Fishing VesselsMuch of the commercial success of Berwick Shipyard was derived from building fishing vessels. Here, fishing writer and researcher Graham Toward takes a detailed look at the yard's output over the years.The first fishing vessel to be built at Berwick Shipyard under the Fairmile ownership was completed in 1956, and was the first of a new design class named the Fair Isle trawlers. This class was designed to replace older, larger vessels, and had much more economic running costs, and also required a smaller crew, therefore making them popular with owners.For the next few years, the yard was kept fully occupied with these boats, turning them out at a rate of about five a year. Most of these boats were destined for Aberdeen owners, although some worked from Granton, and two were built for England. In total twenty two of them were built.However, all this came to an end in 1961 due to the suspension of the White Fish Authority’s “Grant and Loan Scheme”. This was a government financed scheme to encourage the replacement of an ageing fleet with new vessels. Through the scheme, low cost loans were available, and also there was the possibility of a grant towards the cost of the new vessel. The scheme was re-introduced the following year, but with modifications which meant that the Fair Isle class of boat no longer qualified for assistance. As a result, the building of fishing vessels at the Berwick yard came to a standstill for a few years. The Fair Isle hull design was also used as the basis for several luxury yachts built at the yard throughout the sixties. Most of these were built as seventy-three footers, like the fishing vessels. However, by the addition or subtraction of frames in the hull, the yacht could be made to the owner’s desired length. A final Fair Isle fishing boat was built in 1965 for abroad.1969 saw a return to the building of fishing vessels at the yard, with the slightly larger Croan class of boats. These boats were just short of eighty feet in length, and with a beam of twenty-two feet. The Croans were built as seiner-trawlers, giving an option of fishing methods, depending on the type of grounds being fished. Three of the Croan design were built between 1969 and 1971, all for Peterhead owners.Next came the large stern trawler, Boston Sea Sprite, completed in 1972, which was a completely different style of vessel featuring many innovative safety features in both the fishing method and the processing of the catch.Finally came the Tynedraft design boats, built between 1973 and 1977. These boats were eighty seven feet in length, with a square transom stern. They could be fitted out for trawling, pair-trawling, seining or purse-seining, or a combination of these. Four of these boats were built at the Berwick yard, with the final one, Lorenzo, leaving in March 1977.The Fair Isle ClassThe basic design of the Fair Isle class came from a French designer, E.R. Gueroult. His design was taken up and adapted by Fairmile, who had been looking into the needs of fishermen, with a view to expanding into building fishing vessels. As a result of this research, they built their first Fair Isle boat in 1956.Coral Isle SN22 was built for J. Rutherford, who were North Shields fish merchants, although the boat was to work mainly from Aberdeen, which at that time was Scotland’s largest fishing port. The boat was built with the capability to work as either a seine-netter or a long-line boat, giving a choice of fishing methods. With an overall length of only seventy three feet and a beam of nineteen feet, these boats were to replace boats with a hundred feet plus length. By building in steel, rather than wood, which was the usual material for this size of vessel, the maintenance costs were also reduced. The boat featured a raked stem on a flared bow, and a cruiser stern. The hull frames were riveted, whilst the plating was welded at the seams. Coral Isle was fitted with a Gardner 8L3 engine, giving one hundred and fifty two h.p., and a top speed on trials of nine and a half knots. The deck equipment was belt driven from the engine, and included a Sutherland seine net winch and a Beccles rope coiler. For working long-lines, a Bramwell Whitehead line hauler was fitted.Below deck, the large fish room was insulated with Onazote to maintain a low temperature. An auxiliary engine was also fitted, which powered the pumps, and provided the electrical supply through a dynamo. The accommodation was aft, with berths for eight crew and a separate cabin for the skipper.The wheelhouse was fitted with various navigational aids, and fish finding gear, including a Kelvin Hughes echo-sounder. With it’s lower running and maintenance costs, smaller crew and diversity of fishing methods, Coral Isle was an immediate success, creating an order list for similar builds for Granton, Aberdeen, and ports further afield. The second of this class was built in the following year, 1957, for Hull owners, although the vessel was registered at London. This wasJanet HelenLO93, which was to work nomadically