Monday, 26 July 2010

The end of the line?

My last trip was shorter than planned, but more tiring, so I've had to catch up on sleep a bit before reporting.

My inexperienced crew were on time, and we got to Brixham by 8:30. On the way to the mooring, I called in at the ice factory to check whether there were any trawlers due in to collect ice. It would be nice to use my new engine installation, motor the catamaran round to the ice, load up and be off again in a few minutes. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be that way. The engine installation works great, and at half rev's with just the 6hp engine, we were able to do 4 knots, and manouvre quite easily. But when we got the ice quay, there was a trawler occupying the space, just beginning to load up. All we could do was circle about, trying to avoid traffic, as we waited for the quay to become free. Long after they'd loaded ice, the trawler showed no signs of moving on, so I had to go alongside and ask when they'd be going. Of course, since my boat looks like a yacht, not a fishing boat, the skipper had no reason to think that I was waiting for ice.

I wanted just 200 kg of ice. I can't expect the ice man to do anything other than give priority to trawlers, who load up with many tons of ice. Oh well, we got alongside fine, and shot the ice straight into the fishboxes, and left the harbour at 11 am.

The wind was forecast as northerly, force 3 - perfect for reaching the 20 miles to the wrecks where people have been catching bass. Within half an hour, the wind dropped to nothing at all. After an hour or so of flopping about, I cheated, and remounted the engine and motored for an hour, till the wind arrived again.

But it came from ENE and light, which meant I had to tack to the wrecks, and I couldn't get more than 3-4 knots. And the tide was against us - which meant we didn't arrive at the wrecks till 6 pm.

Still we set the long line, using bigger weights on the snoods to prevent the snoods spinning round the mainline, and an improved system for setting the lines between the floats and the weights.

I left it down for 4 hours, sailing in increasing wind, but with just a storm jib up and a well-reefed main to keep the speed down to 2 knots. We sailed right over two wrecks, 3 miles apart. Well, according to my navigation software we did, but I couldn't verify it with evidence from my fishfinder.

My fishfinder is PC-based, and connected with a USB cable to my laptop. One fundamental flaw with this setup is that if I put the USB cable from the fishfinder into a different USB slot in the laptop, the fishfinder won't work any more. Changing the order of where I put the USB cables mucks up the com port settings, and the fishfinder becomes unusable. I know this because I've done it before. It took the best part of a day, uninstalling stuff, cleaning out the registry, reinstalling etc. Of course, I then labelled the USB ports - GPS, fishfinder, phone. No problem. Till I carelessly used the wrong USB slot again! Doh!

Were we really over the wrecks? Very probably. Were there fish on the wrecks? I don't know! When we pulled the line up, we had just one small fish, a pollack or a pouting, which wasn't even hooked - it was hanging on the the tail end of a lure, and let go when it came to the surface. But worse, the snoods were almost entirely wrapped around the mainline, despite changing the weights half way down each snood. And some of the braid that goes between the floats and the weights was also entangled with the snoods and mainline, and some had to be cut away. What a disheartening mess!

We clearly couldn't use the trolling longline method again this trip, without an enormous amount of work sorting out the line - and without a clue as to how to prevent the same mess happening again.

I sailed slowly about the area of these wrecks, considering what to do next, while the crew got some sleep. I thought I might try the rods and downrigger set up. This was a setup designed to work on places like large banks, where I could troll lures some distance, sailing back and forth. It would be hard to use over wrecks, fishing and sailing back and forth with the required accuracy.

While I pondered such things, and why the trolling longline had tangled so badly, I had a busy time avoiding a couple of beam trawlers that were working the area around the wrecks. Their courses were quite unpredictable, and they had such bright deck lights going, I was convinced that their skippers were unaware of our prescence. They wouldn't expect a yacht drifting about the area, and I guess they didn't look. So, I had to sail away from the area. No way could I leave my crew on watch in these circumstance! No sleep for me!

The wind was now from the NW, blowing from Brixham, and quite hard. Even with storm sails up, we were doing 4 knows close-hauled. So I left it at that a while, working my way slowly upwind so that in the morning we'd have an easy short sail back to the wrecks. But the wind was very variable, and there was still the odd boat around. I could see that I couldn't call on the crew to do a watch, and that I wouldn't get any sleep that night. Tomorrow, I'd be in no fit state to fish, and if we wnet back to the wrecks in the morning, the charter boats would be back fishing them, and again, I couldn't leave my inexperienced crew in charge amongst other boats.

So as the wind died slowly through the night, I just hoisted more sail, and set off to return to Brixham. Six mile froms Brixham the wind died entirely again, so I fitted the engine and motored again. Why not? This wasn't fishing any more!

The engine worked great, and I was able to motor right up the mooring and pick up the mooring without help. Three hours motoring in total used just 4 litres of fuel.

But of course, no fish! Again. Back at the mooring after a lot of work, and no sleep, again!

Sunrise, approaching Brixham in the dying wind.

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