A Spencer Carter NHO-02 net hauler, featuring three powered rollers, is fitted at the starboard quarter within easy reach of the control valve, duplicate Kobelt single-lever controls and a steering jogging switch mounted in a console on the aft bulkhead of the wheelhouse.
Having been very impressed with the reliability and gentle pulling power of Spencer Carter net haulers on all of his previous netting boats, as well as the excellent service he has always received from company MD Richard Carter, skipper Chapman had no hesitation in going for the recently introduced NHO-02 model, especially after hearing very favourable reports from a fellow Looe netting skipper who has been using one for the past 12 months.
A substantial aluminium gantry and mizzen mast is mounted on the aft gunwales with a traditional gaff-rigged mizzen sail supplied by SKB Sails fitted to the mast and a net flaker fitted to a bracket under the gantry cross beam.
Supplied by John Leach Fishing Gear of Portloe near Truro, the net flaker is a Type 3, the smallest of three models manufactured by Ostbornholms Kutterservice at its factory at Nexo in Denmark.
As well as the gantry and mast, G Smyth Boats’ in-house fabricators also fitted aluminium handrails to an MCA-regulation height of one metre and net shooting bars on the transom rail.
Gerry Smyth’s yard was asked to make beaching legs for Bellerophon II, as Looe is a drying harbour, and the boat-builder has added a simple but ingenious addition to the substantial wooden legs.
Traditionally, beaching legs are held in place by a large bolt fastened through the bulwarks and are prevented from pivoting by rope bridles tied fore and aft on the boat. Bellerophon II’s new legs feature a block fixed to their inside face, positioned so that it fits exactly into a scupper hole giving the leg two positive fixing points and preventing it moving, thereby avoiding the use of rope bridles which can break, and could allow the boat to fall over on an ebbing tide and potentially flood on the rising tide.
The netter’s unusual and attractive brown and cream colour scheme was inspired by a similar colour scheme on a French crabber named Dacani, which was seen in Morlaix when skipper Robert Chapman and his wife were on holiday in France in the 1980s. Matching cream name and number graphics were supplied by Rodney Graham of Margin Designs, Kilkeel. The colours are a departure from the bright orange hulls of previous new boats built for the Chapman family.
Prior to her delivery to Looe, Bellerophon II had already travelled far and wide throughout the UK and Ireland as she had been exhibited at the Galway Skipper Expo in early March and again at the Skipper Expo International in Aberdeen, before making her way to her home port at the other end of the UK where she launched on the late spring bank holiday at the end of May.
Robert Chapman paid tribute to G Smyth boats, saying that Gerry Smyth was a pleasure to deal with and has supplied him with a top quality boat with which he looks forward to years of maintenance-free service. He also singled out the outstanding efficiency of the company’s office administrator, Ceara Russell who was always on hand to answer the phone and ensured the requested modifications to the boat were carried out and that the build programme went smoothly.
Gerry Smyth reciprocated the praise, saying: “It was a pleasure to build this boat for Robbie Chapman, and we at G Smyth Boats wish him only the best.”
Bellerophon II will be worked single-handed and will soon begin sole netting up to 12 miles offshore using 5 1/8in mesh mono nets as well as some 8in and 9in-mesh brill nets, all of which will be hauled daily. Skipper Chapman is hoping he won’t suffer any net losses to French trawlers, as he did last year.
Other fisheries in which Bellerophon II may partake include jigging for squid and mackerel hand-lining in the autumn, for which a Spencer Carter hydraulic gurdy will be used.
Robert Chapman began his fishing career as a teenager in 1970, when he bought the wooden Looe lugger, Our Boys FY 221. He owned a succession of other boats over the next 20 years, before he had a new Kingfisher 33 netter built in 1991, also named Bellerophon FY 661. By this time, his son Richard, more commonly known as Binky, had joined the family business and a second new-build Kingfisher 33 netter named Swiftsure FY 825 followed in 1999. Both boats were run together before being sold to Scotland in 2005, when the duo had a powerful Gemini GF10 catamaran netter named Temeraire FY 863 built.
When Temeraire was sold to the Netherlands in 2008, Rob Chapman bought the wooden netter Mordros FY 523, built in Looe by Perans boatyard for a Mevagissey owner in 1978, while Binky Chapman bought a Cygnus GM 44 trawler named John Wesley SS 284 from fellow Looe skipper Ivor Toms.
John Wesley was replaced three years ago by a new Buccaneer B46 trawler, named Swiftsure II FY 221 and built by Seahawk Boats in Plymouth.