from ports as varied as Milford Haven, Swansea and Grimsby. Janet Helen was equipped to work as a trawler. For this more arduous method of fishing, a larger Lister Blackstone EVSM4 engine was installed with a h.p. rating of two hundred and sixteen, which gave ten and a half knots on trials.It was around this time that the Fair Isle class were given their nickname - "the Sputniks", named after the Russian satellite of the time, (see side panel). Another nickname was the "Pocket" trawlers, due to their compact size. Many more of the Fair Isles followed in rapid succession, five in 1958, six in 1959, seven in 1960, and two more in 1961. The 1958 builds were Summer Isle LH69, Mary Croan LH225, Monica Croan LH231, Starbank LH249, and Silver Viking A287. The first four of these were built for companies in the Edinburgh area, including Joe Croan Ltd., and William Liston Ltd. These were based at the port of Granton.Summer Isle was equipped for seine-netting and was Gardner powered, driving a variable pitch propeller. New features included a hot and cold shower, and the crew's cabins were fitted out with polished mahogany. Gear-handling was taken care of by a Danish Jensen winch. In July 1958, Summer Isle landed a full hold of fish at North Shields, and attracted a great deal of attention. A few days later, a group from Tyneside, headed by the Mayor of Tynemouth, came and inspected the newly completed Mary Croan at the Berwick yard and reported back to their various authorities. One of the new features of Mary Croan was a four-channel radio system, which gave two way calls up to around five hundred miles offshore. The following builds Monica Croan and Starbank were similar to the previous two vessels.The other "sputnik" built in 1958, Silver Viking was built for Silver City Trawlers Ltd. of Aberdeen, and worked at the trawl from that port. In 1958, these boats were being built at a cost of roughly £30,000. The following year, 1959, brought one more boat for Granton, named Fair Isle LH259, which was equipped for trawling, rather than seining. Because of this, a heavier engine was fitted, a Glasgow built Kelvin, giving two hundred and forty h.p. and ten and a half knots. The rest of that year was taken up with the building of five "sputnik" trawlers for Aberdeen owners, George Robb and the Bon - Accord Company. These boats were Craigmillar A303, Craigievar A304, Craigielea A320, Craigellen A321, and Craighall A322. Craigievar hit the headlines early in 1960, when the boat ran aground in a storm at Fast Castle, near St Abb's Head. However, the boat was refloated at high water, with little damage.Building in the yard continued apace in 1960, with seven more of the class being built. Bervie Braes A414 and KarenA416 were built for the W. J. Fishing Co, Aberdeen. Building in the yard continued apace in 1960, with seven more of the class being built. Bervie Braes A414 and KarenA416 were built for the W. J. Fishing Co, Aberdeen. Clementina A511, Schiehallion A512 and Bon Accord A493 were three more builds for George Robb and the Bon - Accord Company. Crannoch BF197 was completed in June of that year for George Watt, also of Aberdeen. Whilst the other 1960 builds were equipped purely for trawling, Crannoch was fitted with a Brixham winch for trawling, but was also capable of long-lining. Because of this, Crannoch was built with a whaleback fitted, as this would give shelter to the crew when hauling long-lines at the fore end of the boat. As a result of this, the wheelhouse was set higher to improve visibility over the whaleback. Crannochwas powered by a two hundred and sixty four h.p. Lister-Blackstone.The only boat built in that year that was not destined for Aberdeen was Forards FD200 for Fleetwood owners, John Ward and Sons Ltd. Fitted with a similar engine to Crannoch, Forards later went on to top the Fleetwood landings for this size of vessel.The year 1961 brought a further two builds for Aberdeen fishing companies, Confederate A527 for Brebner, and Dandara A528 for Nigg. Like Crannoch, Dandara was fitted with a Brixham two and a half ton trawl winch. These winches were usually fitted to ninety-foot vessels, rather than the smaller Berwick builds, but many of the fittings on the sputniks were the same as used on a lot bigger boats. These included the gallows, trawl doors, hanging blocks and bollards. As the Fairmile advert of the time said, "The big ship in miniature".In 1965, the design was revived for a “one- off” fishing boat for the Friendly Islands, Tonga, near New Zealand. This was Pakeina, built as a tuna long-line fishing vessel, and also capable of being used as a cargo vessel between the islands. Pakeina also differed from the earlier boats, in that the stern was fully enclosed from the wheelhouse aft, giving accommodation for passengers or freight.Of the twenty three sputniks, most had a long and successful fishing career. As recently as 2001, there were still at least four of them fishing, with another two still in use as pleasure vessels. As the average life of a