Tuesday, 27 October 2009

This was a new kettle of fish. (nice pun)

Davaar_Island at the mouth of Campbeltown Loch.
We sailed down
Campbeltown Loch at one o'clock on a beautiful Monday morning, the darkest hour before the dawn, as they say, the familiar lights of the marker buoys flashing on and off guiding us down the channel, and rounding Davaar with its powerful lighthouse beaming and shimmering, silvery across the rippled sea.

Davaar was the Island at the mouth of the Loch, and helped to shelter the Loch and harbour, sights and scenes I had come to know so well during my fishing career on the Olive tree, having had to use it as a safe haven many a time.

This morning was special though, I was on a strange boat with a crew I knew only from socializing with them ashore, which is completely different from working with them, and a new layout of working platform, plus the synthetic ropes to conquer (a story for another day) before I could settle down to a new routine.

An hour out to sea and daylight was beginning to break, the fishing grounds for the hake were close to Campbeltown, and as the first rays of sunlight appeared over the eastern horizon, we were ready to shoot the gear for the first haul of the day.

Not only was the boat new to me but this crew also, and the seine net fishing was a job they hated because it was hard work right from the word go, until the last fish was iced and packed, last thing at night.
During the summer months in Scotland it could mean working at sea from two in the morning until ten or eleven at night, not counting steaming times, and with the long days it could mean lying drifting between the darkening hours, grabbing a little sleep, before the next sunrise, all new and despised by this crew who were more used to trawling or drift netting where sleep was more plentiful and work less so.

The boat was like a new toy to the skipper too and as the first side of rope was almost out, and we reached the time to turn and make our bight to shoot the net, I saw a grin come from his face as he exchanged glances with another member of the crew.
As he turned the wheel hard to port the boat lurched to starboard, catching me off balance, and making me hold on to prevent myself falling on my butt.
The sheer power from the Bodwin engine combined with the higher wheelhouse had made the boat heel over as we turned full speed, and although the Olive Tree had been fast it could not match this power.
I was aware of the skippers tricks from then on and was always prepared for the lurching of the boat after that, but I was glad to see the crew had a sense of humour.

The first catch of the day burst to the surface as we towed the net up ready to haul it aboard with the hydraulic power block, and as we placed the sweeps into the wheel the big fat, air filled bellies of the large hake could be seen floating all the way down the bag.
As we hauled away we watched as they slid down to the cod end, which bulged and filled, as they packed in.
The cod end was swung round and emptied into the deep pound, situated above the engine room, and as it was brim full we started gutting the big fish straight from there, and throwing them onto the forward deck to be washed, a procedure common when working with big fish, while working with smaller types they would be boxed first, making it easier for the crew to work with.

Although the crew were good steady workers they were not going fast enough for my liking, them being used to the more relaxed pace of the jobs they had become accustomed to, which put more work onto me, and after the gear was shot again, we still had plenty to do, in the hour and a half before it was back up again.
It was when we reached the bottom of the pound I noticed the fish were getting warm, some beginning to stick to the deck, and it was then I realized one reason for their fish being condemned the week before.
Between the heat from the rising sun, and the searing heat coming up through the deck from the 500 horses the Bodwin engine was throwing out,the slow pace of the crew,(another reason for condemned fish) the fish were beginning to cook on the deck before we reached them.
I managed to salvage them all, but two large hake, and then went down into the hold to box and ice them as the cook washed and threw them down to me,the two others by this time needed at the rope bins to guide the ropes in a neat pile ready for shooting again.

I just managed to box and ice the catch when the net was up again, big silver bellies floating all the way to the cod end once more.
This time we boxed all the fish as quick as we could, and at last I saw some haste from the crew after I pointed out the cost to our pay packets if we allowed the fish too much time on deck.
Their gutting got faster but not as fast as I was used to, so it meant more work for me, but I took it in my stride and the day went on much the same, me gutting, shooting gear, boxing and icing in the hold, taking a spell at the bins now and then, non stop until the last haul was aboard.
I was used to it but I was also used to the workload being shared a bit more evenly, and never had time to think about my athletes foot throbbing inside my sea boot until it was time to rest and eat something, before grabbing some sleep.

