

Mr Ramsay plans to stop on the north-east coast of England for more repairs before embarking on the next stage of the ambitious voyage.

He said: “I spent six weeks at Falkirk patching up the boat to get me where I was going, to Amble to do some repairs and then get it into the Med, and then into a shipbuilding yard in Turkey where they have the skills this country’s actually lost

– that’s what they’re used to building with, wooden boats – and then bring it back.

“About four and half miles north-northeast of Prestonpans something struck me from the rear and lifted me out of the water and gave me a substantial beating.

I was taking on water that badly I turned round and headed for the shore.

“Only a submarine or a whale could do that. Those are the only two things that could lift you out of the water. We were frightened for our lives and it was a relief when we got to the rocks. We did more damage when we got to the rocks but it was better than going down with the boat. It was daylight. I was hit from the rear and suddenly pushed forward”.

People from the East Lothian community have donated materials to help repair the boat, but the Maritime and Coastguard Agency have warned it may never again be seaworthy. Mr Ramsay added: “I’ve been donated plenty of wood and have all the tools with me, I’m just struggling with manpower, that’s the only thing.

“The locals have been amazing. We are hoping the good weather will stay so we can get the work done, but I can’t get the boat to sit level.”

He added: “I’ve spent 20 years on boats, and I bought this boat to save it. It was rotting away, and the idea was to save the boat, restore the boat, get it back to Scotland as a river boat. I paid scrap value for it, £2,300. I was aiming to pay about £25-30,000 in Turkey for the restoration but if I stayed in Britain it would probably be about £100,000.”

A spokeswoman for the MCA said its report did not include information about the vessel being struck. She added: “The vessel sustained further damage after it ran aground while it was trying to be up righted on the beach. The owners have been informed that the likelihood is the damage is too bad to enable sea-worthiness.”

The 45ft vessel used to be used as the ferry between Lerwick and the Fair Isle in the 1950s before it began to ferry oil rig workers in the Cromarty Firth. It was retired in the 1970s and owned and kept in Falkirk by a family from the area.