steel fishing boat is around twenty five years, these boats were lasting well, being in excess of forty years old at that time. However, due to the British Government's recent decommissioning schemes, there were in 2006, only two left working. These were Silver Viking (renamed Annandale G217) fishing from Rossaveal in Ireland and Craigielea (then called DenariusBF804) working from Fraserburgh. In 2008 two were operating as pleasure vessels. These were Mary Croan (later Ocean Bounty) and Monica Croan. In 2010 another 'sputnik' trawler, the 1959 build 'Fair Isle', was being operated by the Anglesey Youth Activities Trust having undergone a hull renovation. It is understood that the vessel has since been sold.Final word on the "sputniks" from fishing fleet owner Billy Stevenson of Penzance, who owned the Berwick built Karen and Bervie Braes for many years. "I don't ever recall them being towed in. They were beautiful sea boats, and I never worried about them out in bad weather and storms."The Croan classThe Croan class boats came about through a desire for owners to be able to work longer trips further afield, whilst still keeping running costs at a low level. The class was jointly designed by Fairmile and Joe Croan and Co., trawler owners of Granton. It is unclear if Joe Croan intended to have some built for his firm or not. However, all three that were built ended with Peterhead owners.These boats were in some ways similar to the earlier Fair Isle boats, but were larger, with an overall length of seventy nine feet nine inches, and a beam of twenty two feet. Like the Fair Isles, they had a cruiser stern and a raked stem, which flared out at deck level, giving the maximum usable deck space. The hull construction was all welded, and fabricated from 5/16 inch steel. A whaleback was fitted forward to improve conditions for the deck crew. The deck was of steel, but with a pine deck laid on top. The original design was to be able to work either a single trawl , pair trawl, or a seine net, and to be able to change from one to the other quickly, giving a diversity of fishing methods. The boats were fitted with a movable powerblock fitted on a boom above the stern to assist with the hauling of the gear. Below the deck was aft accommodation for a crew of eight. The fish hold was insulated with Onazote, and was arranged to enable the storage of boxed fish, or alternatively, bulk herring.Construction of the first two was commenced in early 1969, these being Favonius (Yard No. 653) and Fairweather IV (Yard No.654). Both were under build at the same time, with Fairweather IV being the first into the water, the bare hull being side launched into the icy Tweed on the 17th of February.Fairweather IV, registered as PD107, was for John Alex Buchan, and was to replace his previous wooden boat of a similar size. Four hundred horse power was provided by a Caterpillar D353TA main engine, and a Lister twenty two h.p. auxiliary engine ran the generators and pumps. The winch was a hydraulic Mastra combined seine/trawl winch, manufactured in Arbroath. At that time, hydraulic winches were a fairly new innovation, and of the few types available, the Mastra was preferred due to it's compact size.The powerblock was a "Rap-Marco", and was also hydraulically powered. Fairweather IV left for Peterhead in early May. Just two months later, the second of these vessels headed north to Peterhead, this one being Favonius PD17 for Andrew Buchan. Favonius was almost identically equipped, with the exception being a larger auxiliary engine, giving thirty three h.p.. Favonius gave a speed of over eleven knots on trials.Boston Sea SpriteThe next trawler built at Berwick shipyard was a radical departure from the previous types. This was Boston Sea Sprite LT247, commenced in the spring of 1971 for the Lowestoft fleet of the Boston Deep Sea Fisheries company. At this time, the Boston company was up-dating it's ageing fleet of side trawlers, replacing them with modern stern trawlers. The catch was hauled aboard up the stern, and dropped through a deck hatch, enabling it to be processed in relative comfort and safety by the crew below deck. The Boston Sea Sprite was one of the first of this new breed of boats, with two identical vessels being built at Renfrew. This was the largest fishing vessel built at the yard, both in terms of tonnage and length.The vessel's steel hull was all-welded, and constructed to Lloyds specifications, and was one hundred and eighteen feet in length, with a beam of nearly twenty seven feet. Deck machinery included a pair of split trawl winches, separate gilson winch, and a net drum. Below deck, the quarters for the eleven crew were forward, with the large 7,500 cubic feet fish room amidships, and engine room aft. The main drive came from an English Electric 6CSRKM diesel engine, which gave one thousand and ninety five horse power, and drove a controllable pitch propeller, which was enclosed by a Kort nozzle. This gave a speed of eleven knots.Boston Sea Sprite was named on 24th of July 1972, and