When I lay down, every bone in my body was aching, and my foot red hot with pain, I thought to myself "this was supposed to be easier with all the mod cons, not harder" but it was not long until I was sound asleep, helped by the gentle swaying of the boat as we drifted on the tide. (not that it was needed.)
The watch during the three hours drifting had been shared by the other members of the crew, an hour at a time, allowing the skipper and me a full three hours.
At least I had been spared taking a watch, perhaps they had appreciated my hard work after all.
The Bodwin engine droned away all night but the noise faded into oblivion along with my pains, and in no time at all it was all go again.
The big fish came aboard from the start and all I could see were pound notes, with every fish that passed through my hands, which was every fish we caught, as I gutted most of them, and boxed them all, but all the crew could see was hard work.

We had less hauls the second day as we were heading to Ayr market to land, giving me a chance to grab another hours sleep after the decks were cleared during the three and a half hours steaming time.
The market at Ayr took place between the hours of five in the evening til seven in the evening, two hours in all, but it gave us ample time to get some good hauls in then go and land.
Land we did, the biggest catch of hake landed from one boat, at one time ever in Ayr,(at that time) and not one fish condemned.
The buyers knew I had changed boats and knew my fish would be in good order, hence the top prices that night, which put a smile on all our faces, and renewed my strength, plus the fact I had laid my hands on the cream the skipper ordered (ship to shore)for my athletes foot.

I had no time to visit my wife, but managed a couple of drams before grabbing another nap, and after covering my toe in cream, did just that.

The next two days ran along the same lines, with the crew going at a steady pace and me breaking my back, but the cream was working a treat even though the crew weren't, and the weather was perfect.
We landed a bumper catch on the Thursday night again, and after loading up with boxes and ice, I left the crew to moor up while I went to fetch the "docket," a statement of the prices and what we had made for our catch.
I was handed a bottle of whisky along with the docket, and told it was for smashing the port record, a big contrast to the previous week when they had half their catch condemned.
I couldn't hide the grin on my face as I held it aloft on approaching the boat, where the roar could be heard the length of the pier from the crew when I told them the news.

The neck was screwed open as soon as my feet touched the deck, it was downed among the five of us rapidly, before we hastily adjourned to the pub where we celebrated until closing time. (ten o'clock in these days)
A carry out was purchased to drink on the boat, but as the clock neared half past eleven, I took my leave and headed home in a taxi to spend a couple of days with my family before it all began again.
The Girl Margaret left Ayr and headed back to Campbeltown in the early hours of the morning once the crew had sobered up enough to sail, and I rejoined them this time at sea on the Monday morning, having hitched a lift on another boat, "The Alkaid," a boat from the east coast who fished our waters during the hake fishing, and who's crew travelled back and forth from home to Ayr by car, leaving their boat in Ayr over the weekend and left for the same fishing grounds I was headed for to start all over again.

(Try as I might I cannot find a suitable picture of a boat like the "Girl Margaret", But "The Wanderer" pictured above, a boat I sailed on in later years is the nearest I can get, although it is bigger than the Girl Margaret, but the same design.)

Bottom picture) Davaar Island, at the mouth of Cambeltown Loch

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Pictures relating to past posts.

Before I stray too far from my Olive Tree days I thought it was time to publish a photo of her to let you see the boat that I started my seafaring days on, and to let you also see how small, but sturdy a vessel she was to take me through so many storms, and provide me with so many adventures.
Although it is not very clear, the boy standing aft is me, and the photo was taken just as we approached Ayr harbour.

Me posing at Inveraray on my way to Campbeltown for a holiday, years after the miserable journey mentioned in my last post.

Me on the "Cutty Sark" the famous tea clipper now berthed in dry dock in London.
You can see me living the dream of being an old sea captain in the days of "yore"

In these three pictures below, you might notice the ropes on the deck.
The picture in the middle is me pretending to throw the dhan away to shoot the ropes at the seine net, with ten coil along the starboard side attached, and a spare net lying in front of me.
I was only posing though as we were on the approach to Ayr harbour once again.

