I was talking to a good friend last week, over a few beers we got onto the subject of my fishing boat project. He told me that only two types of fishermen exist – some men are born to it and have never done anything differently, and there are men that do it because they can’t do anything else. I had to disagree.
There’s a working rhythm on a scallop dredger that appeals to my sense of order; it’s an efficient system that rarely changes. As soon as everyone’s on the boat, it’s untied and out of the harbour. There’s no hanging around. In the time it takes to get to the scallop beds, this can take less than an hour or as long as six, the deck hands usually go below to catch-up on any sleep they didn’t get the night before.
On the Genesis, the vessel I’ve been documenting over the last few weeks, the skipper, Tony, wakes the deck hands, Michael and David, as soon as the dredges are ready to be dropped for the first tow, and so the order begins. Lower the dredges, put the kettle on, cigarettes, coffee, check social media, snooze, more coffee, more cigarettes, lift dredges, sort scallops, bag scallops. Repeat. Each tow takes about an hour, sometimes there are two tows, on other occasions, there are ten, depending on the yield of each tow (I think that all comes down to luck). When I’m on the Genesis, I’m involved in the routine in my way; I’ve got to the point that I know exactly where I need to be, or need not be, so as not to get in anyone’s way. I enjoy that routine.
I don’t think anyone works on a fishing trawler because they have to, not for any length of time; we live in an economy, indeed on the Isle of Man, where anyone can pick and choose a job that suits. I assume that the sense of order that appeals to me is attractive to other men. Maybe I’m in the wrong business? Perhaps I should ditch my cameras and purchase some oilskins…
All images in this article were made using a Canon AS-1 35mm compact and Kodak Ultramax 400 film.