One Week In Göteborg



It’s been a great week in Göteborg – Eva-Britt has been the most fabulous host, Göteborg is a great town and of course the islands are amazing. not to mention to wealth of information that has been obtained – awaiting translation, of course.

The great lump of amber I am holding is wonderful bit if treasure form Nils Eriksson’s past, one brought up in a net from the bottom of the Baltic. Nils was one of several stops, including visiting Sven-Olof Larsson on the island of Hönö, a very much clear-minded gentleman in his 90’s. Another useful visit (complete with a free book) was with Lennart Bornmalm, who has contributed to several book about the fishing community of Bornhuslan. Last but not least, a visit to Stig-Rune Yngvesson – son of my primary patent applicant, Yngve Bernhardsson. A wealth of information and a handful of documents – prefect and of course a welcome conclusion to a week in Göteborg!

L - R: Stig-Rune Yngvesson, Daniel Börjesson and myself

L – R: Stig-Rune Yngvesson, Daniel Börjesson and myself






Heading to Göteborg

I’m heading of to catch a ferry to Göteborg – I shall be spending a week there with the lovely Eva-Britt Larsson, form the Swedish paper Yrkesfiskarna. We shall be adventuring forth to chat to some fishermen in Göteborg and on the islands nearby – it’s certainly something to look forward to, as I have no doubt that I shall be getting to the real roots of pelagic trawling!


Flying Visit to the Netherlands



I found myself in the Netherlands for a two days, in a flying visit to IJmuiden and Katwijk. I went to chat to a few people about all kinds of interesting things, things mostly of the  fishing gear variety.

Both towns are of the small yet quite nice type, the kind of places you know have been around for a while and will be for some time. In IJmuiden I met with two great guys, Dirk van Beelen and Bob van Marlen. Dirk van Beelen met me at his offices, kindly talking me through the role of synthetics and mesh sizes form the late 50’s onwards, giving me some good background information and a launching point for research for the Netherlands. A quick tour of the pace ended with some useful information about Van Beelen Netten – a venerable company which started in 1900 as a trading company with Dirk’s grandfather, importing and selling material to the fishing industry. Dirk’s father took the company further by creating a factory floor and working with rope and twine, graduating to netting machines and selling product internationally. When Dirk himself started, aiming to expand further afield. Now Dirk’s daughter, Caroline, runs the business. Interestingly, Engel Netz in Bremerhaven bought netting form Van Beelen post-war, Engel Netz going on to be an integral part of the first successful single boat pelagic trawl.

Bob van Marlen supplied a wealth of contacts and some key data for the development of pelagic trawls form the 70’s, not to mention the fact that there is a peligac trawl in an Ancient Egyptian tomb somewhere…

In Katwijk I was met by Gijsbert van der bent of Visserij Nieuws, who translated for me (as well as taking some nice pictures) and Floor Kuijt. Floor came prepared, with a suitcase of material including diagrams and drawings and explanations. Several cups of tea and a lot of notes later, I have a pretty solid idea of the start and progression of pelagic trawling in the Netherlands – although I think it will take me a week to sort throughout the pile of notes I’ve made!

New Year

Well, I’m back… from a truly uneventful Christmas. I headed back to Blighty only to have some computer hiccups at the end of December, leaving me less one computer for about 10 days or so. So I haven’t really done much in the way of work – unless you count scanning the useful books out my dad’s collection. Soviet Merchant Ships, How To Make & Set Nets, and of course the FAO Catalogue of Fishing Gear Designs here I come…

How To Make & Set Nets

How To Make & Set Nets

Otter Trawls

The otter trawl is a well-established and reasonably well documented bit of gear – general common knowledge says its Irish in origin, originating in freshwater loughs before making its way to English shores. Adopted in the 1880’s, it wasn’t fully utilised until the 1890’s by the surely now famous Mr Scott of Granton. If he laid claim to this invention, I have yet to find a patent for it… Nevertheless, the otter trawl became widespread within a few years.

Those that would benefit were the new steam trawlers, themselves recent additions to the fishing fleet. unlike sailing smacks, they were better able to maintain the speed that trawl doors required. Once commonplace, a multitude of variations on the trawl door and trawl itself appeared, form the functional to the fabulous. According to my database, there are 77 different patents relating to trawling between 1984 and 1914 – and most of those are just for doors. these patents are just the British ones, of course – with most of the applicants being English or Scottish. Who knows how many other patents there in European databases?

So what happened to the sailing smacks? Many simply fell into disuse, a great many were sold on to other countries, like Scandinavia. The Second World War sounded the end of the sailing smack in England and Scotland, even with the loss of vessels during that time.


GB189420323, a patent from 1894

Tugs and Trawlers

It’s fairly well-known that the first steam trawler was a converted tug – and that North Shields can claim to be her home. The tug, Messenger, was owned by William Purdy, and in 1877 he decided to fit his tug out as a trawler – with resounding success. Messenger cost £19.10s to outfit as a beam trawler  and on her first fishing trip made £7.10s on her catch, with a further £5 for towing another ship back into to harbour. In today’s money thats about £1000 to outfit her and around £600 takings on her first day. Not too shabby… Needless to say, it didn’t take too long for everybody else to catch on, with 53 trawler-tugs registered by 1878. The value of tugs peaked in the decade following Purdy’s actions, becoming quite valuable for their fishing potential. They had a limited reach due to their coal consumption, making them near-shore trawlers.

But tugs as trawlers were the gateway to the first purpose built steam trawlers. in 1880 the first steam-assisted sailing smack was built, followed in 1881 by the aptly named Pioneer in 1881. Pioneer was built in Hull at was has then a ground+breaking 28.6meters. Pioneer was not alone for long, as within months the Aries and the Zodiac were launched from Grimsby, built for the newly formed North Sea Steam Trawling Company. It was less than a decade later that otter trawls became the next technological leap to drastically alter the fishing fleet once again – but that’s a subject for another  bog entry.

The last of the trawler-tugs was the Constance, who ran aground and was wrecked in 1910 near Hartlepool. Built in 1882 by Jos. T. Eltringham & Co., South Shields, her last owner was George A. Smith of Scarborough. The first, Messenger, was the tip of the iceberg for William Purdy, who built up a fleet of steam trawlers which operated until the 1960’s.

On a cherrful note, the port of Hamburg conducts a tugboat ballet every year, to celebrate the anniversary of the port. It lasts for around an hour, while several tugboats perform a choreographed routine to some waltzes.