Holland to Ardfern - bulletin seven
Eyemouth, Scotland, via Stonehaven to Peterhead (Blootoon), Scotland and onwards.
Crew - Totty, Sha Sha, Broontroosers and Curt and Margaretta Gardmo-Hult.
STOP PRESS - NEW VOLUNTEER CREW MEMBER FOR 'DENEYS REITZ'!
The following formal Exchange of Letters is self-explanatory:
Dear Captain Broontroosers,
Please add me to the crew list, if only to monitor your mental health state and determine if any medical intervention or Sectioning under the Mental Health Act is necessary.
Dr. Harold Shipmate
Dear Dr Shipmate,
I am very pleased to enter you on the crew roster and look forward to many productive consultations.
However, I grrreatly resent (bark) the inference that I might be (grrr, howl) insane.
Your loving father
Broontroosers (cap'n to you)
I must say that 'Deneys Reitz' naturally attracts a very superior class of volunteer.
Now, where were we? Ah yes, Eyemouth, Scotland, altogether a very superior sort of fishing port. Last heard from, we had just been received on arrival at 10pm by John Johnson, harbour master and entrepreneur, and directed to the fishing boat moorings as the harbour was full. Eyemouth boasts a modern fish processing plant, about 15 local boats, most of which fish for so-called prawns, which the French call Langoustines and salivate for. These little beauties are up to 12 inches long and look somewhat like crayfish. Until about 10 years ago, many Scottish fishermen threw them away, describing them as 'verrmin'. Then a visiting Frenchman saw what they were doing, burst into tears of deep emotion and offered a lifetime contract to ship them direct to his Paris restaurant.
Three other Eyemouth boats fish the Norway coast for herring and mackerel. One of Johnson's obsessions is that no fish landed in Eyemouth should leave without having some value added. The fish plant, which he bludgeoned the council and Scottish Enterprise for £20 million to build, fillets and packs fish products, produces ice for local ports and the catering trade for miles around and, the latest innovation, supercools langoustines in large tubes which are sent to Paris, where they are unpacked alive, thus increasing the value over the frozen version by a factor of 4. The process was developed by the manager of the fish plant, a protege of Johnson. This man has almost single-handed transformed Eyemouth from just another failing East coast fishing port into a thriving centre for fishing and tourism.
They have a naturally beautiful location, just South of St Abb's Head (A feature in the Inshore Waters forecast), and have built footpaths and nature trails and cycle tracks, as well as a very creative local museum, built around the Great Disaster of 1889, when 180 Eyemouth fishermen perished within sight of their relatives in a mighty storm, some of them getting blown all the way to Norway. The shops are good, the pubs and restaurants range from adequate to good.
We went for a walk on the second day, around the coast, following a very pretty trail. The coastal scenery is splendid, the sun shone for a change, and as you might be able to tell, we liked the place. On the way back, we walked past the upper harbour, past a lot of fishing boats. Most of them have rather sentimental, or uplifting names; like “The two Sisters”, “Silver Harvest”, or “Evening Star”.
We were gripped by the one exception, which was called “Golden Boy”. Emblazoned on one side of this trawler was a picture of the Boy himself, can of lager in hand, eyes popping and tongue hanging out in lascivious fashion. Underneath was the caption, “Tits Oot For the Lads”.
On the other side, there was a graphic representation of what the lads meant - was she well endowed! Dolly Parton is flat-chested by comparison. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient room on the side of “Deneys Reitz” or we could run a caption competition!
Broontroosers and John Johnson recline in armchairs in his office and renew old acquaintance. They rant a bit about the complete stupidity of officialdom, which will pay for fishing boats to be destroyed and burnt, but will not help local fishermen to install new gear that will avoid damaging the Langoustine, thus increasing their value further. John, who owned and skippered his own fishing boat for 25 years and was the cox of the local Watson 47 lifeboat, has just skippered the delivery trip of a 70-foot Survey vessel across the Atlantic to Maine. His crew were big boat sailors ("they don't understand like you and I do, that a small boat moves with the sea - half of them were sick most of the trip"). Don is mightily flattered to be included amongst the small boat cognoscenti and passes a discreet veil over his views about boats moving with the sea. They swap ideas about how to become even more active after 65 and part with warm intentions for him to do a trip with the doughty crew of good old 'Deneys' - possibly to the remote Atlantic isle of St Kilda :"Now John, here's the deal , you and Charlotte take the boat to St Kilda, and tell me what it's like when (more like if) you return".
