‘It’s a question of the future. Without this investment, in five years we won’t be here. Our newest trawler was already six years old,’ he said, adding that with an elderly fleet, the costs of keeping the fleet at sea soar.
‘What comes out of the codend was going into maintenance and repairs.’
The La Houle fleet works hard and under some tough conditions, which also contributes to boats ageing fast.
‘A year in a boat’s life here is like at least two anywhere else.’
The new trawler, Danny Finn, has raised a few eyebrows in St Guénolé, as its design is a departure from the usual French layout for vessels in this size bracket. La Houle went to Danish designer and shipbuilder Vestværft for its new trawler. Behind this decision is also La Houle’s ownership with Irish shareholders, including Niall Deasy who already runs two Vestværft-built trawlers of his own.
‘They are used to this type of vessel,’ Jacques Pichon said, adding that there’s also an intention to follow the lead set by the Irish boats by diversifying into freezing prawns at sea.
‘For me also, it was important to offer the crew better conditions at sea. The standard French style trawler layout has cabins and the galley and mess separated by a central corridor, so you have to put boots on to go from one to the other. With Danny Finn we set out to keep the accommodation area completely separate from working areas.’
The Danish-style layout is new for the French fleet, and when Danny Finn docked in Saint Guénolé for the first time, it attracted plenty of curious attention.
‘In France this is seen as revolutionary, but there is nothing new about this. It’s just new for France,’Jacques Pichon said.
The double deck with the trawl and catch handling decks on separate levels is also new for this class of vessel in France.
Danny Finn completed its first few trips in December, after which some adjustments were made to systems on board, including the Bopp winches.
‘Everything was fixed, and it all works as it should do now, so we have had no bad surprises,’ Jacques Pichon said, commenting that Danny Finn has started on the conventional monkfish fishery, and they aim to switch to prawns in February.
‘There is a completely French crew on board and they are not familiar with freezing prawns at sea, so we preferred to let them get used to the new trawler first,’ he said and added that freezing at sea was something that La Houle had done in the past, but had stopped this many years ago as facilities had been less suitable on the older style trawlers.
‘If you expect the crew to pick and pack at sea, then they also need better conditions on board,’ he said.