The other two you will note (in Ayr harbour) has less ropes as we were trawling at the time and if you recall I described the two coil aside used by us making it difficult and dangerous when fishing this way when a trawl winch was the way forward.
In one picture the prawns have been landed and we are throwing the few boxes of fish ashore which we caught along with them. The long silver coloured fish on the pier being hake, the box we are holding is cod..
Thats me with the funny hat on and the brush in my hand scrubbing down after landing, you can also see that the Olive Tree is sore in need of a paint, which would mean our trip up through the Caledonian Canal to Fraserburgh was imminent.

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Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Progress beckons.

Loch Lomond from just below Beinn Dubh and Cre...Image via Wikipedia

It was in the summer of 1975 when the "Girl Margaret" sailed into Ayr during the hake fishing, and as I looked on when they landed their catch, my ambitions to upgrade our family boat proved to be the right decision, because the amount of hake they landed for their two days was more than we were catching in a week.

As the fish kept coming out of the hold I had a look around her,and her modern fittings with the hydraulic power block at the stern for hauling the net, hydraulic winch (compared to belt driven) rope bins below the coiler on the fore deck, that gave you more room on the deck once the new style heavy synthetic leaded ropes were coiled into them,( Taking the place of the Manila hemp ropes used by the older boats of the fleet, like the Olive tree) the transom stern where two nets could be laid on, one for shooting and the other ready for a quick turn around in case the other was torn, a whaleback to provide a small amount of shelter from the spray in rough days were all there to be seen on the deck, things I had thought about before they were introduced by someone else.

The wheelhouse was designed to hold the new extra equipment that was being fitted to the modern fishing boats to improve their catching ability, and the Girl Margaret had them all, tinted reinforced windows, and the surrounds finished in formica plus a mess deck in the galley, also finished in formica.

A 500hp Bodwin engine was her power pack, twice the power of the Olive Tree, and when she stared up she burst into life with a terrific roar, so much so that you needed ear mufflers when you entered the engine room.

Their biggest problem was that the men From Campbeltown were used to prawn or herring fishing and had never been to the seine net, which curtailed their efficiency to clear the decks of fish during these large hauls, this being more evident when half of the fish they landed that evening were condemned because they had rotted in the hold during one short trip, and the prices they received for the rest were the poorest in the market that sale.

It was a Thursday evening, and the crews were finished until Monday, where they would head out again to tackle the heavy fishing of hake to be had at that time of year, but after observing from a distance, all these events, and talking to the skipper of the Girl Margaret later, it was to be the Girl Margaret that I would be sailing on next.

The crew went to the pub at Ayr harbour for a few half's before sailing back across to Campbelltown to spend the weekend, and it was there that I met up with them. I knew them from way back, Campbeltown being a second home to me, it being a handy port to lie during storms plus the fact that the fish was to be had not far from there, but the better market prices was at Ayr.

The skipper and crew were somewhat downhearted at the poor reception there fish had received, and as this was their first week at the job, and both landings that week getting the worst results they could have ever imagined, they asked me for some advice, not for a minute thinking I would leave the Olive Tree.

During the conversation it turned out that one of the crew was only temporary, and had only been out for the week, so jokingly they asked me if I was interested in the berth.
Having been pondering about it I said YES much to their delight and surprise, and immediately left the pub and transferred my boots, oilskins etc from the Olive tree to the Girl Margaret saving me carrying them from Ayr to Campbeltown on the bus journey that lay ahead of me the coming Sunday, having had no need to own a car until now.

My uncle was very disappointed when I told him I was leaving and tried to get me to change my mind, but I was adamant, and told him he had the chance to update our boat and never took it, so now I was looking after my own interests, as I had a wife and son to think about now.
After another few drinks with my new crew members I threw their mooring ropes off and waved them away when they left for Campbeltown around midnight, assuring them I would see them on Sunday night in their home town.

I broke the news to my wife when I went home, and told her about the way it would be for a little while, with me not getting home so often, but that money would be sent home every weekend.
With the Girl Margaret being based in Campbeltown it would mean if she was not landing in Ayr I would sleep aboard and only come home when it was suitable, if there was a few days between trips, but in the meantime for the next few weeks I would be home the same as before until the end of the hake fishing, with plenty more money than lately.

