It’s fair to say fishing is in my blood.
As a kid I grew up around the wharf in Greymouth.
I was known as ‘Spud’- I still am.
I have great memories of playing on Dad’s boat (FV Chance) whitebaiting in the lagoon, playing pretend at the wheel, pinching the stash of juicy fruit onboard and probably, more than likely, annoying the crew. I remember the feeling of adventure and wonder. I even remember climbing in the front boot where the anchor and ropes were stored, it was exciting and scary. I remember the smells… the salt water and rust smell, that has always been a part of my life. The excitement of Dad coming home from sea, his overgrown stubbly face, his smelly washing, trips with him to the boat, checking the bar and to the pub!
My first trip to sea was when I was 19. Prior, I had only helped Dad make gear and on occasion picked him up and dropped him off to the boat. It was on board FV Rose Louise. I loved her. I had my own room and the luxuries of a toilet and shower! She was comfy and every time I packed my bag to sail, I remembered the same sense of adventure the boat brought me as a kid. I couldn’t believe Dad had been doing this my whole life and I never even knew! It didn’t take me long to realize what an amazing seaman he was and still is. He is home at sea.
I worked with Dad for 9 years, bottom long lining and set netting. Long lining; targeting a range of deep sea species, mainly Ling, Bluenose, Hapuka and School Shark and netting for Ele’s, Rig and School Shark through the summers.
In 2010 I took an opportunity and applied for the ANZ Young Skippers Scholarship and won jointly with another young fisherman. I went to Nelson Fishing School and over a period of time obtained my Advanced Deckhand, Life Saving and Inshore Launchmaster tickets. Following this Country Calendar contacted me and ran a show on us! TV Stars! It was a fun experience which brought lots of positive feedback.
I have many unforgettable experiences at sea, I can’t tell you too many but I’ll share a few…
80 miles off the coast in the freezer icing up and a Hapuka spike went through my glove into my wrist. It really hurt. It didn’t hurt as much as telling Dad, which I put off as long as I could bear to. He was mad. The fishing was good, the weather was good. Unbaiting 3000 hooks and the 3 day trip to port was pretty awful too. After two operations and a week in hospital, all was well. I have a good scar and story for the grandkids.
My most favorite trips were those landing into Port Greymouth, especially during Albacore Tuna season. You know a good night if you have done this! The best nights at the Richmond with a pub full of fishermen. I was lucky to experience them because I’m pretty sure those are the good old days.
I’ve been witness to some spectacular things: Engines shutdown at night, the sea glowing all around the boat – a strange prawn like creature that had a glow light, it was so amazing; a dark rainy night in the middle of a thunder and lightning storm – it was so thrilling, I captured it on video; huge horrendous seas to the silkiest of calm waters – all such a privilege I took for granted.
I will never forget a 22 hour day netting. It was huge. I was exhausted. I thought I knew tired.
Then I had a baby.
I left the boat to start a family. My son ‘Eden’ is now 1 year old. The best year of my life so far.
Dad goes on without me, which is bloody hard to not be able to help. As well as the fishing boat he has recently started a new venture – an underwater drone UIOS (Underwater Inspection Observation Services) a mini ROV with underwater camera systems. Check it out at www.uios.co.nz and type UIOS into your search bar on Facebook and follow our journey!
A career at sea is challenging with motherhood but I’m always pondering ideas. I must drive my family nuts; I have a new idea every other week! I like the idea of a day boat. Slay some fish then go home to the family, even take the family! I long to be on open water again, no land in sight, a few hundred albatross and a boat with a belly full of fish.
I believe the industry is definitely in my future and I know if you believe it you can achieve it. If I become half the fishermen my Dad is – I would be happy.
By Donna Wells
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