Built by C Toms & Son, the new Isabelle PW 64 combines a well-proven Ian Paton design with a state-of-the-art fit-out, reports Phil Lockley
In the winter of 2018, ex-skipper Les Burt, who heads a family fishing business in North Cornwall, discussed with his son, skipper Andrew Burt, the option of buying a new boat – a vessel better able to tackle poorer weather and more suitable for offshore fishing than their existing two craft, Athena-M PW 201 and Destiny PW 26.
“Andrew has skippered the Athena-M for quite a while, and we just wanted to keep up with the times, with a more suitable boat,” explained Les Burt.
“Andrew, our third-generation fisherman, is keen to continue in offshore potting, so rather than search for a second-hand boat, we decided to have a new build.
“We wanted a boat that would take part in the offshore crab fishery around the year, not hampered by weather. The Athena-M is a good boat, which was built at C Toms & Son in 1988 as the Oneida for South Wales, but it is a traditional boat, and at times with poor weather Andrew and his crewmen were driven back to port, leaving valuable potting gear out there.
“We needed a boat to stay with the gear for as long as possible. It doesn’t really matter where you fish nowadays, there’s always a risk of losing gear to trawlers, and you need to be out with the gear to keep it safe.
“We had seen and were impressed by the Devon-based vivier boats like the Ebonnie BM 176, the La Creole II BM 177 and the recently launched Amber Mabel PW 21, which was built at C Toms & Son. Each is of 14.95m in length and they are nearly identical in fit-out.
“One of the earliest of that design – from SC McAllister & Co Ltd – is the Berlewen PW 1, originally a netter, on which I had spent time over past years, so I had a good idea of the seakeeping qualities of that design.
“Initially, the Berlewen didn’t have fins on its bulbous bow, but these were later fitted to reduce pitching – the fins are now standard. It’s a brilliant design from Ian Paton, and we were so impressed that we made the decision to go ahead and have a copy of the Ebbonie, La Creole II and Amber Mabel. Why change what we knew was successful?
“We have chosen a propulsion package from Volvo Penta. Other than that, the Isabelle is a replica of those three vivier boats,” said Les Burt.
He placed the order with the Cornish yard of C Toms & Son, which has built several of these designs previously, and which has a further similar build for a North Cornish shellfish firm in progress.
Yard manager Paul Toms said: “The hull is made from 6mm steel plating, with alloy plating of 6mm thickness for the shelterdeck. The Isabelle is the same as the Amber Mabel, apart from the choice of engine package.
“Andrew and Les have already had successful trips on the Isabelle, and the reports back are that the Isabelle is a fantastic boat – its seakeeping is excellent. Some years ago, we built one of the same design as a trawler, and it too has excellent seakeeping.
“Having built a steady stream of other designs from Ian Paton, as a yard we are now so used to fitting out Ian’s designs that we have templates or sequences of build that shorten the overall build time.
“We also have a good liaison with the firms involved in our builds, like H&H Marine Electrical Ltd, Hercules Hydraulics Ltd, Steve Green and his staff of marine painters, together with many more local firms.
“We have built many U10 trawlers such as Saxon Spirit, and also trawlers/scallopers of 12m and 15m in length. At present we have two similar U10s under build. Our workforce can manufacture steel vessels more efficiently, with better planning, and we can compete on price. We’ve got a few builds underway, but we are always happy to talk to skippers who may be interested. We are really proud of the boats that we build.”
Les Burt added: “Although we had to consider alternatives on where the Isabelle was built, in truth we had already decided to place the order at C Toms & Son. The yard is fairly close to us, so that makes a difference. We looked at the idea of having a new-build in a country like Korea – perhaps a bit cheaper than a yard in the UK, but with over a year of construction, with flight costs and other things, there’s no saving at all.
“To us it is very important that we know the yard, and since the mid-1980s I’ve dealt with C Toms & Son, and am happy to do so. They promised to make us a boat that we would be proud of, and they have. It is built to a very high specification.
“Also important is the final price – it was the price that we were quoted. Throughout the build we had good communication with the yard, which has a really good workforce, with excellent welders and craftsmen. Over the 18 months of build, so many other skippers came to the yard to see the Isabelle under construction, and they all said the same – it is a superb boat and a tribute to the yard.