She wasn't too happy about it either, but she waved me away at the door when I set out on the Sunday afternoon, suitcase in hand to walk the two miles to the train station, where I caught a train to Glasgow, then a bus which would take me all the way to Tarbert, a beautiful fishing village at the top end of the Kintyre peninsula, then another bus would take me the last part of the way to Campbeltown, all in all a seven hour journey by land, that only took four to four and a half hours by sea.

It was a beautiful sunny summers day when I set off, and never having travelled the journey before I looked forward to the views I would get as we drove along the picturesque shores of Loch Lomond, and on down through other scenery of my native land that I had never seen.
My feet were aching by the time I reached the bus station in Glasgow, and in between the toes in my right foot a throbbing sensation began, as I sat in the heat of the bus, at the side where the sun was blazing through the windows, which took the full blast of it, all the way down to Inveraray, our first stop for a break after two sweltering hours.
I had come down alongside the longest Loch in Scotland and never enjoyed one minute of it, and as the bus was full I had to retake the same seat for the next stage to Tarbert, sweltering in the sun even though I only had a thin shirt on, which made the journey seem twice as long as it really was. (which was more than long enough anyway.)
By the time we got to Tarbert the sun was cooling a bit but my toes were throbbing more, and the next and last leg of my journey was no more pleasant than the rest,me travelling through some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland and never enjoyed one moment of it.

I finally reached Campbeltown around 9 o'clock at night, and as the bus drew up outside the pub my new skipper came out to greet me, making sure that he was going to have a full crew in the morning, and that I had kept my word on joining them.

He took me inside, where the rest of the crew were standing and bought a round of drinks, then headed home happy in the knowledge that all was well for tomorrow.
I was taken to where the boat was lying, and shown round by one of the crew before he went home, then turned into my bunk, foot still throbbing, and fell sound asleep tired from my days travelling in the sun.

I awoke with a jump early the next morning with the sound of the big Bodwin engine firing into life, my new adventure was about to begin, and the athletes foot I discovered that was between my toes, about to end.

Top picture (a view of Campbeltown Loch)
Middle pictue (part of Campbeltown harbour)
Bottom picture ( a part of Loch Lomond in all its beauty)

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Tuesday, 13 October 2009

My last sad farewell to the Olive Tree

Try as I might my uncle would not update the Olive Tree, and as the trawling was beginning to take over from all the other types of fishing like the seine net for white fish and ring netting for herring, the design of boats was changing fast.

Trawling for prawns was legalized in the Firth of Clyde and as it was becoming quite a profitable source of income most boat owners were converting to dual purpose winches, and fitting gallows on their quarters, to accommodate the trawl doors used to keep the net open during fishing.
The Olive Tree on the other hand did go trawling for prawns during lean times of the white fish, but the job was made harder and less efficient, by the lack of proper equipment.
This was fine in the early days around the mid sixties when the prawns were plentiful due to under fishing, the prawns being allowed to breed and multiply because there was no market for them in this country.

We used to be able to leave port about an hour before sunrise to shoot our gear close to our home port, and tow away in any direction we cared to, assured that after half an hour to an hour the net would come up with a cod end full of large prawns.
One of the areas where we towed along to, was Ardeer, just outside Saltcoats, a few miles up the coast from Ayr, and where the I.C.I. plant was, a chemical factory that dealt in ammunition and explosives.
Large prawns (crunchers as we called them, owing to their size) could be had up along that shore just outside the three mile limit where discarded cordite from the explosive factory was dumped by the I.C.I. ship that made trips from Irvine to dump it where it was thought to be safe, the salt water rendering it useless.

