Fishermans Vocation

Whether men are born with the sea in their veins, or they are just nurtured that way from childbirth I am unsure, but the deep sea fisherman`s trade is instilled over many years of harduous labour and perilous voyages. With an air of fearlessness about them these men were hardy to the elements, they had an unequelled perserverance, quiet men that could whip up a wrath, like a North sea gale and just as quickly, whilst showing upmost bravery they were quite by mouth of their exploits.

The Smacks Crew

The normal crew of a Hull fishing smack consisted of 5 men, There was the Master or Skipper as I have collectively called them throu-out my pages. there was the Mate or 2nd Hand, the Third Hand, Fourth Hand and the Cook. The cook and fourth hand were normally boys and in some cases so was the third hand, leaving only two adults aboard the vessel. the latter three crewmen were normally apprenticed and hired, where as the Skipper and Mate received a share of all profits, in some cases the third hand also received a share.

Fifth Hand or Cook : Normally a boy aged 12 to 17 yrs but in many cases younger boys were employed as were older men, possibly unable to carry out the hardous labour of been a deckhand after many years at sea / or as in many a case, had been incapacitated due to a previous fishing accident.

Job : Cooks the food for all hands, ( a task many teenage children today cannot complete even for themselves with modern equipment such as microwaves.) so this was a remarkable task for an 11 year old boy on a wood burning stove, which was been thrown about by the violent movement of the vessel. he must also take care and keep in good order the store room ( where provisions were kept ) and cabin, he must learn to steer by the compass, as he was to take the helm whilst the trawl was been shot. He also had to aquire a knowledge of mending nets and nettles, take care of the reefing gear and keep it in it`s proper place, other duties include the coiling of the trawl- warp when the trawl is been hove up. with the assistance of the fourth hand he is to prepare the lights and flares for use, ensuring they are in their proper places, similar attention is to be paid to the fog-signals and spare pump gear.

Fourth Hand - Deckhand : A boy of 15 to 18 who has normally spent his time as a cook / fifth hand

Job : The fourth hand having previously been a cook should be able to carry out all the duties of this post and also be able to steer and keep a watch in fine weather when sailing or trawling. To do this he must be able to manage a vessel in normal conditions of wind and weather. He should be able to manage the small boat in fine weather, know the marks of the lead-line and take soundings, splice small ropes and whip them, make nettles, gaskets or sennet, braid a cod-end, and learn to mend small holes in the trawl net. he ought to tend the trawl in fine weather, keep the hold and forecastle in proper order, know the sails by the marks in the dark and keep them in their proper place ( sails marks were known by pieces of twine with knots in the end of them. ), make thole-pins for the trawl-warp rail and boat, help to prepare fish for the market, assist the cook to trim the lights and obey all lawful commands.

Third Hand : According to his ability and experinence, he has been promoted to this position from fourth hand when approximately Seventeen to Eighteen years old, due to lack of experience or ability a third hand can be from 17 to 27 years of age or older.

Job : The third hand rates as the equivalent of an ordinary seaman and has passed through the positions of cook and fourth hand, he should have sufficient knowledge as to manage the vessel when her trawl is out, as well as at other times, he must be capable of keeping the ordinary long watches, which on a trawler may be 6 to 8 hours on deck, he must understand the "rules of the road ," so as to avoid collision. it is requested that he should learn the set of the tides, take soundings, understand how to make, mend, rig and prepare a trawl for shooting; also it is a part of his duty to go in the boat, when fish are to be taken and boarded on a carrier, he is expected to have a care for the rigging , put on chaffing gear, ect., besides assisiting in the care of the fish.

Mate - 2nd Hand : A man who has risen through the previous three positions and occupies that directly below the skipper, his official position been that equivalent to the Mate of a merchant vessel.

Job : The mate should be an able seaman, and be more conversant with the general work than the third hand. It is important that he should have a very comprehensive knowledge of all that pertains to making a trawl, preparing the bridles, shooting the gear, managing the vessel under all conditions of weather and wind, when either sailing or fishing, while he ought to be familiar with the characteristics of various different fishing grounds, understand the tides on each, also he must be sufficient in the use of a sounding-lead. he is resposible for all the ship`s stores, which must be kept in a proper condition for use. he should have a familiar knowledge of the buoys, beacons, lighthouses, light-ships, and landmarks along the coast, and much experience in the management of the vessel under all circumstances, since in the absence or inability of the master ( Skipper ), the mate must take charge of the vessel and carry on the work.

Skipper : In most cases in the early days he was also the owner of the vessel, a man who has served a long apprentiship in all the other positions of the vessel, the speed at which a man can rise to been a skipper is dependant upon his ability and experienced, although other factors such as family influence and ownership can fast track some skippers.

Job : the skippers duty when he takes charge of a smack is to overhaul the rigging, sails, running gear, anchors, chains, pumps,side and mast-head lights, see that his compass is correct, and order his provisions and later ice, and stores for the length of the voyage. " He must know the duties of everyman onboard and ensure everyman does their duty. He must never forget he is master, and as such answerable to the owner of the vessel, he must be able to navigate his vessel skilfully, know how to use his chart , and find his position on it by taking soundings. he should be able to find latitude by the meridian altitude of the sun, work a day`s work, and find the time of high water. He must be well aquainted with the rules of the road , lights, buoys, beacons, and dangerous shoals, where his trade lies, and know the nature of the ground he is fishing. He must be an able seaman as well as a good fisherman, so that he can manage his vessel in all weathers and all circumstances, and pick a boat up in bad weather with safety. it is his duty to see the trawl-warp properly secured to the mast when fishing, see that side and mast-head lights are properly trimmed, lit, and in their places at sundown. He should see to the icing and preparation of the fish for market and arrange them for sale in the market. He must see that the watches are properly kept at sea and at anchor, navigate the ship himself when going to sea untill free of danger, and he must be ready at any moment ( night or day ) to come on deck when called, and use his superior knowledge in all emergencies. He must act as if he was handling his own property and not that of another man, keep his vessel clean and in a seaworthy condition and always keep a good lookout.


BRINHAM William Skipper 34 Brixham
PETHERBRIDGE William Booles Mate 26 Ramsgate
HAMLING Christopher Fisherman 19 Hull
GARDENER John Boy 15 Hull
CARGILL Edward Fisherman 15 Hull

I have chosen the above smack to show the composition of a smack crew firstly because my own Gt Gt Grandfather was the mate. it also shows that John Gardiner and Edward Cargill were both apprentice`s aged 15,

all the above would become future smack owners and Edward B Cargill and Christopher Hamling would eventually be owners of steam trawling companies.