“The Ian Paton design has evolved a bit since the Berlewen. The bulbous bow on Isabelle is a bit more streamlined, more tapered – but that’s about all. In my opinion, there isn’t a better design of 15m vivier-potter or netter.”
Designer Ian Paton explained that the overall lines of his 14.95m boat go back a long way, and although its dimensions can be stretched, the lines have clocked up so many reports on good seakeeping that changing them ‘is basically not called for’.
Ian Paton added: “The Berlewen was one of the first. It was a gill-netter, but many shellfish skippers saw it and used those lines as the basis for what they wanted as a vivier-potter. When I designed the Ebbonie for Brixham fisherman/owner Nick Bright, there was good feedback and he was delighted with the design. Several years later, Nick and his colleagues placed the order for the La Creole II – but with one provision, that there would be no changes from the Ebonnie.
“Identical boats are the Amber Mabel, and now the Isabelle. That’s exactly what the owners specified – little if any change from the Ebbonie.
“The first of its type that I designed many years ago was built as a trawler, initially built for South Shields, the Sophie Louise SSS 678 – now the Aquarius BH 456.
“Following that, we designed a gill-netter, then a crabber for Bridlington, and so on. Then came the Berlewen, built for Nick Chapman at Padstow, so it became a popular design. As well as the one presently under build at C Toms & Son, one with slightly more beam is being built in Grimsby.
“The vivier tank on Isabelle can carry 29,000 litres of seawater that will accommodate 14.5t of crab. The vivier pumping system exchanges the seawater volume six times every hour, using electrically driven Desmi pumps.
“Other than having different makes of engine, as far as I recall there is little difference between the Ebonnie, the La Creole II and the Amber Mabel. Fuel capacity is 8,200 litres; freshwater is 4,300 litres.”
Isabelle’s Volvo Penta D3 main engine is coupled to a Twin Disc MG5114DC gearbox of 4.86:1 reduction driving a 1,600mm-diameter four-bladed propeller. The propeller and stern gear were manufactured and supplied by C&O Engineering (SW) Ltd.
Ian Paton explained: “Isabelle has a side-shooting arrangement rather than shooting through the stern, which allows the galley to run across the stern, giving far greater space.
“Many skippers prefer to use side-shooting – it’s more traditional, and they feel that it’s safer. In their opinion, by side-shooting, if they get problems it’s easy for them to haul back, whereas shooting from the stern, recovering the gear may become a major issue. That does not apply to smaller boats, where a transom door is pretty standard nowadays.”
The Isabelle will reflect the normal working patterns of a super-crabber and remain at sea with the gear for seven days or longer, depending on the time of year, before returning to port for a quick turn-around.
The six-strong crew includes a night-watchman skipper, Steve Conium from Padstow, who will be on duty ‘while the rest get a decent night’s sleep’, said Les Burt.
Hydraulics and vivier pumps
Devon-based firm Hercules Hydraulics Ltd supplied and installed the entire hydraulic system on the Isabelle. It also supplied and fabricated the Desmi vivier pumps to suit the installation.
Hercules Hydraulics is proud to offer comprehensive engineering services to the fishing industry, and covers ports around the UK.
“Our firm works closely with the great team at Toms’ yard, and we undertake most of the new-build and refit hydraulic works at the yard,” explained Steffan Radford, leading technical engineer and joint director of Hercules Hydraulics Ltd.
“On the Isabelle, the hydraulics are driven and manually clutched in from the gearbox power take-off, running the pot hauler (a 2t slave unit supplied by Britannia Engineering), the Hercules aluminium landing winch, a bait-lift winch and the two-ram hydraulic hatch at the working area, along with a hydraulically driven saltwater pressure-washing system for cleaning the pots on the vessel.
“We also fitted a smaller back-up three-phase hydraulic pack for use as a retrieve system, or for use in harbour. Myself and our leading engineer Jim Fitzgerald carried out the work and installation.
“Local manual hydraulic valves near the deck operations are selected electronically from the wheelhouse, and the skipper’s control of the pot hauler is through a wheelhouse-mounted marine 24V joystick.
“A distribution valve for selecting the bait-lift winch, landing winch, hatch system and pressure washer is controlled from the Hercules electrical panel in the wheelhouse console, making both selection and operation of the equipment very easy. It is rigged so that any two operations can be safely selected at the same time. All hydraulic system warning functions are built into the panel, along with integrated e-stops fitted close to all hydraulic equipment.
