Information courtesy of Dick Massey
Gross Tonnage: 31
Length: 43.4 ft
Breadth: 15.5 ft
Depth: 6.4 ft
Built: 1943, Holland
After selling the CRYSTAL SEA, the plan was to buy a small beam trawler. The herring season was on at the time, with Dutch vessels in at Peel buying the herrings for transportation to Europe, and when talking to one of the Dutch trawler owners, he recommended that before buying a beam trawler, I should first get come experience, as beam trawling has a few more dangers than normal side or stern trawling, particularly the danger of capsizing.
Taking his advice and talking to the ship broker John Appelboom, he agreed this was a good idea and could be incorporated into a purchasing contract. Being familiar with Rotterdam, we agreed that I should make my base at the Scandinavian Seamen’s Home, which was situated close to John’s office, and after further discussion decided we would spend some time looking at small beamers before making up and signing a contract, as the seller must agree to have me aboard for several weeks.
The fishermen of Zeeland worked from small ports situated amongst the southern islands of Holland. Stellendam is within a couple of hours’ drive of Rotterdam, and the fleet of beamers there ranged from ocean going vessels to ten metre shrimpers.
Jan van Ours was the owner of the VERTROUWEN, SL10 as she was known in the port. Jan was very keen to sell as he wanted to buy a larger vessel. VERTROUWEN was built just after the war, about 1947, 50 feet long, 18 feet beam with a draft of 7 feet, fully riveted and very strong, with a full round stern providing lots of buoyancy.
On deck, everything was strongly constructed, the decks being 2 inch thick Oregon planking. A very stout mast carried the two long derricks used to handle the beam trawls, each weighing over one ton dry, together with a large four drum used to haul the beam trawls, and the auxiliary wire drums to raise and lower the derricks. This winch was powered by a flat belt off the front of the main engine.
The engine developed one hundred and fifty horsepower, it was a heavy duty Deutz four cylinder motor. All this heavy duty equipment made for a very robust and a seaworthy vessel, the ideal combination for an amateur beam trawling crew. After a couple of weeks Jan and I agreed on a price, and with a designated changeover date, the contract was signed.
In the meantime we were fishing, and landing the catches at Scheveningen fish market, the earnings going to John and his crew. Shortly after the delivery date, my wife Brenda arrived from the Isle of Man to help take VERTROUWEN to her new home.
Departing from Stellendam was a happy and sad affair. Sad for Jan and his crew, as they had worked the boat together for so many years, also sad the boat was leaving Holland, but on the other hand, Jan was happy because he received a substantial grant from the Dutch Government – I had signed a document agreeing that the SL10 would never again sail under the Dutch flag as a fishing boat.
Once clear of the channel leading through the shallows of the coast, our course took us along the Belgian and north French coasts before crossing over to the English side near Dungeness. From there we followed the English coast until we arrived in Brixham, Devon, for a rest before the next part of the voyage around Land’s End and north to the Irish Sea and the Isle of Man.
Departing from Brixham with our diesel tanks full, we had calm seas, and the Decca navigator making navigation easier, until passing St David’s head on the Welsh coast that same component went “pop” in it’s control box and that was the end of it’s usefulness and we were back to the coastal terrestrial navigation.
As we approached Bardsley Island at the north end of Cardigan Bay, the weather changed, the wind freshening from the north, and by this time we had been going for two days and needed a rest, and the nearest shelter, near Pwlhelli, was Hell’s Bay – a tense arrival, running into a strange place in the middle of the night with a strong wind whipping up the spray, together with the rain.
Once the anchor was down and the engine stopped, the wind sounded dramatic in all our rigging. After a meal and a good sleep, we woke to a bright day of sunshine, with the wind in the north, the bay was not at all hellish. After another night here, the wind eased enough for us to move on to Holyhead, where we sheltered for another couple of days before making the passage from Anglesey to Douglas.
From Stellendam to Douglas is just over seven hundred miles, hand steering all the way. The weather had been kind to us until we reached the Llyn peninsula with the high mountains of north Wales close by helping to make the northerly winds very gusty.
Our arrival in Douglas harbour made a bit of a stir, as this was the first beam trawler seen in the inner harbour. Now I had the paperwork for the Customs house to sort out, and importation duty to pay, and the boat had to be measured for UK registration and new registration numbers issued and a new home port. SL10 became RY67 of Ramsey. Our newest adventure had begun.
Taking the “VERTROUWEN” into Fleetwood’s Jubilee Quay for the first time, Paul Childers was waiting on the quay full of enthusiasm, along with Mick Ryan, who were to be my crew – Paul had worked on my previous two boats. Michael Ledley, our earlier crewman, had joined the merchant navy, and was later to become the Master of many large ferries and cargo ships. We are all very proud of his achievements.
Michael Ryan had owned several small trawlers and had rigged his current vessel “Gracie” for double beam trawling – she was in fact the first double beam trawler to be owned in the port. But the Gracie was suffering from old age. Mike had been a good friend from my first visits to the port; he was also to join me as a very important member of the crew.
