Monday, 25 April 2011

How times change.

I placed some photos in "," a sight where I can go to view pictures from the past and present of fishing boats that can usually conjure up memories that had been lying dormant at the back of my mind for years.

After receiving a comment on a photo I placed in it, of me throwing the dhan away while I was on the Olive Tree in the sixties, with the seine net ropes stacked on the deck from stem to stern on both sides, I had to think again of the changes I saw on the boats during my time at sea.

The guy had remarked on the ropes, and the work involved in stowing them, and how hard the work must have been for us in comparison to the present day and his time at the seine net.

We went from standing at the coiler in all weathers watching the ropes pile up underneath it, then haul them away and stow them along the deck, or if we were among fish, running between the coiler while gutting and washing fish, lowering the baskets into the hold, and in some cases where I was concerned, jumping down the hold to box and ice them, to reels that hauled and stowed the ropes for us.

On the odd occasion, cog wheels in the coiler would break and we would have to coil the ropes by hand until the net came up, them we would have to take the coiler to pieces and fix the broken part before we could continue fishing.

At the time we never gave it much thought, as it was all in a days work then, but as I have mentioned in earlier posts, I did used to imagine some of the new inventions and methods that came along which made the job much easier.

No longer are the ropes manhandled or nets hauled by hand, nor are the crews, in most of the new built boats at least, working on open decks.

There are still breakdowns and the crews still have to do as many repairs as they can manage, as there are no garages or engineers out there that they can call into to get things fixed, and a long steam home to get repairs done means wasted fishing time.

When I was at the sea and some of these changes were taking place, although welcomed, we took the progress more for granted, like watching a baby grow. The stages came one at a time, or in some cases when you crewed on a more modern boat the equipment was there and although accepting the benefits you never really took much notice of the change as you were among it all the time.

It is only now, when remarks are made, like the comment in regards to my photo that I can look back in amazement at just what we really went through in comparison to the fishermen of today.

The boats are all closed in, and nets are either hauled by power blocks or net drums, but when I look at the size of nets that are worked now, there is no way we could have hauled them by hand.

The modern equipment has allowed the boats to work bigger and heavier nets, the shelters over the decks have made it safer to work in rougher weather, but the danger from the sea still lurks, and boats and men are still lost.

We did used to get heavy objects in the net, objects that were not only too heavy for us to haul the nets, but also dangerous objects like bombs left over from the wars.
In these cases we would improvise and fleet the net up feet at a time with our lifting derrick which could take hours, depending on the sea conditions and if a bomb or mine appeared we would have to either cut the danger away and take the Decca readings of it, or tow it into shallow water, dump it and alert the Navy who would then send men out to blow it up.
Either way, hours of fishing, or at worst a whole days fishing, plus the net would be lost, costing us a fortune with no compensation coming from anywhere, only the hope of good catches for the rest of the trip to make up for it.

I can visit harbours now or look at photos on the websites and be amazed at the boats now, but I never think, we had it any harder then, because no matter how modern the fishing gets it will never be an easy job.

I can remember my uncle saying to me one day as I moaned while struggling to keep my feet on the deck as I coiled ropes by hand, sea spray thudding off the back of my head and knowing we had the coiler to fix as soon as the net came up, "I don't know what you are moaning about, in the old days the crews had to coil the ropes by hand every haul."

Aye the old days were always worse I thought, but it wasn't any consolation to me at the time, nor will it be any to the boys who still have to go through hell to put fish on our tables.

The only consolation we get or in my case got, was the fact that it was my calling, I loved the job, the adventure each day brought and the variation each day threw at us, be it breakdowns, bombs or big fishing, rough seas or smooth, we were never bored.

I don't know how much more modern equipment, or how many more changes will come and improve the fishing industry, but I do know some skipper in the future will say these words to one of his crew when things are getting him down, "I don't know what you are moaning about, you should have seen what I had to go through when I was a boy!" and the rookies at night will listen in amazement to the tales the old boys will spin of days gone bye,

Some things never change!

Top picture. ( Me at the seine net posing. Open decks, fifty foot boat.)

Bottom picture. (The Zenith trawling all enclosed decks, bigger boat.)

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