“Feedback from Andrew and Les Burt is that they are delighted with the work that we carried out. They have completed some successful trips on the Isabelle since it was handed over,” added Steffan Radford.
Having used the services of Echomaster Marine Ltd for many years, Les Burt had no hesitation in placing his order for an extensive package of electronics with the firm.
Scotland is the birthplace of Les Burt’s wife Isabelle, so the involvement of Echomaster Marine is just one of several reasons why the new vessel carries a Scottish thistle on its bow. “We have dealt with Scottish firms for many years, and that is important to us,” said Les.
The package was installed and commissioned by Ben Winfield of Devon-based Winfield Marine Ltd. He said: “I installed all of the equipment that was sent to Toms’ yard bit by bit. The whole package arrived in sequence, and it was an interesting job – it is quite an impressive package.
“From the electronics point of view, there was definitely no expense spared on this build. The Simrad equipment on the vessel is all networked together, and the radar, plotter and autopilot can all be controlled via one or more displays, depending upon the skipper’s preference.
“The Olex has the HT module fitted, and by using the Hondex sounder will 3D-map very nicely. Such a level of technology is a common sight for quality 3D bathymetric mapping nowadays. A full intercom system throughout the vessel keeps everyone in check, and those on deck are able to safely contact the skipper in the wheelhouse.
“I feel very fortunate to have installed such an impressive electronics package – one of several that I have fitted to the new builds under construction at Toms’ yard. I wish Les and Andrew all the best with their new vessel.”
The communications equipment installed on Isabelle consists of an Icom IC-M605 Euro VHF DSC radio, Sailor RT6210 VHF radio, Icom IC-M73E handheld DSC VHF, Phontek five-way intercom and Excel@Sea 60cm V60 Ka-band VSAT.
Navigation is covered by an Olex 3D ground mapping chart plotter with AIS and ground discrimination, Simrad NSO EVO3S multi-function display with Halo-4 radar antenna, Simrad R2009 radar display with Halo-20+ radome radar antenna, Simrad AP70 MkII autopilot package with JLR-21 GPS compass and Simrad V5035 Class A AIS transceiver.
An HE-1500DI echosounder with a Simrad 38/200kHz Combi-C transducer is also fitted.
Safety equipment includes an HIK Vision eight-channel IP CCTV system and VEP8 GPS EPIRB. The chart plotter, radar and CCTV displays are all interfaced to the messdeck and skipper’s cabin TV screens.
The vessel is also fitted with an Intellian i4 Satellite TV antenna, Fusion RA55 Marine stereo package and Scanstrut ROKK wireless active phone charger.
Keeping trade local
Where possible, local firms were chosen for the build of the Isabelle. A total Volvo Penta propulsion package came from Marine Engineering (Looe) Ltd at Plymouth, including the main engine, a D13, and two 70kVA generator sets able to power all circuits and drive the Desmi vivier pumps.
“The generator sets are identical, and will be used on alternate days,” explained Les Burt.
“Fit-out of the engineroom is much the same as that on the Ebonnie, the La Creole II and the Amber Mabel, being two 5in electric-driven Desmi pumps for the vivier, with a 3in Cleghorn pump as emergency backup. A Cleghorn pump is also used for the bilge system and deckwash.
“We have a Volvo Penta engine in the Destiny – it’s been running faultlessly since the day it was installed brand new 15 years ago, and that says it all. The engineers from Marine Engineering (Looe) Ltd are people you can trust, and the firm doesn’t come up with silly added charges.
“The same applies to the choice of steering. With advice from Toms’ yard, we’ve had Wills Ridley fitted.
“Everything in the Isabelle is of top quality. The Britannia hauler, rated at 2t, is from Britannia Engineering. Hercules Hydraulics Ltd installed the entire hydraulic and pumping systems, and we are delighted with the result.
“Ben Winfield of Winfield Marine Ltd installed all the electronics, and the local firm of H&H Marine Electrical Ltd from Gweek near Helston carried out all the electrical work and manufactured the panels. Both firms are excellent and provided us with top-class workmanship.