We would tow for an hour through the area scooping up our treasure of crunchers, but dragged up cordite that had lain on the sea bed for years.
As soon as the cod end was opened and the catch spilled onto the deck, you could smell the air filling with the stench of almond, or marzipan that the cordite extruded on contact with the air again, as it rumbled out onto the deck among the prawns.
We tailed most of the catch then, and as we were only at the job for a few weeks of the year, we never bothered with the rubber gloves the crews on the other boats had become accustomed to using, our hands like leather with working continuously in salt water at the seine net where you had a better feel of things without gloves.
The cordite was harmless in the condition it came aboard in, and as we picked through the prawns it was thrown back over the side, only to be picked up again by the next passing net.
Whether it did the prawns any harm or not I never found out, but the market grew for them with foreign buyers coming over to bid for them raising the prices to a very profitable height, so much so that boats were now being built with trawling in mind first and foremost.

Other forms of trawling became the most popular way to catch other fish, like herring and mackerel, fish that only took to the bottom when spawning, swimming mid water at various depths during their life cycle.
Even white fish that swam mid water had no hiding place because we had discovered ways of catching these species with the new inventions that was entering our occupation every year.

Trawlers had sailed from many ports around Britain to fish the distant waters up off Iceland, and reached fishing grounds that the smaller boats dare not venture, but now with every new improvement, fish that was once out of our reach had become available, and with no need to venture as far as Iceland.

Boats now had instruments in the wheelhouse that could pinpoint shoals of herring or mackerel at any depth within miles of the boat, and could shoot and trawl their nets at the required depth through the shoals, watch in another instrument their nets approaching the shoal, making sure it was at the right depth to go through it at its densest point,or even take all of it, and know almost to the box how much would come aboard, before the nets surfaced again.
Sometimes two boats tow one net between them, others use what they call pelagic gear (nets and trawl doors) that allows them to fish mid water for any kind of fish while using only one boat.
Purse seining for herring and mackerel took its toll on the stocks too with the nets being shot around the large shoal, closed at the bottom into a purse, hence the name of the technique, and captured everything within its miles of coverage.

The fishing took leaps and bounds in the early seventies, with growing demands for the catches, from as far away as Russia, with factory ships lying off the west coast of Scotland waiting for the herring and mackerel to fill their ships before setting out for home where another would take its place as soon as the anchor was lifted.

Other sources of shellfish like scallops and Queenie's were trawled for, species that used to be discarded before, were now being sought after, and being the hunters of the sea the fishermen were there to cash in on every progression.

Little did we know the damage our advances in technology would have on the fish stocks in years to come, the saying "there's plenty more fish in the sea" seemed to be true as day after day millions of pounds worth of fish of all kinds were being landed around our shores.
The distant trawling at Iceland had ceased as Iceland extended their limits, but it did not deter the fleet of newly designed vessels landing more and more fish.
Fish were being caught everywhere, we could even tow over rough ground that used to provide a hiding place, but some of the species that was being hunted now, was feeding for other species.
The food chain of the sea had never been taken into consideration, along with the decimation of the shoals, so unheeded, and unconcerned, without knowing it the slaughter continued.

I was as guilty as the next man,and with no improvements being made to the family boat, I left the Olive tree in 1975 for the last time, to join one of the new design of boat that was taking the place of the old.

I hope I have not bored you too much with the history, but I thought it necessary to explain better my moving on and leaving the Olive Tree behind.

The "Girl Margaret" was to be my next job, a new dual purpose built boat, whose home base was Campbeltown, across the Firth of Clyde from Ayr and to where I am heading for my next post, and hopefully take you with me.

Above is photos of how boats developed, over the years, not much bigger but an entirely better design.

The top picture shows a modern fishing vessel, which can be used for pair trawling or single boat trawling, the working decks completely covered, making the job a lot more safer.

The middle picture shows a trawler of earlier design, with the decks beginning to be covered.

The bottom picture is of a boat built in Nobles of Girvan. One of the first designs to accommodate trawling and ring net combined, others had trawling and Seine net combined. The same design but with different deck machinery.

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Sunday, 11 October 2009

The Watchful & Donald.

This is me standing in front of the "Watchful" mentioned in my last post, as you can see it stands where the old shipyard used to be.
The flats at the back are where the offices used to be, and they are the type of houses that have sprung up around the area of a once thriving fishing port.

Its no wonder I was in a melancholy mood when I wrote my last piece.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Melancholy memories.

