Finally, a UK partner of a commercial fisherman to show us how they do it across the pond! I actually connected with Jenny Prices’s husband Karl on social media via the post, 5 Ways to Deal w/ Boatyard BS. I believe his exact words were, “Jenny and I were reading your Boatyard BS. Very funny, we could both related to it. Jen said she could add to that.” Nice! Though it’s bittersweet that dealing with Boatyard BS is universal, it’s a slight relief that we are not alone!
Jenny gives us a taste of what it’s like for her and her family in the UK. For example, her hubby fishes out of a “tidal harbor,” which means he literally can’t exit or enter unless there is a big tide. What kind of challenges does this present? Good question. Let’s dive in…
Meet UK Partner of a Commercial Fisherman Jenny Price!
What is your name, and where are you from?
My name is Jenny, and I live in a village on the East coast of Yorkshire in the UK.
How did you and Karl meet, and was he a fisherman at the time?
Karl and I met along time ago; we were both 17 and met on a night out. I’m 40 this year, so we’ve been together quite some time now.
Can you tell us a little about Karl? What does he fish, what does he use to catch (net, traps, etc.), and what is his position on the boat?
Karl is the skipper on the boat we own. He was working as a fisherman when I met him going to sea on a small inshore boat. He had been going to sea with a family member since he was younger and has always loved going to sea. He’s worked on all kinds of different-sized boats doing all kinds of different fishing before we started on the journey of owning a boat when we bought our first boat when he was about 24. Our current boat is an under 12m cat fishing that we had built from scratch and fish for crabs, lobsters, and whelks using pots (or traps as they’re known in other countries). He is mainly in the wheelhouse these days, but the boat is set up to haul from the wheelhouse or on the deck. So, if we’re short on crew, he won’t think twice to put on his oilskins and go out and show them how it’s done!
Did you have experience with commercial fishing before you met Karl?
No, I didn’t come from a fishing family, and I was actually still at school studying when we met, so I had zero experience with commercial fishing. It’s been a steep learning curve.
When Karl decided to get his own boat, he spent every spare hour making the pots for it in the little out-house at home. I would come in from work and sit chatting to him while he was netting them. One day I asked if there was anything I could do to help, so he started showing me how to net a pot. The rest, as they say, is history. I left the desk job I was unhappy at a few months later, and as I quite enjoyed it, I said I would net a few pots for the boat full-time while I looked for another job.
I was quite good at netting pots, and Karl suggested I carry on if I wanted, so I never ended up getting another job. I ended up being full-time netting pots and doing the paperwork side of everything for the boat. 16 years later, I’m still doing it! I do however draw the line at going to sea. I’ve been on the boat for a couple of hours at a time, but it never ends well. Mostly with me throwing up over the side. I definitely don’t have any sea legs, I’m happy working shore side!
Do you have a community of other partners of commercial fishermen where you live? If so, how do you support each other?
We don’t really have a community as such, the majority of the boats that go from our harbor are known as Day Boats, meaning they only go to sea for the day, maybe 3 days for the bigger boats, so the crews aren’t really away for a long time, Having said that if Im having a fishing related crisis and Karls at sea theres always a few other women who have boats and their husbands/partners are at sea or work in the industry, I know I could call them for advice or help and I’d like to think it goes both ways.
Karl said you might have a few ideas to add to the “Boatyard BS” piece! That’s great! Please share!
Ha! Don’t get me started on this! All fishermen round here (and I’m guessing everywhere) are secretive. No one wants anyone to know where they’ve been fishing or how well they’ve done that day. But yet they all do the same dance…that goes like this:
Firstly, “Pop to the harbor to quickly check the boat.” This is a lie; there is no such thing as a quick pop to the harbor – your Boatyard BS nails it. They always bump into someone down there, and Boatyard Bullshit, as you so accurately described, begins…
Now here’s where it starts. There are the old-timers who have done well that day/week but don’t want to let on, so they are economical with the truth. Then there are the younger ones who maybe haven’t done very well but don’t want to let on they’ve not done so great, so are also economical with the truth.
Each party always knows which category the other is in because, well, everyone has eyes, and all anyone seems to talk about is how many boxes someone landed that week. Here’s how it goes…
In a Yorkshire accent:
“Now then, how’s fishing been, done any good?”
“Nah, not much doing at all really, how about you?” (this is a lie)
“Yeah, not so bad this week” (this is also a lie)
They both know they’re not telling the truth but still have the same conversation every single time! Why bother?! This conversation takes forever, all the while the kids are climbing all over the inside of the pickup while one’s complaining they need to use the toilet, the other one is asking “How much longer is dad going to be,” and the dog won’t stop barking!
What is a positive aspect of being a partner of a commercial fisherman?
The positive for us is in winter we get to see him a lot. As we’re not a huge boat we are guided by the weather and in winter, there are lots of bad weather days. Definitely not great for the bank balance, but we definitely get to see more of him than if he were doing a 9-5 job.
What is most challenging, and how do you get through it?
Personally, the most challenging has to be raising a family with a fisherman. He might be home lots in winter, but the rest of the year, he is at sea—a lot. When you have your own boat, there’s not just the actual going to sea part, there’s the constant maintenance required to keep the boat going, its easy for a whole weekend to be lost with him down the harbor doing jobs, then it’s Monday again, and he’s back at sea, and the kids are back at school. You’re pretty much flying solo with the kids a lot of the time, trying to keep all the plates spinning – house, kids, business– and hope you don’t drop any. We have to plan that he probably won’t be here, and he will just slot into our plans if he is actually ashore.
The harbor we work from is a tidal harbor; the tide is only high enough to get out and fish at certain times. When the tide’s too low to get back in, so you are effectively locked out of the harbor until the tide is back up again. If there’s a genuine crisis or emergency at home, it’s pointless calling the boat as he can do NOTHING about it until the tides back in and there’s enough water to get back into the harbor.
I lost my dad a few months ago, and all I wanted (and needed) was Karl to be home. Yet, if I called the boat to tell him, he would only worry about me (which when you’re at sea, you have to have your head in the game and not worry about what’s happening ashore). And he wouldn’t have been able to get back in the harbor for hours to get home anyway. So, I had to wait until he was home.
So, sometimes it feels like you’re dealing with the difficult things alone for a while.
He misses all the parent evenings, the school plays, the sports days, the assemblies, and the presentations. When the kids were younger, they often asked why all the other daddies were allowed to leave work a couple of hours early or go into work late so they could come to (an event). They didn’t understand that fishing is a different kind of work-life that the tide wouldn’t allow it. I would always save a seat “just in case,” but he hardly ever made it as he was at sea and no chance of getting in with the tide.
I’m lucky I have a great support network of friends and family; the seat I saved “just in case” was always filled last minute by a grandparent, an uncle, or a friend. The kids are older now and understand how things are. And I know when people say, What do your parents do? They’re proud to say, “fishing! They have their own boat.”
What advice would you give to another partner of a commercial fisherman?
Hang in there, it’s a whole different way of life, but I wouldn’t change it. Fishing makes our husbands and partners who they are. Just embrace it!
How do you most relate to Jenny’s experience as a partner of a commercial fisherman? In what ways do you differ? Please share in the comments below!