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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  1. Let me say first that the photos you posted with this story are just wonderful. What beautiful country! I'm glad you put wife and son first. Not always easy, but the right thing for sure. Another good story Donald.

  2. Scotland is a nice place, I'm sorry you did not enjoy your trip then.

    About Manila hemp, it is made from the abaca plant, very strong, easy to handle because it is smoother than others, and the line is very pliable. Many boats in Manila still find it very useful.

    That sure is a long trip for you to go through before having to reach your new boat. Though now there are flights going to Campbeltown from Glasgow 2 times a day from Mondays to Fridays through Loganair, lucky even if Flybe will be giving discounts, LOL.

    I hope your very uncomfortable bus rides will be worth your new experiences with your new home at the sea, an updated one with all the features you wanted to work with. But all is yet to be seen as you ended your post with all of us waiting for what happened to your first day there.

    The big Bodwin engine sounds like a good alarm clock. LOL.

  3. Hi Sashindoubutsu, The only flights flights to Campbeltown in 1975 was the Royal Mail Flight in the evenings during the week, which lands at Machrihanish about three miles outside the town. Loganair or flybe had never been thought of. You are trying to be funny I think.
    Tune in next week for the first trip. Ha Ha.
    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my blog.

  4. You should write a book Donald. Seriously.

    Great post, it sucked me right in. I could practically smell the fish...

  5. Me too great post and I love always rushing my reading to hear your last thoughts.

    Dorothy from grammology

  6. Another wonderful trip where your words have painted us an exciting adventure.

  7. Another fascinating adventure. I agree on the book waiting to be written!