Aalskere K-373

Aalskere K-373

Orkney’s Lucky 13

Delivered from its Danish builder to owners in Orkney, Aalskere is the third trawler for Iain Harcus with the same name and number – keeping to the Orkney preference for a registration number that adds up to 13.

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.

Aalskere has been built at Kynde & Toft in Thyborøn

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.

Aalskere's trawl deck with the centre warp leading to its towing point built into the aft ganrty

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.

Aalskere has bunks on board for both crews

‘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.

As well as acting as the main contractor, Kynde & Toft also delivered the full package of deck machinery

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.

Read more about Aalskere K-373

Aalskere's deck is laid out with full-length trawl lanes for three sets of gear

Depending on the grounds, Aalskere spreads its gear with either a 5.25m2 pair of NETS Super Sea Trackers or a set of Thyborøn Type 23 doors with a 2500kg roller clump, towed on 26mm diameter Bridon Starfish Dyform trawl warp.

Sweeps made up of 60 fathoms of 36mm heavy wire single bridles and 25 fathoms of 19mm mid-link ground chains/18mm diameter wire are normally worked behind the trawl doors, with extensions when going deeper.

The single-rig gear on board includes a high-opening whitefish trawl on a 120 foot hopper footrope rigged with 21 and 24-inch discs. This trawl is made in 200mm mesh in the lower sections and 300mm in the top sheets, with a Dyneema headline rigged with 11-inch Titanium floats. For taking high-swimming haddock, Aalskere has a second high-opening single-rig trawl on 18-inch hoppers.

The twin-rig gear is a pair of 120 foot trawls on 16 and 18-inch hoppers with 200mm mesh in the upper sections and 160mm in the lower panels. All of Aalskere’s trawls are made with tear strips and double selvedges for quick repair, and codends made in 120mm Sapphire netting, plus 140mm codends for Faroese waters.