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About our boat






By Stephen Bruce (former fisherman)

Not long ago Peterhead proudly sat at the top of the league as the Premier Whitefish Port in Europe, today that record is becoming a distant memory. Successive years of decommissioning the fleet have made Peterhead a “ghost” port compared to what it was in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. I remember the day not long ago when vessels that regularly used the port throughout the year from Buckie, Lossiemouth, and Banff would steam home for the Christmas period because given the clamour for berths in Peterhead they were afraid that there boats would get damaged over the Christmas season when all the other boats were tied up. Vessels such as the Rhodella, Ability, Sunbeam, Andromeda all renowned fishing boats would steam up the coast, which allowed more berthing space for home vessels. The engineers, carpenters, painters and other services industries would be working flat out to get the vessels ready for sea the first week of the New Year. In the past some of the skippers would have taken the decision to stop a few days early than the majority of the fleet especially if they needed a pier berth because they were getting some major work done. There was no way it could have been left to the last week before Christmas because they would not get a pier berth directly beside one of the engineering shops. Some times you felt sorry for the berthing master who had the unenviable task of finding a berth for all the boats that required pier berths because of the work they were getting done. The “Flying Scud” Peterhead’s small harbour tug would have been working flat out towing boats out and into berths to allow work to continue.

In the past over 200 boats would be berthed in the harbour over the Christmas period, this past year only approximately 40 boats were berthed when the “fleet” was tied up during the Christmas period. Theirs no needs for a berthing master now, the skippers pick where they wish to berth and they always get a pier side berth. The Flying Scud crew are glad get a boat to tow across to help pass the day, and boats can chose when they will stop, because the engineer shops (those that are left) aren’t very busy anyways.

Why has this situation been allowed to happen? A whole way of life, stretching back centuries has been allowed to die in just a few years in the name of conservation. Last year one boat was decommissioned that was only two years old, surely there are better ways of conserving fishing stocks than cutting vessels which have still a viable working life. As I have rewritten in the past for this magazine my family fishing heritage stretches back over 150 years, my brother is still skipper of the Peterhead Budding Rose PD418 www.buddingrose.co.uk .

The Budding Rose like many other vessels that worked out of Peterhead was built Campbeltown Shipyard on the Kintyre Peninsula. If my memory serves me correct the Budding Rose was no 87. I remember the first time i went down to Campbeltown shipyard in 1988 not long after our previous boat had sank, they were putting the finishing touches to the Shetland Trawler Endeavour, we could not help but admire the skills of the work force in building such a lovely finished boat. Such was our admiration for the skills of Campbeltown work force, we ended up placing an order for the Budding Rose in September 1989. The Budding Rose was built in only 9 month being launched in April and completing trials on the beginning of May, and finally we started fishing on the second week of May 1990. To the enormous credit of the workforce we never lost one day fishing with mechanical problem. In our estimation the workforce at Campbeltown were second to none when it came to finishing a vessel. Sadly Campbeltown Shipyard closed its doors for the last time in 1998, all the skills of the workforce have now been lost forever, never to be replaced. At Peterhead Harbour there is an area of the harbour beside the market affectionately known as Campbeltown Corner, where many of Campbeltown built boats used to berth, sadly many of these boats now have been decommissioned Ajax, Argosy and Sunbeam to mention but a few. The Shetland fishing boat Endeavour which I spoke about, was bought by a Peterhead family and renamed the Constant Friend sadly she also was decommissioned last year.


PD.83 Constant Friend now decommissioned

My brother was one of the skippers that didn’t opt to take decommissioning last year, he agonised over it for a long time. However he still wants to work away, despite all rules and regulations he still enjoys being a fisherman, and cant see himself doing anything else even though year on year its harder and harder to make a decent living. Politics now rules the fishing, and the more bureaucracy that’s been added to the fishing the worse it’s got. After all the cuts there’s be the last few years only last month another government body has recommended the Scottish Whitefish fleet should be cut by another 15%, it is hard to believe that a government can be so intent in wiping a industry with no regards to the long term implication. Off course politicians say that’s why they doing it to save stocks for future generations, well I guess the generations they are talking about must be from France, Spain other European countries, because if this next round of cuts goes ahead there wont be anymore Scottish boats left to catch stocks of fish left behind

This year despite all the restrictions in place on the Scottish Whitefish fleet (most are restricted to 15 days a month) the boats have been catching good shots of fish. Only a few weeks ago my brother had the biggest haul he has ever had since he started as skipper over 600 boxes of 40 kilos of prime Cod. What fisherman are finding on the fishing grounds bares no relation to what the scientists/government bodies are saying, yet know one is listening to the fisherman. In years to come when the demise of the Scottish fleet, and our proud fishing heritage is written about I believe the politician will brought to account for the way have destroyed an industry with little or no regard to the human cost of it all. Over the last few many fishing families have shed a tear years at having to decommission thrust upon them ending sometimes centuries of family fishing tradition.

Big Haul of Cod taken by the Budding Rose March 04