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Sunday, January 23, 2011

OK... A Rant!!

As you can see from the pictures and comments of the last couple of posts I have seen first hand what happens to a perfectly good boat when she is being decommissioned. 

The English dictionary's description of the word 'decomissioned' is the act of dismantling.  But the word 'decomissioned' doesn't give away the reality of what that actually means in the fishing industry.

To me if you dismantle something you take it to bits, in fact the definition is to take it to pieces 'bit by bit'.  But the act of decommissioning a fishing vessel is to destroy the thing! 

We live in a 'green' society yet there is nothing 'green' about what happened to a fully working fishing vessel being destroyed.  However I do admit there is a percentage that is recycled... I have first hand experience of trying to salvage parts or as I put it previously 'Picking over a corpse'.

Lets discuss what happens to the vessel when it enters the decommissioning scheme..
First the skipper has to find somewhere for the vessel to be broken up.  These people/yard have to be prepared to take on the job of not only cutting her up but the removal of all hazardous materials as well as the safe disposal of other waste materials. 

The vessel is then steamed to the yard in question where all the fishing gear, that has not been left in her home port, is removed.  The removable items that don't belong to the boat (Electrics etc) have to be returned to where they were rented from and all the oils removed safely.

The deck machinery, shelter deck and masts etc are lanced off, removed and then the wheelhouse is lifted off for cutting up at some later stage.  The engine is removed as this has probably been sold on and that basically leaves the hull.  This (in my case) is towed to the top of a slip at high water and then taken to bits using a JCB!

The only things recyclable in this process is the heavy ballast, pipe work and tanks.  The wood from the deck of hull is of no value what-so-ever and the removal of copper nails or fastenings is minimal because the wood cannot be burned to get access to them.  This whole process from start to finish happens in a matter of days.

Take, for example, the Rebecca McLean picturedin the blog below.  She was built in 1977.  She probably took months to build and many thousand's of man hours to complete.  She was somebodies pride and joy when she floated off the slip, probably she was launched to a party at the home port with a proud skipper showing her off before the hard work began of working to justify her build in the first place.  
Again, because I did not know the boat, I will speculate that she employed at least four people on her for most of her career.  Along with the many artisans that kept her afloat from running maintenance to the many other things that would have needed to have been done.  From the lumpers who shifted her catch in port to the insurance company that kept her on the books and not forgetting everyone else that was involved in the bureaucracy of allowing her to catch fish. 

I think you get the idea I am trying to put forward that the decommissioning of this vessel did not just effect the owner, but an entire range of people who relied on her whilst at sea or alongside.  The list of people mentioned is by no means conclusive.

The sad thing is that once the boat is destroyed then that is her gone forever.  She cannot be rebuilt as there is nothing going to be left of her. 
Her design might be on paper somewhere and the odd picture might exist of her in here heyday. 
She was not like a car where ten thousand versions of her existed and many sit in collections, she was one off. 
Almost a piece if living art. 
There are damn few places left that can reproduce her, the people who could are either dying out or realistically cannot justify the cost of building a new version of her. 
Her only real chance was to have been kept fishing or sold/given to a passionate collector who could have converted her.

What options are there for a fully functional fishing vessel instead of being destroyed?

I have two in mind that could have saved her.  One personal and thought out of self gratification and the other through looking at the bigger picture in the world.

Yes, I would have loved to have her.  I would have converted her over time to be that classic live aboard I have always dreamed about.  I would have used her to tour whilst converting her as money and time would have allowed.  She was not like the Lady Evelyn that is needing so much work, she was a working vessel that deserved to be retired to someone like me to use and to encourage younger generations to love the sea and boats as much as I do.   She would have been used from the second she was handed over and would have travelled around from day one until the day I in turn passed her to one of my children. 
I would never have fished her again,  I would have made that solemn promise that even if it looked like she was to change hands outwith my family I would have kept to the condition, no commercial fishing. 
But I guess your 'word' cannot be your bond in our government's eyes.

