Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Monday, 6 November 2017

A case of Cod and the Trawlermen's Rash.

Back in the 1950s and '60s thousands of deepsea fishermen sailed from Grimsby, Hull, Fleetwood, and Aberdeen - three weeks at sea and two nights ashore for men who on top boats earned film-star sized wages nicknamed 'three day millionaires' - their working life lived in extremis as they manhandled heavy trawls in often in both stormy and icy conditions elements of the distant water grounds off Iceland and the Barents Sea - the absolute harshness of the work and the phlegmatic approach they took to it living on the edge probably summed up most appropriately by terms coined like, 'he's suffering from trawlermen's rash' - which actually meant a losing a finger, or or two...

even on modern trawlers and in addition to the sometimes sleepless days at sea, the unstable platform and the frequent interruptions to normal operations from passing ships, ground and fishing gear problems there are umpteen opportunities for fingers, hands, heads and bodies to get in the way of gear weighing tons when hauling and shooting huge trawls on a heaving deck...

while on a small inshore boat, although there are not such extreme physical dangers from deck gear - apart from getting 'hooked up' or trapping a hand there is still one major adversity that afflicts fishermen the world over and often determines more than the abundance of fish or any other factor in them making a living - the weather - so for one day last week a truly momentous occasion was recorded for posterity as Steven 'Cod' Astley, seen here heading his boat Butts for Newlyn after a day on the bass, was caught on camera...

by fellow but 'rival' bass fishermen, Andrew Pascoe on the Cynthia - momentous because 18 months ago Andrew was in hospital by Cod's bedside as he fought to stave off a devastating attack of sepsis which took both legs below the knee and some of his fingertips -along with a huge toll on his immune system - Cod's reaction to his life and career threatening condition was simply to treat it as a case of 'trawlermen's rash' and just deal with it, "After seeing him in hospital I never thought I would ever see him alongside me at sea ever again. There’s men and there’s Cod" said Andrew.

Just some of Cod's bass on the market this morning

If you talk to Cod you can't help but be struck by his lack of regard for the enormity of what he has achieved. He simply smiles, gently shrugs his shoulders and even looks slightly perplexed if you even begin to hint at what he has achieved as being anything other than normal - he got his licence back and was back behind the wheel of his car many months ago too. His major concern (outside of making a living wage again of course) is that his story will ensure that others are now much more aware of sepsis and just how easily it can take hold of the body, often with devastating debilitating and sometimes fatal results.

Much of Cod's recovery was down to the support afforded him by the Seafarer's Society that helped set up his intensive physiotherapy.