Press Centre

Trawlermen Tales

  • Episode: 

    1 of 3

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 05 Jan 2016
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    8.00pm - 9.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 01 2016 : Sat 02 Jan - Fri 08 Jan
  • Channel: 

  • Status: 

The information contained herein is embargoed from press use, commercial and non-commercial reproduction and sharing into the public domain until 24 December.
“You’re not right in the head if you go to sea. And the sooner you realise that, the sooner you’ll be a fisherman.” - Scott, first mate of the Filadelfia trawler
This new three-part documentary series for ITV focuses on the lives of Cornish trawlermen - who battle bad weather, sharks and the very real danger of death to provide for their own families.
Made by Wild Pictures, the producers of the acclaimed ITV series HMP Aylesbury, Strangeways and The Zoo, this programme depicts how the fishermen of Newlyn in Cornwall toil around the clock with little sleep, often in rough seas, hunting for their catch.
It also provides a vivid insight into how they struggle to meet the expectations of their wives, girlfriends and children at home while they are away for a week at a time.
In the first episode, seasoned skipper Don is on The Filadelfia, a beam trawler, 40 miles off the Cornish coast in the Atlantic. His four-man crew spend most of their lives at sea out of contact with their families, and working in all weathers. His son Scott is the boat’s first mate, but managing your own family has its challenges. Don says: “He’s been a sod at times but he’s grown up now, he’s not the sod he used to be. But apart from that he’s mate-cum-engineer on the boat and he’s got us out of a few sticky situations now and again.”
Scott admits: “We have one of those love-hate relationships.”
Once they’ve hauled in their catch, the trawlermen head for shore and return to their families in Newlyn. Scott returns to see his girlfriend Rosie and six-year-old stepson Morgan, who he prides himself on treating like his own son. The cut and thrust of commercial fishing means that, after only a couple of days he has to head out to sea again. He says: “That’s the hardest part of this job, saying goodbye to everyone, you know? You don’t know whether you’re coming back, for one. Touch wood it all goes alright.”
Scott has just found out he’s going to be a father himself. Rosie says: “I surprised him with it. I took him to where we first met and I gave him a box with a dummy in it which said, ‘I love daddy.’ He had just come home from sea – and he was tired and teasy and just wanted to go home and go bed and I told him and he was just crying and really happy.”
The small town has 800 fishermen, one of whom is Alan, the skipper of the Ajax boat. He and his crew spend more time at sea together than they do at home. First mate Matt is the skipper’s second in command and gives an insight into their daily grind. He says: “I’ve got a rough idea about how this fishing works and it’s not just about shooting nets. There’s a whole heap of things about tides and winds and fish movements and fish feeds – you know, how the fish are feeding. There’s a lot to it. Yeah, there’s a lot of skill involved but then again there’s also a little bit of luck – Alan’s Irish and they say, ‘The luck of the Irish,’ so that may help him as well. I’m from the Midlands so no luck – that’s why I came to Cornwall.”
After a tricky six days at sea in which they break their £7,000 nets in their struggle to find fish, the Ajax is finally heading back to port and Alan is looking forward to seeing his wife Lynda and daughter Merryn. He says: “Merryn’s five now, she’s funny. We only found out recently that she has mild autism. We go along with her, like, and it’s easier for us to get into her world than try to teach her how to get into ours. So that’s the way we’ve been doing it and whether that’s right or wrong I don’t know but she seems to get along better when we try to do it that way.”
Meanwhile, fellow skipper Dale is preparing to set sail on his boat, the Aaaltje Adriaantje. Trawlermen can’t predict how long it takes to find fish, so they never know when they’ll be ashore, which can play havoc with family life. Dale spends more than two-thirds of his life at sea away from the family he loves, while partner Claire stays ashore with the couple’s two children, Colleen and Pirrin. Claire says: “You have to be a very independent person I think to deal with the ups and downs of it – not all plain sailing, literally. I like my own space and I think Dale does as well. It works to know that he’s happier out there doing his job with his crew and his boat and I’m here with my crew, as they say – which can get lonely at times. There have been relationships I have known that have dwindled away really, can’t deal with it – but I think it works for us.”
But there is one date Dale definitely needs to be ashore for - he and Claire have decided to tie the knot. Dale is clear what his responsibilities are. He says: “It’s a bride’s big day, isn’t it – she’s organised everything so all I’ve got to do is pay for it. Turn up and say ‘I do’ and go to the reception afterwards and have a few drinks and a bit of a dance then done – ideal.”
Another trawler skipper, Rob, is facing a serious problem – his boat the Travessa has got a broken oil cooler and can’t set sail. It means he can spend precious time with the family and fit in a bit of golf, which he took up while recovering from alcoholism, a common problem among fishermen. He says: “Most of my time was taken up with drink when I was ashore. It’s been a way of life with me since I was 14 years old really – so you worked and as soon as came in, you went to the pub and got drunk. My family was suffering and I was suffering – that was enough. That was enough. I knew I had to do something about it and change the way I live. Sure it was hard at first, because on the land there was temptation as you walk by pubs - you’ve got stag dos, you’ve got social events so obviously there are temptations there.”
While Rob is out at sea, his partner Lou looks after four children at home and has grown so used to her independence and own space that it’s an adjustment when Rob is ashore. She says: “You can tolerate each other for a few days and everything’s lovely, and then we both turn around and say we’ve had enough – enough’s enough.”