The big thing that we used to worry about…weather wasn’t a big problem. Wind and swell, water coming aboard. It was uncomfortable but we got used to it, we had to do it. The big thing that concerned us was when it was freezing very, very hard. It not only was very uncomfortable for the men, but the ice used to collect on the rigging and make the ship very unsteady. It was quite common for us to be working on deck in temperatures of minus 15, 16, 17 degrees Celsius. Minus. So, your water, the spray coming aboard, when it hit anything, and invariably it was metal or steel wires, something like that, it froze practically on contact. Especially with the wind temperature, the chill factor as it’s known now. It freezes up straight away, and then more ice comes and it builds up, and builds up and builds up. Until it has to, well we’d try and keep it down before it gets too dangerous. Knocking it off with a big hammer or a spanner, or something like that.
What was it like working as a Deck-hand?
You’re gutting fish, you’re working 18 hours a day once you start fishing. 18 hours on, and six hours off. And that 18 could be very hard, very cold and very wet. But one of the things that we used to suffer with was poisoned hands, salt water boils round the wrist. You get used to it, still carry on working. Your fingers used to swell. Even in good weather. The sheer amount of work you used to do gutting your fish with the razor sharp knives. Your hands and your wrist movements were on the go all the time, heavy weights. Everybody’s hands used to swell. So if you had any wedding rings on or anything like that, those of us with any sense , I found out the hard way of course, took them off before you actually started fishing. That’s to give you an idea of how hard work it was. Normal conditions, even summertime, your hands used to swell. And then it would take all the three, four, or five days running home for your hands to get back to normal again.