He started his fishing career potting with his father before heading for larger trawlers and working his way up to his first boat in 1995, a 1988-built trawler that became the first Aalskere. The name comes from a skerry off Papa Westray where he started his fishing career, and there’s a profile of Westray and Papa Westray on the new trawler’s stem reflects his deep roots with the islands north-east of Orkney.
Iain Harcus has fished for 20 years with the 33.90 metre Aalskere that was acquired in 2000, built as Vandal, before taking delivery earlier this year of the new vessel, which he and his co-owners – his wife Elizabeth, father John and Don Fishing – began planning four years ago.
Now the new Aalskere is expected to be fishing much of the year west of Orkney, including around Rockall and the occasional trip in Faroese waters. Skippered alternately by Iain Harcus and William Brown, Aalskere will be working mainly from Ullapool, working with a crew of 8 or 9.
The new Aalskere is a very Danish trawler. It’s a Vestværft design, packed with technology from suppliers in Denmark, and completed by main contractor Kynde & Toft on a hull fabricated at Stal-Rem in Gdansk and towed to Thyborøn for fitting out.
Only a metre or so longer at 35.25 metres than its predecessor and with a 10.50 metre beam, Aalskere is also a very different trawler to the boat it replaces, with three full-length trawl lanes and catches dropped down through a stern hatch to the handling area, instead of the codend being taken forward to a hopper on the starboard side.
‘The boat, the onboard systems and the fishing gear all performed well on the first trip to Rockall. While these are challenging and unprecedented times, Aalskere has started to show her capabilities,’ Iain Harcus said after the new trawler’s first trip.
A particular feature of Aalskere is that there is accommodation on board for up to sixteen. This is so that when alongside at Ullapool to land catches and overhaul gear between trip, there is space on board for both crew, allowing those on the way home to make the journey after a night’s sleep instead of after a day’s work.
At sea, cabins have a 50% occupancy, while the extra bunks will come in useful when carrying scientists or observers on board.
Kynde & Toft supplied the full package of deck equipment and hydraulics, and designed the load-sensing system. Two-speed trawl winches with a 34-tonne pull and capacity for 2200 metres of 26mm warp are placed each side of the trawl lanes, with the middle warp winch located ahead of the starboard winch, with the warp running to a gantry built into the wraparound boat deck walkway. The three winches are controlled by a Scantrol autotrawl system.
Single and twin-rig gear are hauled the full length of the trawl deck, which is fitted with three pairs of 15-tonne sweepline winches, with the central pair used for the single-rig gear. Another pair of hopper trawls can be deployed off the split net drums aft of the wheelhouse.
Also part of the package are twin 15-tonne gilsons, a pair of 12-tonne codend winches and an outhaul winch. EK Marine supplied the 12 metre stiff boom crane which doubles as a landing crane as well as for handling trawl gear – all of which is from Jackson Trawls in Peterhead, along with a full package of chandlery.