HMCS Vancouver and USS John C StennisImage via Wikipedia

On Monday the 5th of August, early Autumn, early afternoon, even though the sun was shining brightly I was almost in a melancholy mood, so I thought I would take a stroll along Ayr promenade to see if it would lift my mood.
When I reached the beach I parked the car in a park about half way between the River Ayr, and the River Doon, and decided to walk towards The Doon first.
Although it was sunny the gentle breeze blowing in off the sea had a slight chill in it so I put on my heavy leather jacket over my shirt, and began to stride out with the sea on my right hand side, but hidden by the high grassy sand dunes.
It takes about half an hours brisk walking to reach the bridge that now spans the Doon at its mouth, a new feature built at the start of the new the millennium for pedestrians and cyclist only, adding to the extensive cycle lanes springing up around the country, another stab at giving the cyclist more freedom from cars, and giving easy access to the pedestrians to the other bank, saving them a long detour by road.
It was only when the sea came into view again that I realized how high the tide was, and then I remembered that it had been a full moon the night before,causing the tide to rise so high.
I chose not to cross today, and turned back, heading towards the River Ayr side of the beach, in the direction of the harbour where I had sailed from many a time into the unknown.
By the time I returned to where where the car was parked the sweat was beginning to build up inside my warm jacket, so I decided to leave it in the car, put on my sunglasses, and continue on my way.
Of course sod's law as soon as I was far enough away from the car the sun was dulled by a light cloud cover, diminishing the brightness, but not taking away any heat.

The sea on my left this time I strolled along, glancing across the sea to the Arran shore, the land all around the Firth of Clyde standing out clear in the pleasant Autumn afternoon, my mind wandering more as I stopped and stared at the sea that had given me so much pleasure, so much adventure and so much pain throughout my years as a fisherman.

Its strange, but sometimes when I look out over the sea I can visualize the sea bed, and all the wrecks, wartime debris, submerged rocks, mud banks and all the other hazards we had to chart in order to keep our nets from snagging, or tearing on something and ruining our fishing trip.
I knew every part of the coastline around most of Britain, all round the Islands, and had charts of the sea bed in every nook and cranny of it even out into parts of the Atlantic Ocean, where we had to venture at times.

Today I was dreaming, staring through the breeze, my eyes watering slightly, as I spied Naval Vessels on the distant horizon carrying out exercises. I had heard on the Scottish news that a fleet of Frigates, Destroyers, and an Aircraft Carrier were to be training in the Firth, a handy place for them to be as it had all the features they needed to simulate wartime action.
Variable depths especially if they had submarines working with them, and fishing boats for pretend targets, among others.

Yes fishing boats for pretend targets, it all came rushing back into my mind of the calm days that made the job so much easier when you did not need to lash everything down and you could leave boxes of fish piled high on the deck while attending to other duties, the cook could leave pots on the stove without tying them down, a steady deck beneath our feet, just a few of the things taken for granted by shore workers.

AH! Back to the Navy, ploughing up and down, pointing their large guns at the fishing boats and pretending to blow them out of the water as they passed at a distance, a small ripple of wash reaching us once the Frigate was almost out of sight.
Until they came close, charging passed unexpected at a rate of knots, churning up the sea and creating a large wash, causing us to tumble about as if we were in a gale of wind. Unattended boxes spilling over the deck, the cook in the galley cursing as his pots slid across the cooker spilling their contents over the hot rings, as they hit the metal rail around it, used to tie the utensils to in stormy weather, water falling onto the gas flames extinguishing them and leaving the stench of gas in the air until the sea settled again, and he could relight them.
All that work to be redone just because the Navy was ruining one of the few calm days we had, forcing us to take storm procedures for the rest of the day.
Its a good job we were not issued with guns or they would have been used against them, especially if the cook had got his hands on them, pretending to give them a broadside everytime they passed after that.
At least we knew we were safe enough if anything went wrong because they had a helicopter that took off every now and then searching for the submarine that was lurking somewhere, hopefully well enough away from us.
The wash from the ships was bad enough, but fishing boats had been towed under by submarines before, and we did not want to become another stastistic, even if the ships were near at hand, we still would stand no chance.