Later, Reggie Hull, also a long time fisherman both in large deep water trawlers and inshore fishing, also joined us. In fact, we were four capable fishermen, each with his own expertise to add to this new venture. Paul and I were to take the boat out to the Shelley Flats ground to try out the new nets Boris the net maker had made for the boat, this being the first time I had put the beams in the water since taking out the boat without the Dutch crew.
All went well for a couple of tows. Then the wind and sea increased and I decided to head back for the quay. While getting the port side gear on board, the starboard cod end slipped back off the rail and fouled the propeller. Trying to clear it as the weather deteriorated, with the main part all secured, putting the engine in gear ahead everything worked okay. Back in Fleetwood I berthed against the stone quay at north end, and when we dried out at low tide, discovered it was only the cod line that was foul.
Starting our next trip with a full crew, on our return with our fist catch of Dover Soles I was able to negotiate a deal with Bob Ramster, he being one of the better fish salesmen of the port, and I agreed to deal with him only – this was trusting that we could catch soles. Bob had been watching our catch rate being at least double and even treble that of other Jubilee Quay fifty footers. This was very promising, and happily our success continued.
After about 8 months, we all felt in need of a holiday (it was the children’s school summer holiday time), so we took a couple of weeks of, and while Mick and Paul stayed in Fleetwood, Reggie brought his family to the Isle of Man for a change of scene, staying at our house, while we moved on board the boat. I wished to take a look at places up the coast that we had been passing by while fishing, so we headed for the Clyde.
The weather was good, and our first stop was Lady Bay at Loch Ryan, where we entered and found an anchorage clear of the ferry route from Stranraer to Larne. The boys were awake early to see this new place – from here we traveled north and east exploring the shores of the Clyde, visiting Campbeltown, Tarbert, Lochgilphead, and round to Rothesay – both boys caught their first fishes on hand lines as we rested at anchor here and there.
We passed inside Arran island, and close by Ailsa Craig. On the longer sea passages, the boys got a little bored, being five and three years old, and were playing “boats” in a tub of water on the deck as we motored along – imagine it. Altogether we enjoyed a very pleasant break.
On our return to the island, we found Reggie and his family had enjoyed their time exploring the Isle of Man, except for their 12 year old son, who had been bitten by the dog and had been taken to hospital for an anti-tetanus injection, then he slipped on some rocks at the beach and cut himself badly, requiring stitches. When he fell out of a tree and broke his arm, and again walked into the outpatients department for a third time, the nurses said “you again, we know what you did – you didn’t say hello to the fairies when you went over the fairy bridge” – he didn’t.
As the season came round and the Belgian trawlers returned, this increased our knowledge of the sole fishing grounds in the south of Liverpool Bay. The Belgians had been continuously chasing the soles for the last forty years with wooden side trawlers of eighty feet, then increasing in size, before double beam trawlers proved to be super catchers of soles. In the mid seventies, chain mats were found to open up a lot more fishing grounds. The chains allowed the fish into the nets, but not the stones. This was a different league from ours as whatever was to be dragged over the sea bed required horsepower and lots of it.
After a year or so, the interest in beam trawling was starting to grow, but nobody else had as yet committed to buying a vessel. Mick Ryan was the first to follow me into beaming with TINY VERTROUWEN, registered in Fleetwood, soon to be followed by Frank Clarkson with the Nordsea – now we had the nucleus of a beamer fleet on the English west coast. Both Mick and Frank went on to own substantial sized vessels over the coming years.
Brian Fitzgerald, a local trawler skipper, also became interested in beaming, and came out with us for a few days. All was going well until we picked up a large boulder in the starboard side gear. While trying to heave the net, we had a severe list. Whilst this was going on, a large ferry passed, setting up a large wave. As the wave hit us, filling the decks to the top of the rails, I released the winch brake and the boat, now free of the weight, bobbed up. When the decks were clear of water, Brian was missing, but after a few frantic minutes, he was found hiding behind the wheelhouse.
As soon as we had the trawls retrieved, Brian was pleased to be taken back to Fleetwood, and that was the end of his interest in Beam Trawling.
I was becoming more ambitious and wanted to move on to a more comfortable beamer. Ronny Bond and his two sons had just returned from New Zealand and Ronny was interested in buying the top earner of Jubilee Quay, this being my VERTROUWEN. John Appelboom had found me a sixty foot vessel, four years old, in Stellendam. I made a quick trip over to see the boat was worthwhile. Yes, I would buy, but was Ronny really interested in buying by current boat?
Back in Fleetwood, Ronny was not too sure. With fuel and ice on board, I made another trip. The Bond trio were on the quay when we were unloading our catch. Ronny was adding up the baskets of soles and calculating their value. That was enough for Ronny and his sons – the next day a contract was signed, the money was paid into our bank, and the deal was done.
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15/10/2016: Page re-published due to site problems.