The second option and a much more realistic one to my 'wishing for a pony' in the governments eyes... Why not give her to a third world country? 
How often do we hear of fishing fleets around the world being wiped out through Tsunami's or civil wars? or the myriad of other natural or man made disasters that happen on our planet on a yearly basis..
Could a charity not offer the skipper the cost of the fuel and a ticket home for him to deliver the vessel to literally anywhere in the world?  
Have we not been taught that to give a man the tools to do a job is better than giving him a loaf of bread?
The option of giving a man a boat and a net would feed him and his community for years to come and its not like we would be giving the rubbish. 
These boats are state of the art, albeit some are slightly aged but there is nothing wrong with them. 

One of reasons, I have been led to believe, a to why vessels must be broken up was that in the very beginning of the decommissioning sheme system, many years ago.  Vessels were sold to other countries and ultimately they ended up back here and fishing again under other names and other licences. 
Basically people saw a way to 'scam' the system and they did. 
Sadly this problem has been overcome by the destruction of the vessel being seen as the simplest and easiest way to stop this happening. 
Rather than spending time creating a way of working around this it has been easier to 'cut' a vessel up.

I have a simple(ish) and easy way to get around this. 
The MCA has a database of every engine on every commercial boat.  They have the spec's for engine power and if an engine is to be added to that database now I am pretty sure it would have to be a brand new engine to get on it. 
Use this database along with the registry of vessels (Every vessel has a unique number) to tie in the boats to the fishing fleet and new additions. 
Cross reference the numbers with any licence transactions and if there are discrepancies when someone tries to use a vessel removed form the registry then put on hold the licence application and criminally investigate the person trying to re-administer the said vessel.
Surveyors already check RSS numbers and engine numbers  The would see if numbers had been tampered with and lets face it if the fine was big enough... 
The government could easily issue tamper proof documentation that lives and dies with every vessel (This already works for Microsoft, you try and transfer software from one PC to another!), as well as making marks on vessels perhaps bar coded.
The cost of doing something like this could be met both by the skipper removing the vessel from the licencing scheme as well as the person receiving the vessel. 
I am sure there are way cleverer people out there how could come up with other ideas to keep these vessels from being destroyed.

The saddest thing about the whole destruction of a vessel is that the fishing license for the vessel destroyed is not gone, merly shelved for five years.  There is nothing to stop a brand new boat being built to take the license in five years. 
Technically as far as I can see, the present owner can have a five year holiday at the governments expense then build or buy another boat and be in exactly the same situation as he was before the boat was decommissioned under this set of procedures!!
Where the hell is the logic in this?
This is doing very little for the fish stocks,as you would would have thought they would have got a five year rest.... well no not exactly. 
The licence that has been shelved, is only shelved so as to stop the present entitlement holder using it. 
There is nothing stopping him from renting it out, now, to a third party who is needing quota or would like to add more to his own. 
We are in a position of having fewer boats (for five years) with more quota.

I wonder if any of them will buy bigger boats meantime?

If you think what I have written is not factual or naive, please drop me a line and let me know,  please no hater's!  I only have put down in black and white what I and many other people think.  I have not used any skippers opinions or thoughts here and any expressed are purely my own. 

Thanks to the skipper of the Rebecca McLean for allowing me to take the pictures as well as letting me have a few bits and pieces.  It can't be easy watching your boat be destroyed no matter what the recompense.  

On another tack - I am on yet another scrounging mission.  I would like to buy or borrow a wooden (Or fibreglass) dinghy between 12 and 18 feet.  
I would prefer something I could work on so as to keep purchase costs down.  But the same can apply if your lending one, you will get it back better that you gave it to me!  e-mail if you have something you might like to part with,  Thanks in advance!!

Pictures as promised

Some pictures taken of whats left of the Azalea as well as the scalloper the Rebecca McLean about to be destroyed due to the decomissioning scheme.  I'm pretty much disgusted with the fact that this actually went ahead... Read my rant for my thoughts....

Whats left of the Azalea after being destoyed in the decomissioning scheme.

Another couple of pictures of whats left of the Azalea

 The Rebecca McLean.  There is not a thing wrong with this hull, no damage what-so-ever! A few hundred thousand hours of craftmanship about to be destroyed forever because of beuocracy (As far as I can see!)

More hull pictures.

The wheelhouse and shelterdeck awaiting cutting up....

The Rebecca McLean about to be torn to bits as per the rules of the decomissioning scheme.

More scrap from the Azalea.

The Lady! on the first half decent day this year.

Pictures taken over the last week of the destruction of the Rebecca McLean a Scalloper being decomissioned in the latest round of the Goverment schemes.  Rant to follow!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Its been a while....