At least they didn't fire shells near us, not like the American Coastguards vessels that came to train in the North Channel of the Irish Sea when we were fishing there.
Why they had to come as far as Scotland to train I do not know but come they did, two vessels, one towing a target for the other to shoot at.
They had been in the area all day but far enough away until our working day took us ever closer.

We found ourselves near to the firing vessel as we hauled our net aboard, and could hear the "SWOOSH" as the shell flew over the boat, so once the net was aboard we watched and listened as the next lot went over "SWOOSH" "SWOOSH"........."SWOOSH" "SWOOSH" four shells high over the boat heading towards the target, but on landing were no where near it, the splashes far astern of the target vessel a witness to that.
Humm I thought its a good job we are nearer the firing vessel rather than the target vessel as we might have been blown out of the water this time, maybe that is the reason they were sent so far from home to practise.
All these memories going through my head just because I stopped and spied the Naval exercises going on. AH! Memories where would we be without them.

I strolled on nearing the harbour that was now surrounded by a new housing scheme of flats, some that were built where the fish market used to stand,others on the ground that was used by the yacht club,and where the Seamans Mission stood, all the old bars and harbour stores replaced by houses, some even alongside the slip of the old shipyard, no longer in use, only the stripped down hull of an old fishing boat,"THE WATCHFUL" standing on concrete stocks, a reminder of what used to be there.
The sad thing was, I could remember that boat in its prime, one of the top herring boats of its day, now a memorial to the glory days of Ayr's fishing history, a history that I was part of.
I thought of all the changes that had taken place here since I was a boy, of the trains that used to cross the bridge up river (that was no longer there)to fill up with the herrings straight from the large fleet that landed there right up until the seventies, although the trains had long gone by then, petering out in the fifties, but the tracks, and big cranes remained as their legacy into the sixties although never used.
A pontoon for yachts, now stretched mid channel the lenght of the river, but it was never used, because the person who thought of the idea never knew about the damage that could be done to the flimsy yacht hulls, had they lain there during gales or during a large spate caused by heavy rain that would bring massive trees hurtling down with it.
Money wasted, a good harbour ruined by the changing face of Ayr, although to be honest Troon, the harbour used by the fishing fleet now and where the new fish market replaced the old, was the safer, and a more logical haven to use, and why it hadn't been done years ago is any ones guess, but it was Ayr harbour where my memories lay.

I came out in the sun to try and lift my mood, and all I had succeeded in doing was delve into my past again, the memories were happy ones but tinged with sadness as I looked back on the scene that had replaced the setting I remembered.

Strolling back to the car, I realized I had recalled years of my life in the couple of hours it had taken to walk the length of the beach.
The waves were lapping gently on the shore, but no longer beckoning me, my adventurous days were in the past, but could be recalled, brought back to life in the stories I could tell, unlike the buildings that were demolished and replaced by the scene I had just walked through.

As I returned to the car, the sun had come out again, brightening the sky, I needed my sunglasses after all as I drove home, and my mood lifted, this time not at the thought of my past life, but the new life and friends I had found through recalling my past, my friends all over the world, from Canada, America, to The Philippines, and beyond. I was going home to the computer that took me closer to them, it was then I realized that not only had the places of my past changed, I too had changed, I too had been caught up in the modern world few can escape.

Maybe if you can find a secluded beach somewhere, build a shack out of drift wood, and find a love that would share it with you,spear some fish and cook them over an open fire, you might escape, but these places are only in dreams I fear.

Well you never know though, they say if you wish for something hard enough, your wish will be granted.

We can only but try.

Top picture ( the entrance to the old slipway with the docks on the other side just in view. The block is off one of the cranes that was used in the shipyard, one of the articles used to mark its exsistence.)

Middle picture (Arran shore on a day like the day I was describing.)

Bottom picture ( Naval exercises.)

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tricia said...

I very much enjoyed this post. I used to love to walk on the beach. True it is not easy to escape the modern world although there are times I would love to, but as you pointed out there is much good about the world we live in today that is good. Wouldn't it be wonderful if wishing could make it happen-- if only. Good work Donald. Thanks for a nice mini vacation.