Video: Life on a longline fishing boat

  • December 08, 2011

These men of the sea live a tough life, working hard on a longline fishing boat.

IT'S A DIFFERENT WORLD out here on the sea mounts. Familiar, of course, if you know the ocean and its creatures, moods and colours, but it's the isolation that makes it special. 

Out here beyond the Bight we are not in the shipping lanes. Days go by without sighting another vessel. The men don't mind. It's the work that matters, and that goes on day and night, fair weather and foul.

It takes a special kind of bloke to crew on a longliner, and an even more special one to skipper them. Russell 'Harry' Potter's been doing it for nearly 20 years, and he knows how to get the best out of a wild bunch of rough, tough lads who, for whatever reason, have chosen this back-breaking lifestyle.

Life on a longline fishing boat

The work goes on up to 18 hours a day, shooting out, hauling-in, eating on the run, and, of course, barely sleeping. There's a constant soundtrack of bawdy banter, but beyond the rough-house stuff, there's a genuine affection, a camaraderie that keeps the peace as rogue waves smack the working deck while tempers fray and work goes on. In such close quarters you need a big heart and a sense of humour.

Idle moments are rare and to be treasured. It's hard to imagine a coal miner pausing momentarily to appreciate the beauty of the seam ahead, but out on the sea mounts that's exactly what the long liner crew do.

They marvel at their work place. They watch in awe as a sea bird swoops majestically from on high and claims a fish carcass, or a pod of dolphins fans out in formation to ride the bow wave. They check the pink hues of the gathering dusk through the localised squalls and know they'll be sitting down to dinner in calmer water. You wouldn't be out here unless you loved it, and they do.

The last fish bins are in the cold room, the decks are washed clean and the Diana is steaming home through the black night. It's been a fair trip - not vintage but good enough to pay a few bills.

And in less than 24 hours the men will be on terra firma for all of two days before the cycle starts again. Enough time for a few beers and a steak dinner or two, then they'll be ready. They always are.

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