My apologies for not writing up for such a long time.  I have been 'shirking' my responsibilities for a wee while due to having hurt my sodding back again.... Not going there with tales of 'daring do', Ive a F*^&%d back and that's all there is to it life revolves around that.

Well as to whats been happening??  The Lady is still siting almost exactly where I left her two months or so ago.  She has had a daily check on her with an occasional clamber aboard.  She is still at a hellish angle and has got a nice layer of green slime over her making her pretty torturous to get over.  She is looking much cleaner inside so the change in angle has cleaned a lot of the garbage out of her that had accumulated over the previous ten months or so.  She is going up onto the long awaited legs on the next tides in a coupe of weeks.  The engineers are making plates to help spread the weight of the boat on the joists and the delivery of the pine 6x12 legs are semi arranged for then as well.

I plan to use 4 six inch by 12 inch legs that are 15 feet long.  The idea is to use 2 planks bolted together to make one leg.  These will be held in place with two 30mm high tensile (Galvanised) steel bar lengths (A metre is hopefully enough).  I'm going to drill the hull through both the heavy stringer that runs below the deck beams (Yes I know there is a name for this but I'll be damned if I can remember it..sorry Sandy!) and then directly through the rib above deck level.  I'll do this at approximately midships to give maximum benefit to the forces of leverage.

I should say something about the plates as well here.. These are basically made up of 10mm mild steel. They are 12 inches by 12 inches with a 32mm centre hole for the tensile steel and also two 10mm locator's holes for holding them in place while everything gets bolted together.  Its worth noting that because I am doing 99% of this myself you have to think ahead as to how to make life easy for yourself, things like locator's holes mean the difference of things going out of alignment and you losing months off your life cursing and swearing! I'm a believer in doing things once and doing it right.

On the deck and engine side of things.  Bob from Ardishaig (an Engineer Mentioned I have  before) is still after a hydraulic pump from the front of the engine.  In exchange for this Bob is going to lance off some of the derelict and corroded steel work as well as possibly remove the engine if I can open the deck up and prepare the area in time.  He has got himself a lorry with hi-ab that will do the lifting and also take the excess material to the dump.

I have to say a huge thank you here to the skipper of the Rebbecca McLean, who's boat has recently been decommissioned.  He kindly let me go over the boat after she was broken up to get a few parts.  It cant be easy to have people like me looking for a bargain whilst you look upon your life's wok being destroyed because of bureaucracy.  I'm going to rant about the whole decommissioning thing separately as its a crime as far as I am concerned and it certainly is not the fisherman's fault!
Anyway, I managed to get one of her fuel tanks and some other various bits and peaces including, 9 jubilee clips, a tin of black paint, 3 lengths of chain, 5 heavy ropes (Braided as well as ordinary) 3 stainless steel knives (OK they were cheap looking things, I took three that were relatively clean but left at least 20!), a 15 foot stainless steel hold ladder and a couple of wee fittings that were loose.  Oh! and a fishery officer deterrent stick (Story in a second!).
I honestly felt like I was picking over a corpse, if that's how one feels like of course, it wasn't nice but I felt that I was in a position that I would never be in again.  Its not everyday that a boat is decommissioned on your doorstep.

I had hoped that I might have been able to get the helm, as you may know the Lady's was stolen.  But the wheelhouse had already been destroyed so I missed it.  I do hope to get the steering hydraulics though, however I have been advised that it will not fit a standard helm control.

As to the 'Fishery Officer Deterrent stick', as you may or may not know. i was a fishery officer in the home port of the Rebeca McLean.  I used to have collect log sheets as a matter of course from some vessels as they used to play the game of 'forgeting'..... Anyhow... I traipsed aboard the R M asking for said log sheets and here in the wheel house was a hardwood full size sledge hammer handle.  I joked about it being for unruly crew..he joked back about deterring fishery officers looking for log sheets! Touche' methinks
Any way that hardwood handle is now pride of place at my front door for any unruly sales.... sorry its in the workshop as a talking point for the future!

Well back the the lady,  Its caulking tomorrow (Again).  The tides are pretty good just now and the weather is mild so I'm going to make the most of the opportunity and attempt to get some of the work done that was lost during the bad weather. 

A rant and some pictures coming soon!!