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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

North Devon boat stories

Boat Stories is a series of short documentary films about people whose lives revolve around fishing and working boats in northern Devon.

The title Boat Stories gave the team the freedom to look at a variety of boats from modern trawlers and potters to traditional working boats and heritage boats. But the stories will be told by the people: those who own, skipper, crew or row boats and build, restore or use boats for their work or pleasure.

Since they got the go-ahead in mid March from Northern Devon FLAG (our main funders) to make the first six films the Boat Stories team has been busy. You can watch our first film: Lobster Potting and Berried Hens - a story of lobster potting and fishermen working for conservation - above. The next three films will be very different: (see the films page)

here's an excerpt from the Boat Stories site:

"Through April and May when the whelking season overlaps with the first lobsters on the move, Geoff is out at sea most days, on 12 hour shifts, ruled by the tide. So I was lucky to catch this quietly spoken, unassuming fisherman in harbour. Geoff told me how he learned to pot on his father’s wooden boat in Mortehoe in the school holidays and then went into lobster fishing straight from school. When I prized out of Geoff that he was one of the local fishermen who agreed to and actively supported the setting up of the no take zone around Lundy Island, I knew I wanted to film his story. Boat Stories couldn’t afford to charter a potting boat – and anyway we wanted to see lobster fishermen at work –so I was hugely grateful when Geoff generously agreed that we could come aboard with a camera and witness a normal working day. A normal day means twelve strings of pots (35 pots each) to be hauled, baited and shot - so after getting hitched on the anchor, Geoff was worried that (despite our dawn start) we wouldn’t finish before dark.

The first thing that struck Simon Vacher (on camera) and me was how hard the crew worked. The pots were hauled in at lightning speed with Geoff and brothers, Chris and Kirk Knight working as a team, each knowing their exact moves – like a choreographed dance. The second thing was how much seafood got thrown back – alive. Not just the smaller lobsters and crabs, but starfish, lesser spotted dogfish, even a sea bass, “not what we’re after” said Geoff, when I asked why he didn’t take it home for the pan. Geoff is a huge supporter of the aquarium (on Ilfracombe harbour) so he kept an interesting sponge he found back for them. Even when the boat was on auto pilot, Geoff didn’t stop working: checking charts, filling in records, making flags for the pots “makes it easier for the yachts and charter boats to spot them”, repairing the hooks for the ‘gates’ on the pots with deft fingers."