The Brixham beam scalloper van Dijck BM 362 has been through a few tough years, but has come through them with style, reports Quentin Bates
Now a major refit has been completed, which is expected to give the veteran beamer another 20 years of life.
Skipper Drew McLeod said that it has been a long four months since van Dijck left for Stellendam at the beginning of February. The vessel arrived back in Brixham on 5 July.
On arrival at the Maaskant yard in Stellendam, things happened quickly as the old wheelhouse was lifted off – carefully leaving the skipper’s chair in position, surrounded by a protective plywood box – and the shipyard team set to work on the fishroom and hull.
The new wheelhouse was built by aluminium fabricator Mostacon, which is located at the same industrial site as the Maaskant yard.
The refit is more than a new wheelhouse, as the accommodation has been renewed throughout and extended to make the old oilskin store part of the spacious galley/mess area.
The cabin below has been refurbished completely, and the fishroom has also been completely refitted, after being taken back to bare metal – and beyond.
“We went through the tanks and into the engineroom, and cut the back off the winch casing and back to the side bulkheads. There were big holes in the sides, and they just kept getting bigger and bigger,” Drew McLeod said back in Brixham, as he was preparing to get back to sea for the first time in four months.
In fact, more than 30m² of plating was replaced as the hull steelwork was stripped out, not only taking out badly weathered metal, but also steel that could have lasted a few more years, on the principle that it’s as well to do it all in one go, rather than have to come back to it later. The result is a far more comfortable new vessel that has plenty of life in it yet.
The wheelhouse is slightly smaller than before, and the corners are now occupied by consoles. The control position is now located centrally overlooking the deck, as previously this had been on the starboard side – which provided a good view over one side of the deck, but meant working with restricted visibility to port.
“We fitted the same electronics again, and Wetec did the reinstallation. The wheelhouse is smaller now, but all the electrics are now hidden – but with easy access to everything inside the consoles,” Drew said.
“The fitting-out was all done by IJtama, and they did a fantastic job. Pauw at IJtama has fitted out something like 250 boats over the years, and he did a perfect job. He just gets it right first time.”
The new galley is larger and lighter, with 400mm portholes replacing the original ones, which were half the size, plus there’s a new toilet and shower room aft. There are two new galley tables providing plenty of space for the crew between time on deck, and the accommodation is air-conditioned throughout.
“We haven’t needed to try out the heating yet,” Drew said.
“You can’t fault the work that Tom de Vette and the team at Maaskant have done.
“Everything’s to the same high standard everywhere, with no corners cut anywhere. This is why we come to Maaskant – they do a first-class job. We haven’t shied away from spending what was needed to ensure the boat’s longevity, and everything that needed doing has been done. Now we’re good for another 20 years.”
It has been a tough ride for van Dijck in the past few years, as the loss of a significant portion of the scallop days hit the boat’s operation hard, not least as having been a dedicated scalloper, there was no opportunity to switch to beaming for fish.
Agreements with the French industry that allowed fishing days to be transferred to the UK under-15m fleet then provided some much-needed fishing days for the vessel, and this coincided with the chance to switch to beam trawling for non-quota cuttlefish.
“We wouldn’t have been able to afford this if fishing hadn’t been good for the past two or three years,” said Drew.
“We’ve been fishing for cuttlefish for four to five months a year, and the rest is scalloping.
“The cuttle prices helped a lot, as the prospect of Brexit brought down the pound, so cuttle prices went up. But until then, it had been something of a nightmare,” he admitted.
“Things are a lot healthier now. Having more days and being able to diversify into beaming for cuttle has given us a good couple of years, so we were able to catch up again. We’ve cleared off the debts, and God bless the community spirit. We’d had 30 years of paying our bills on time, and so people stuck with us. So God bless the people of Brixham. We’re in front again – happy days.”
In front again
Built at the De Graeve yard in Zeebrugge in 1974, van Dijck was originally registered Z-162, before being sold in 1990 to the McLeod family in Brixham, who kept the trawler’s original name.
“We’ve had the boat for 29 years, always scalloping and some occasional beaming,” Drew McLeod said.
This isn’t van Dijck’s first refit, as over the years it has been re-engined, plus the winch was replaced some years ago, and there have been new auxiliaries and other equipment added. A year ago, Stride Engineering cut away the gunwales and fitted tipping doors to make scalloping more efficient (Fishing News, 28 September, 2018).
Van Dijck has been well looked after over the years – although a few thin years meant that there was no option but to depart from the usual maintenance routine until things had turned around.
“You can keep a steel boat going indefinitely, as long as you keep replacing things,” Drew said, adding that the refit was carried out supported by EMFF and MMO funding, on the basis of improving crew comfort and safety, as well as improving catch quality – and van Dijck’s fishroom was completely stripped out and replaced, including new blowers and a freshwater flake ice machine, both supplied by Promac.
“We had our four-yearly inspection with the MCA in October, and they agreed to let us have a short-term certificate. So we had to do this, and it was worth doing a big refit,” Drew McLeod said, adding that they decided to take this well beyond what was needed to meet the requirements, extending van Dijck’s lifetime and significantly increasing the value of the boat.
“I’ve still got a few years’ life in me, and now that number one son is on the deck, we can hope to see the next generation taking over.”
Now back at sea after its four-month break, van Dijck is also towing its 14-a-side Deeside scallop dredges, which were on the quayside during the refit, and there are new backs and bellies on the way, ready to be rigged once the first shakedown trip has been completed.
“I like the Deeside gear,” Drew McLeod said. “There’s less welding in them, which makes them lighter. It may sound counter-intuitive, but less is more, and it seems that less welding means that the steel in the dredges is stronger.”