left in August, watched by many from the pier and Spittal point, and leaving the yard with an empty order book.Boston Sea Sprite continued to work from Lowestoft until the mid 1980s, when the boat was sold to Iceland, becoming Keillor, Einar Benedictsson, then Snaefari. The boat was then sold to Ireland, becoming Alimar D6 until 2003. After that, it is believed that the boat transferred to Spain, before finally being scrapped in 2006.The Tynedraft classThe yard remained almost dormant for about nine months until, in May 1973, it was announced that Intrepid Marine International had taken over the business, and preparation work was to start on laying the keel of Morning Star for Peterhead. This was the first of the Tynedraft class to be built at Berwick.The Tynedraft boats were designed by a Newcastle on Tyne firm of naval architects and were equipped for both trawling and seining. The boats were eighty-seven feet overall length with a beam of twenty two and a half feet, and were built with square transom sterns and raked stems. The transom stern gave more deck area aft for gear handling. These boats cost around £250,000 each to build. Other firms were also building Tynedrafts on the Thames and the Tyne.Morning Star PD122 was ordered for George Duncan of Peterhead. An order was soon received for a second of these boats, Antares PD191 for Stephen Bruce, also of Peterhead. Two further orders followed, and by August 1974, four Tynedrafts were under construction.Due to yard problems and steel shortages, Morning Star left the yard before completion, and final fitting out of the boat was done at Peterhead in early 1975. Morning Star was powered by a five hundred h.p. Alpha engine, and also fitted with a bow-thruster for sideways manoeuvrability when purse-seining.The second boat, Antares, went down the slip in July 1975, to be towed to the Tweed Dock for engining and final fitting out. The main engine fitted was a seven hundred and fifty h.p. Mirlees Blackstone which drove through a controllable pitch propeller, with two Danish auxiliaries fitted to drive the pumps, generators and hydraulics. Working with a crew of eight, Antares was capable of trawling, pair trawling, and also purse-seining. The crew's quarters were centrally heated and lined with teak. Antares left Berwick in early 1976.The final two builds, Benvolio FD347 and Lorenzo FD348, were for Wyre Trawlers of Fleetwood. Both vessels were identically equipped to work either as single trawlers or together with a pair trawl. For gear hauling, the boats were fitted with a crane mounted Rapp powerblock and net drum aft, which hauled the gear over a roller fitted on transom rail. A twelve-ton trawl winch was mounted just forward of the aluminium wheelhouse, and also a combination seine and cargo winch. With the exception of the powerblock, all of this equipment was made by Robertsons of Fleetwood.Power came from a seven hundred and fifty h.p. Mirlees Blackstone EWSL6, driving a controllable pitch propeller through a Kort nozzle. Two Gardner 6LX one hundred and twenty h.p. engines were also fitted to drive alternators, pumps and standby hydraulics. Four fuel tanks were located under the fishroom, carrying twenty one tons fuel. The insulated fish room had the capacity for one hundred and five tons of bulk fish.Amongst the £40,000 worth of state of art wheelhouse electronics were echosounder, sonar, Decca radar and plotter, radio-telephone and autopilot. The crew accommodation for eight men was aft, with skipper's cabin behind the wheelhouse.Benvolio left for Fleetwood in 1976, with Lorenzo following in March 1977.The first two Tynedrafts were later lengthened to around one hundred feet and shelterdecked. Morning Star (by then called Mariama K FR242) was still working in 2001.Benvolio and Lorenzo were sold to Peterhead in 1978, later fitted with shelterdecks, and continued to work as a pair trawl team( as Illustrious PD243 and Sunlight PD187). They were however scrapped under the 2002 decommissioning scheme. The two vessels were photographed at Peterhead just before scrapping, and they still looked in fine condition.
Berwick-built Fishing Vessels
Boston Sea Sprite
The nickname SPUTNIK was given by the Aberdeen trawlermen to the new vessels of the type built at Berwick in the 1950's and early 60's. By the time they arrived, the port had already began a re-building programme for its ageing steam trawler fleet. All these new motor trawlers were upwards of 115ft and designed for middle and distant water work. The Berwick boats being much smaller were a replacement for the inshore fleet ( dubbed SCRATCHERS as opposed to the larger TRIPPERS) which fished the North Sea grounds, basically, scratching for a living. The Russian fishing fleet was always a prominent sight off the North East, with many of the ships putting into Aberdeen for fuel and fresh water. When the first Soviet manned "Sputnik" was put into space, this event coincided with the arrival of the new boats who were thereafter dubbed SPUTNIKS.Information: Donald Smith.