Saturday, 19 December 2009

My return to Ayr.

ObanImage via Wikipedia

We managed to scrape a wage in the three remaining days, but as expected we changed back to the seine net that weekend, and as one of the crew had packed up the skipper sent me to Ayr in the boats van to try to recruit a good seine net fisherman thinking it would speed thinks up on deck, especially if we found ourselves among the expected big hauls of whiting that was being had up the west coast of Scotland.

It takes about five hours by road from Campbeltown to Ayr when you are driving your own transport(an hour less if you drive a fast car)but the journey has some beautiful scenery, which helps to make it more pleasant, making the trip seem to pass quicker.

On my arrival in Ayr I headed straight for the harbour to catch up on the news, only to be told that the Olive Tree had been sold suddenly, with the crew being given no notice whatsoever.
My uncle, rather than spend money on the boat had been made an offer from an Irish fisherman, and realizing that I had no intention of coming back, decided to accept.
The deal was completed in no time at all, and the Olive Tree had already sailed for its new port by the time I arrived giving me no time for a last look, and the next time I was to set eyes on her was in Peel, on the Isle of Man about ten years later.

She looked completely different with her new tripod replacing the thick foremast, giving ample room on deck for the trawl winch and gallows I had suggested, plus a few other small improvements around the deck, and a new, more powerful engine.
Her name had been changed too (to what I can't remember)but there was no mistaking the lines of her hull, and the wheelhouse that had taken me through so many adventures, and introduced me to the life I had chosen as my occupation.

It was a lucky break for me in the fact that I new one good man I could rely on who had been made redundant by my uncles unexpected move, and so after contacting "Davy," and spending a night at home, the two of us journeyed back the route I had just came over the day before.

The Girl Margaret, and crew were lying alongside the quay ready to sail as soon as we arrived, and in no time at all we were sailing down Campbeltown Loch, round the Mull of Kintyre,and up the west coast to chase the whiting that had been reported by other seiners working among the islands on the rugged west coast of Scotland.

The first day proved pretty fruitless with big hauls coming aboard but most of the catch thrown back because they were well undersize, so we moved further north in the hope that we would come across the shoals that had been reported.

The skipper was one of these guys who thought he was better than he really was, having big ambitions above his station, and expected to compete with boats who's skippers were far more experienced than him.

There is no harm in being ambitious, but it was the arrogant way he went about it that I did not like, and a thing I had noticed about him during our spell at the herring, which had led to some of the crew packing up then, and being replaced by other Campbeltown men who thought the same as I did but were just glad of the job.

My temper had been held in place a few times, but when he asked me to pack the fish a different way in the hold which was not only unnecessary, but totally stupid, and would have made it almost impossible to land them in any sensible order, I gave him a piece of my mind.

I pointed out the flaws in his ridiculous idea, added a few other things that had been gnawing at me, and after a good clearing of the air, normal service was resumed on deck, and in the hold, but I was becoming very unhappy with the setup, and almost dreaded the thought of coming in among the big hauls of whiting that we were heading for.

Even though Davy was a great deckhand, it would take more than the two of us to handle catches like that, with the other two deckhands never going above their own slow pace, so as fate would have it, our winch packed in just as we had the last coil of rope to come.

This meant hand hauling both sides of rope until we reached the net, trying to keep them even, and as many fish in the net as possible.

All went well enough, but it meant us steaming to Oban (the nearest port)to get an engineer down to fix the problem as quickly as possible so we could continue with our trip.

We were told it would take a day, so as most fishermen do we headed for the pub where a good dram was had by all, but things got heated when I tried to explain what was needed from all the crew if we were to hit these big shoals.
It's the wrong thing to do when drinking as the brain never thinks in a logical way, so the Campbeltown men took offence at my suggestion that they speed things up a bit, and me telling them they had been at the job long enough to know the urgency of the work in hand.

It never came to fists but I could see that there was never going to be any harmony aboard this boat again whether drink was involved or not, and that the crew were never going to get any better.

The winch was fixed, or so we thought, because after only two hauls the next day the same thing happened again, so it was back in to Oban to find out what was causing the problem.

On the way ashore after boxing the fish we had caught, I decided I had, had enough, and went into the wheelhouse to tell the skipper that I was packing up, and would be taking the first train out of Oban when we berthed.

He knew my reason without me telling him, but with his arrogance he did not want to accept the fact that I was packing in during a trip, and threatened me by telling me he would see to it that I would never work at the fishing again.

How arrogant is that I thought, he really has got well above his station, so I left the heavy atmosphere behind me in the wheelhouse, and packed my gear ready for a quick departure on our arrival in Oban.

He had plenty time to replace me with another man from Campbeltown before the repairs were carried out, and Davy thought he would see the trip out, but packed up at the end of it, realizing how bad things had become on board without the experience needed for the job.

The Girl Margaret never made a success after that and was taken off the skipper who went back to the prawns with an old boat, plugging away at what he knew best, with a crew that worked their own way, at their pace, which was good enough for the prawn fishing.

Me, well I had a lovely train journey home, and could have kissed the ground I set foot on at Ayr railway station late that evening, arriving home unexpectedly to the family I had barely seen in the last months, and now I could be at home to share christmas with them, which was only a few weeks away.

I had no problem getting another berth on an Ayr boat which I am sure my ex-skipper knew at the time of his threat, and I went on to much better things that I will write about in future posts.

The picture above is Oban.

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  1. You post was another adventure for me..."Happy Holidays".

    Best Regards,

  2. Gosh five hours to travel, it is quicker to fly to Cyprus! Another fascinating tale Donald and I look forward to reading more in 2010. I am slowing down for Christmas, have a wonderful one yourself.

  3. Very entertaining tale of sea travel. It's an added experience for me, vicariously, though. Thanks. Appreciate your visit in my site.