“We have MaxSea, TimeZero and Olex 3D seabed profiling; we have state of the art radar. We have full CCTV video, with coverage around the entire vessel. We’ve also had extra safety features installed. If we are in the galley, we can turn on the television and via the CCTV see all the necessary alarms, gauges and electronics. While drinking tea, we can see everything around the boat,” concluded Les Burt.
Firms chosen to supply potting gear to the Isabelle include the Plymouth division of Gael Force Ltd, the creels supplied being soft-eyes on 24in and 26in frames.
Les Burt added: “Our last order that came through Gael Force was of pots built in China, and they fish really well. We use other companies too, but the Gael Force Chinese pots are a really good pot and are not too expensive.
“We also have gear supplied by Ben Eglinton at Comfish based in Newquay. Again we have chosen a local firm with a good stock of gear including ropes and pots – anything we need, really, and Ben is always on call and ready to help.”
Maritime International Solutions insurance
Essex-based Maritime International Solutions (Insurance Brokers) Ltd was chosen to arrange insurance for the Isabelle. The vessel is now covered by specialist marine insurer Helvetia Marine Services Ltd.
Head of Maritime International Solutions Dick Gregory and his colleague Cathy Butcher have worked together, specialising in the marine insurance market, for 40 years. Dick Gregory explained: “We are a small tightly-knit company, with my daughter Maya Gregory and son Alex Gregory working alongside us, supported by Donna Nevill in accounts and back-up by staff for all our compliance and IT needs.
“We hold a substantial book of UK and Irish fishing vessels, working with some of the larger fleets on the east and west coasts of Scotland, south of England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. We like to pride ourselves on our customer service, offering the same professional service and attention to detail to all our clients, whether they be a large fishing agency or a small individual owner.
“Our core business emanates from UK and Republic of Ireland ship owners and intermediaries. Our philosophy is that of a ‘back to basics’ approach by offering competitive insurance arrangements combined with a personal service. Our business has grown largely by word of mouth and through the recommendation and support of our loyal and valued client base.
“Being a small team, we get to know our clients well, and have the flexibility to operate out of office hours – something we believe is vital when working with the fishing industry, which is not a nine to five occupation.
“We work closely with a number of ‘A’-rated underwriters within the London market, UK and Europe. However, our views are not blinkered, and we are always looking to explore new markets for our clients. The continuous recommendations from our existing client base ensures a steady influx of new business, with many previous clients who had sold their boats again approaching us upon acquisition of new craft, and passing our details along to the purchasers of their old vessel.”
Isabelle copies colours of Trevose of Newquay
Specialist marine painter Steve Green and his team, who are based at C Toms & Son, were asked by Les and Andrew Burt if the Isabelle could have the same colours as the 12.5m wooden potter/netter Trevose of Newquay, built in 1986 by Cann & Pender at Galmpton near Brixham.
Using old photos of the Trevose of Newquay, the Isabelle became a near-copy of its colours and style. “The Isabelle’s paintwork looks just right,” said Les.
He explained: “For my dad John Burt and my uncle Micky Burt, fishing was their life. The Trevose of Newquay was one of many new builds of that size, or just under, that marked a step into modern tripping for many inshoremen, at a time when gill-netting was in its infancy.
“Working on the Trevose of Newquay as a youngster, I saw what a new boat could deliver. Later, my Uncle Micky decided to move back into lobster fishing on smaller boats. Tripping wasn’t for him, and he did very well on the lobster.
“When Andrew and I considered having the Isabelle built, my dad’s advice, given to me so many years ago, came true – if the chance of getting a new boat came along, take that opportunity, because if you don’t you will soon regret it. Given the number of boats that he owned or skippered, he knew we would have regretted choosing a used boat instead of having the Isabelle built. Sadly, Dad is no longer with us, and I miss him every day.
“For our family and all owners afterward, the Trevose of Newquay has been a fantastic boat. I spent many successful years on the Trevose of Newquay, and those memories haven’t really left me; over my time as a vessel owner, I have bought and sold the Trevose three times. It’s the strongest wooden boat I have ever known.
“The history of my family has the sea at its core. Dad sailed around the globe 15 times in his days in the merchant navy. On leaving the merchant navy, the first fishing boat that he bought was the wooden Patsy Anne from Porthleven.
“To me, all of those memories are pictured in the colours of the Isabelle – the things that Dad said, his advice, the success that he and my uncle achieved, are there. Steve Green and his men have done a great job.”