“I’ve spent my life around fishing boats,” Connor McClelland, founder and owner of CDEE Marine Electrical, told Fishing News.

“My father is a fisherman. When I was a kid, the only time I would see him would be going to the boat when he was coming in. We’d have an hour and a half, and then he’d go back out. I’ve always been around boats, and enjoy being on them.”

It was Connor’s father Ian, skipper of Morning Star FR 277, who persuaded him to follow a career path ashore, rather than at sea. “When I was younger, I went to the boat with him during the school holidays, but he said that he didn’t particularly want me to become a fisherman.

“He said if I got a trade and then decided that I didn’t like it, I could go fishing by all means.  He’d take me onboard and help me go as far as I wanted – get my tickets and become a skipper.”

Connor decided to stay ashore to develop his career as an electrician – albeit with the ‘help’ of his father. “I was a domestic industrial electrician for seven or eight years – but my father would phone me up, asking what’s wrong with this, what’s wrong with that, and
I would go down to the boat and see what I could do. It was typical family free labour to begin with!

“However, through speaking with him, and helping him out, I decided to go self-employed and work in the marine sector.”

As a result, Dumfries-based Connor founded CDEE Marine Electrical last year. His role can see him traveling the length and breadth of the UK – at any time of day or night – to fix electrical issues and help vessels get back to sea.

“I try my hardest to serve everybody. I don’t have a typical day. I’ve seen myself driving to Fraserburgh at 3am in the morning, or be booked in for a job in Shoreham where I have to leave Dumfries at 1am to get down there for 8am.

“Wherever the boat is going tobe,Ijustgo–you’vegotto.I understand this industry – I’ve been around it all my life. It’s not a nine-to-five job. It’s 24/7 for those boys, so I’ve got to be the same if I’m to keep them going.”

Connor at work onboard King Challenger BA 87. He says he knew from a young age that he probably wasn’t going to follow his father Ian into fishing. “When I was about 14 or 15, I went out with him a few times, but it wasn’t for me. I was more interested in how the vessels worked, than actually working on them.”

Connor’s day – or night – usually begins with a request from a skipper. “For example, I do a lot of work for West Coast Sea Products in Kirkcudbright, and the skipper of a boat will phone me and tell me they have an issue, and that they’ll be in on say Tuesday at whatever time – it could be 3am or 3pm.

“I’ll take the equipment and tools with me which I think will help, and then see what the situation is when I get to the vessel. Essentially, I go to most jobs blind. Fishermen are good to a point in describing what’s wrong, and they’ll say the problem could be this or that – but nine times out of 10 they’re wrong! So I jump aboard and see what the issue is.”

Identifying the problem isn’t the only issue Connor faces. “How long I get aboard depends on which boat it is. One of West Coast Sea Products’ boats is on queenies at the minute, so they’ll come in and then about an hour and a half later they’re straight back out. So it’s a case of get in and work as fast as possible to get the job fixed and the vessel back out to sea.

“It certainly adds a bit of pressure. The vessel is understandably eager to get back out, so it lights a fire underneath you.

“I don’t like to be defeated. If I can’t find the solution to a problem, it sits and tinkers in my head – and the next time the boat’s in, I’ll go back down. However, nine times out of 10, I’ll get it sorted – and touch wood, to date, I’ve always got the vessel back out.”

Connor explains an electrical issue to Nicky McMillan, skipper of Alcedo BA77.

Another challenge for Connor is the vast array of problems that fishing vessels can now experience with their electrics. “One of the boats the other week had an issue where the shore power was tripping. With another vessel, the winch wasn’t working. The jobs can be anything really – it’s so varied. I don’t think I’ve had the same problem twice in the past year.

“It’s one of those jobs where you might come across the same problem twice in six months, or twice in six years. It can be frustrating, but equally it’s brilliant, as it keeps you interested.”

However, one thing that does remain consistent is the phone calls from his father. “There was a photo in Fishing News recently of my father’s boat going into Douglas in bad weather.

“Funnily enough, I had to fix the boat the week after, because he knocked all his lights off!”

CDEE Marine Electrical can be contacted on: 07946 180970 or via Facebook at: CDEE Marine Electrical.

This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here

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