Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Timely showing - First episode of The Catch goes out on the night of the Fish Festival at 8pm on Channel 4.

Here's a timely new TV documentary in the light of the changes to the way the Mission operates out of Newlyn - come and meet Phil Mitchell, skipper of the gill netter Govenek of Ladram as she plies the Western Approaches in her quest for hake, turbot and monk - in the kind of conditions that make most people thankful they are watching from the comfort of their sofa!

"In this new series Channel 4 have taken the fixed-rig camera to one of the most extreme destinations yet. Deep-sea fishing is the one of the most dangerous jobs in Britain, by some margin, and The Catch gives us unprecedented insight into the reality of life at sea.

The Govenek of Ladram in 'Through the Gaps' of Newlyn harbour.

Every day off the coast of England dozens of deep sea fishing crews are battling rough seas in order to hunt out the most valuable fish. But life at sea is often about so much more than fish. Miles out at sea the six-man crews only have each other to rely on, eating, sleeping and working together a matter of metres apart at all times – the work is tough, tensions are high and sleep is limited, how will these men learn to co-exist? Living in an environment like this is intense, and the fixed-rig shows fishermen like you’ve never seen them before – the on-board pranks, arguments at the dinner table, seasickness and the knowledge that a single haul can turn around the fate of a boat.
Though there's plenty of risk, the rewards can be high. After years of bad news stories and EU quota battles, the word is there is still money to be made at sea. Peak season for high-value fish is October to April – coinciding with the worst weather of the year. To succeed they have to pit themselves against dangerous weather conditions such as gale-force winds, 40-foot swells, and endless, driving rain.

Whilst the crew are out at sea, their partners and children are at home holding the fort. Constantly checking the weather and praying for a safe return some are parenting single-handedly, coping with the threat of bankruptcy, organising weddings and giving birth – life continues on land while the men are away at sea.

With a shortage of young men who have grown up in traditional fishing communities wanting to follow in their fathers' footsteps – recruiters are having to find new fishermen from further and further afield. This combined with rumours of big pay cheques has resulted in a new generation of landlubbers looking for work at sea, luring lads with no background in fishing to England’s busiest ports. The series follows these rookies as they join the tight-knit crews on board and see if they can hack it.
Episode 1 - Meet the realPhil Mitchell - skipper of the Govenek of Ladram

In the first episode of the series we meet Phil, the skipper of a large Gill netter called the ‘Govenek of Ladram’. Phil runs a tight ship, wanting his crew to work hard, eat together as a team and even makes sure that they dress up for meals without any fish guts on their clothes. Phil’s crew, Stan, Stevie, Sean, Bricktop and Simon, have been with him for years and are a well-oiled machine. But fishing can be a young man’s game and his crew isn’t getting any younger, Phil needs to bring in new blood and train them up before his most experienced deckhands move to an easier boat, or retire altogether.

Louis is a lost 21-year-old on the dole who has struggled in the past to feel part of a group and make friends. He lives at home with his mum and has never been to sea before. He has signed up for a deckie training course in the hope that he will be able to find a career, and a crew that will accept him as one of their own. But Louis has a rough ride ahead of him, to fit in he doesn’t just have to show that he can graft on deck but that he understands the rules of boat etiquette.

The Govenek fishes mainly for hake,

But life on board isn’t only difficult for the rookies, all the pressure and big decisions fall into the hands of skipper Phil. On a fishing boat there are no set wages, the crew earn a percentage of the profits – so if the haul is bad, the fish prices drop or a storm sets in they are the ones with the big decisions to make. Phil decides to steam 197 miles through a gale force 10 storm in the hunt for a good catch. But will his gamble of £7000 of diesel fuel steaming through 40 foot swells pay off and ensure that his crew comes away with a paycheck after a week at sea?

Behind the scenes: Just some of the camera cabling used to film aboard the Govenek...

and the kit going ashore after the last trip filming was completed.

See the story behind the new series on Channel 4 here:

And the full video trailer here: