5th November 2001
Remember remember the 5th of November, for gunpowder treason and plot, (and fish and hurricane warnings).
Well we have finally arrived back to the fishing grounds and at first light this morning we shot the net. It’s a noisy, dangerous and fascinating process.
When the Captain had the ship in the right position, he shouted to the crew to begin shooting. The codend was hauled out and dropped into the water. Slowly at first, the net was dragged into the sea as the ship steamed forwards. The net quickly picked up speed, and after a few moments it was thundering down the deck and would have taken anybody with it had they of got in it’s path. The crew somehow managed to attach the massive trawl doors to the wings of the net and the winches whined as the whole assembly descended 200 metres to the seabed below. The strain on the warps must be terrific, it’s a good job they are thick steel cables.
Once the net was shot there was nothing more to see. The Santa Maria pulled the trawl along the seabed for hours. The motion of the boat seems a bit less with the trawl on the bottom, I guess those cables go some way to help stabilise the ship and iron out some of the bumps.
After lunch we began to haul. The winches are huge and incredibly powerful. I couldn’t help but imagine the poor crewman who somehow got caught in the winch, with the cables cutting off his head and slicing his body into 3 pieces like a cheese wire. I’m so glad that I wasn’t here to witness it. Even though the winches are huge, they still whined and struggled against the strain. Each time the ship hit a wave, the winches sung out, so it was like some kind of mournful soundtrack to the hauling, in rhythm to the sea. The ship was being bounced around a lot. The weather was getting really bad and since we weren’t steaming forward we felt the full effect of the waves. We spent most of the time ‘beam on’ to the waves, meaning that the ship was rolling heavily with the seas hitting the side.
Eventually the trawl doors weighing over a tonne a piece came to the surface and were secured to the A-frame on the stern, then the net itself was hauled in. This whole process was accompanied by a lot of shouting by the Captain on the loud speaker, and by the crew on deck. It was chaos.
The net was so large it couldn’t be hauled in one go, and so the crew had to keep securing strops around it and then hauling it in sections. All the while the ship was rolling heavily, and the net was sliding around on deck. I was glad to be watching from the safety of the bridge on this occasion, as since it was my first haul, I thought I could get a better overview from there, and work out where it would be safe, and where would be dangerous places for me to observe from for future hauls.
When the cod end came on board and it became apparent that the catch was small, the Captain began to wail and exclaim about the price of fuel and the incompetence of his crew. I made a swift exit and headed to the fish factory.
I watched the fish being emptied through a hydraulic hatch in the deck, down into a fish bin in the factory deck below. The factory bosun had the same idea, and we chatted as we watched. He estimated that there was about 2 tonnes of fish, and since I had no idea what 2 tonnes of fish looked like, I believed him.
It was amazing to see all the different species. I hadn’t seen most of them in the flesh before. There were a lot of bright red fish called ‘redfish’ and also a few Greenland halibut and the odd cod. I wanted to watch all the processing, so that I could count the boxes, and from that work out how many kilos of each fish were caught, but by now the ship was rolling really hard and I was turning green. I vomited in the discard chute and feeling clammy and weak as a kitten I gave up.
I went up to the bridge to see the Captain and first mate in a huddle over a weather report. There was a hurricane on the way and after shooting just one trawl, we would have to stop fishing and brace for the storm.
Tonight during the Radio Show, I heard all the chatter among the other observers about the impending hurricane. I have a pit in my stomach. It’s like being in a queue at Alton Towers, waiting for a ride on Oblivion. It’s a mixture of nervousness and excitement, it’s slightly sickening and there is no escape – I have to face my Nemesis (see what I did there?).