Jamie Smith Chapter 6
I’ve been fishing for 30 years in total, but turned it into a career 25 years ago. My current boat’s been with me for nearly 20 years. It’ll see me out. I’m not buying another one. It comes out of the water about every two years for a complete overhaul, usually during the winter. I do it all myself. I rebuilt the engine about eight years ago. It’s done nearly 20,000 miles since then. You really want to be able to carry out all your own maintenance and repairs to keep the costs down. It can be very expensive otherwise. You grow to like your boat. No boat is perfect, but you grow to know it. You become quite attached to a boat. I know fishermen who’ve retired and it’s been the worst day of their lives when they’ve given up a boat that they’ve worked with for a long period of time. Really good boats are becoming harder and harder to find and they are horrendously expensive. To buy this boat, new, now would probably cost you in excess of £100,000. Then you’ve got to try to obtain the appropriate licenses. With licenses, my boat is probably worth something like £ 70-80,000, so it’s quite a big investment. Fishing is very important to my identity. You either love the sea or you don’t. I look at the sea as my office space. Even though the rules and regulations get tighter, you’ve got a certain amount of freedom. When you go to sea, you leave everything else behind. If you like that kind of thing, then there’s nothing else you can replace it with. It is as much of a lifestyle as it is for the money. If you work hard enough, then you’ll earn a living on a boat of this size, but you’ll never make a fortune. The only time you’ll ever make any money, is the day you retire and sell the boat. It’s a solitary job. I’m often on my own. I’ve got a few retired fishermen who come and help me out sometimes though now I’m getting older and I’m finding things a bit harder. There’s a certain camaraderie amongst the fishermen and with my customers, as I sell everything privately. The circle you get into is a bit of a social circle as well as a work circle. It becomes part of your life. I always feel, if I’ve missed a day at sea, I can’t get that day back. It’s probably one of the most unpredictable ways of earning a living there is. But at the same time, there’s always a buzz, you always think you’re going to have a better day tomorrow. All fishermen are hunters and at the end of the day, nobody can guarantee the fish to be there and even if it is there, you’re not guaranteed to catch it. A lot of people haven’t got that hunting instinct now but you quite often find fishing families have followed on, father and son for generations. West Bay is quite a close knit community. I think you’ll find the same atmosphere in Lyme Regis and other small harbours. Sometimes you will need a bit of help from somebody, that’s guaranteed. No-one will ever turn down giving someone else a hand. And yet, to a point, we’re all in competition with each other. The biggest attraction in West Bay, as far as the tourists go, are the fishermen and the fishing. You’ve only got to put a box of fish on the quayside and there’s a crowd there looking to see what you’ve caught. If they come from a city or something, it’s a completely different way of life to them and they’re often fascinated by it.