The day out with decks appeal

18th December 2009 at 00:00
Pupils amazed as Reading Bus project takes them aboard 70m-long state-of-the-art supertrawler to promote book

The sun's over the yard arm and you could imagine yourself lounging below deck on a leather sofa, nursing a small refreshment and watching one of your favourite films.

It's five-star luxury on the high seas - but this is no Caribbean cruise ship. When the skipper shouts "all hands on deck", you'd better shift yourself.

Teachers from St Machar Academy in Aberdeen could be forgiven for pondering a career change when they toured the 70m-long supertrawler "Kings Cross" at Fraserburgh Harbour.

The North Sea was deep blue and the sands of Fraserburgh Beach pale gold when the third years and their teachers checked out the Fraserburgh- registered vessel.

It was part of a day out organised by the Reading Bus project and Seafood Scotland to help pupils market a new book of recipes with a distinctly fishy flavour and a Doric title, Fit's for Supper?

The teachers were blown away by their tour of the multi-million pound trawler - both by its towering scale above the quayside and the designer furnishings on board. Every crew member had their own cabin with en suite facilities, and the huge wheelhouse had an array of screens more like the Starship Enterprise than a Fraserburgh fishing boat.

"I'm absolutely gobsmacked," said home economics teacher Ann Insh. "When we knew we were coming to a trawler, we thought it would be like a little wooden boat. This is a factory - it's absolutely state of the art."

The group was given little blue plastic shoe covers, not to protect designer footwear from bilge water, but to guard the wheelhouse carpet from our mucky outdoor footwear.

Shipshape? You could eat your haddock and chips off the deck of the Kings Cross; also in the bowels of the ship, where you might expect to find some dirt. But everything was freshly painted and pristine.

Skipper Alex Wiseman sat proudly in the wheelhouse behind the vast array of technology which allows them to find the fish using sonar equipment and even calculate their catch using sensors in the nets.

The schoolboy who dreamed of life at sea more than 30 years ago could never have imagined he'd end up sitting in a wheelhouse the size of a nightclub. Mr Wiseman is joint owner of Kings Cross and said it would cost pound;20 million to build a boat like this nowadays.

He described his early days at sea when the fleet used to follow the herring and trips could last six weeks: "We were brought up in small villages and all that was in your mind was fishing. If you were brought up in a fishing family, you were just hell-bent on going to sea. You couldn't get out of school quick enough.

"Everybody slept in one cabin. You had 10 guys on the boat. You ate in that cabin, folk smoked in the cabin. It wasn't comfortable, it was very basic," said Mr Wiseman, who is chairman of the Scottish Pelagic Fishermen's Association, which represents the fleet.

Earlier, the pupils, who were studying hospitality, visited the International Fish Canners headquarters in Fraserburgh.

"It was really good. We saw the fish getting canned and vacuum-packed. We saw the different kinds of fish and how they were caught and processed," said schoolgirl Nimah Cowie. "I thought the boat was going to be tiny and we'd all have to squeeze on," she laughed.

Her friend Chloe Robertson already had some ideas for marketing the seafood side of the new book: "Fish is good for you and it's brain food," she said.

Fifteen-year-old Karen Middleton said she might even consider going to sea. But would the skipper welcome her?

"The women would manage just as well as the men would, because basically there's very little in the way of manual work involved with these boats now. You want to lift something - you get a crane and you lift it. So yes, I'm all in favour," he said with a smile.

But what of that superstitious stuff about women on board bringing bad luck. Is that still around? "Not with me, there's not," said Alex.

See www.readingbus.co.uk. `Fit's for Supper' is illustrated by Bob Dewar and published with support from Tesco.

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