One last thing about Eyemouth - the harbour is populated by something strange, something that wakes the weary crew at 3 am, coughing like a serious bronchitic, "URF, URF, GROARG, GRAAH". Monsters of the Deep?? Bartlett's mythical monsters?? Definitely the stuff of dark fantasies and night horrors!
But careful observation reveals that this is a gang of large seals. Their leader patrols the harbour, demanding food with menaces from nervous yachties. He is a huge creature, black with an enormous head, just like Marlon Brando in the 'Godfather'? Or Orson Welles.....?? No, it's Dr. Ian Paisley! The great head, the gruff, staccato barking and the aggression - shouting, "Give me the God-damn food now - and NO POPERY in Eyemouth Harbour!!"
Each morning sees a confrontation between the Paisley Mob and the local gulls, fighting for guts and discarded small fish. This is somewhat reminiscent of the US army fighting a guerrilla force - the seals have the weight and massive firepower, the gulls are cunning and nimble. As in real life, the gulls take some hits but win most of the spoils. The seals are able to claim that they get the occasional big bits and cause considerable 'Shock and Awe'. Furthermore, they can assert that if only the gulls would stand up like men and fight a proper war fair and square the issue would not be in doubt.
A fisherman says that they feed guts and small fish to the Paisley Gang because it keeps them in harbour and away from the fish out at sea. They should be signed up to do an act for the tourists, who could feed them rotten fish at £5.00 a bucket.
All too soon, it's time to press on. As usual, the bloody tide is with us from 6am until mid-day, so it's up early - just the hour that the fishing boats are coming back from overnight trips. The harbour mouth is on a dog-leg, so incoming and outgoing boats can't see each other. This makes BT twitch a little (or maybe a lot! And squeak! - Totty), as fishermen don't hang about after a hard night's fishing when breakfast and a few pints beckon. The problem is resolved by Johnson, a diminutive figure standing at the end of the harbour wall, directing the traffic. Three largish fishing boats come to a juddering halt to let us out. Thanks John.
New scene: Two fishermen in very small boat one mile off the cliffs at Stonehaven are mightily surprised when a large boat draws alongside and asks the way into the harbour. Their response draws to a close a noisy three-way debate about the whereabouts of the real harbour entrance (as opposed to the imposter being proposed by the Navigator). (All bloody lies! We were going into what he calls the imposter, because, as usual, I was right! Good heavens, he'd write absolutely anything if I didn't keep checking up! - Navigator)
Stonehaven is beautiful, surrounded by cliffs, stone cottages, romantic castle ruin on clifftop, beautiful church - you know the scene. It's also the centre for the training of Dutch and German lifeboat crews, and the staff come down to have a look at 'Deneys'. The restaurant is of the highest quality, with freshly landed fish and crustaceans. The crew celebrate, we have penetrated still further into Scotland, and we have avoided Montrose, the harbour town where the Indian restaurant is boarded up (even the immigrants have emigrated), and the wind is backing from North West to Southerly. Swift digression: 'Backing' - this is the process of the wind changing in an anticlockwise direction, is it not? (Psst! - I can't ask the others, as displaying ignorance on such matters might dent the capn's awesome authority - Broontroosers). (Psst! We knew what backing is all along - and what authority?).
Next morning early. The wind has indeed backed, but it is also rising towards Force 6. There's no such thing as unalloyed good fortune at sea. But we comfort ourselves with the thought that surfing down waves is a damn sight better than head-butting them, so the only person present to be downcast is 'Deneys', who relishes the butting.
Peterhead is our next destination. Peterhead, Europe's largest fishing port. Peterhead, only 10 miles from the corner into the Moray Firth and Inverness, Caledonian Canal and the West. Peterhead, known to its inhabitants as 'Bluetoon', it's so bloody cold.
More gripping adventure 'ere we reach the West.
Yours aye, Jimmys and Hens