Good afternoon everyone.
Well, if I thought my trip to Peterhead Fish Market was a realisation of a dream, today was the ultimate girly fishmonger dream.
As I mentioned on my blog I wrote on Monday, I’d love to meet Mr Jimmy Buchan. After a few wee messages (thank you social media!!) I was invited to go down to have a tour of Amity by the man himself!! It was either the rather blustery weather during the night or excitement of what was to come that kept me awake during the night. A short walk along the harbour, following Jimmy’s direction, and I spotted Amity. I’d only ever seen Amity through TV or posts on social media and to see her up close in person was something else. She is a beautiful vessel and I knew she was hard working but, after a tour I was in awe of what she’s capable of doing. The more I’m becoming connected with the fishing industry and the trawlermen, the more I see the trawlers as the pinnacle of the fishing industry.
The trawlers are still being built, maybe not at the rate they were once being built, but new trawlers are built by craftsmen. Skippers are needed to run the vessel, crews are needed to bring in the catch. The trawlers such as the Amity need to be maintained, and looked after and you could tell the pride Jimmy has in his vessel and quite rightly so.
I have to admit to feeling a little nervous about meeting Jimmy! After all, ever since I’d seen the Amity crashing through the waves on TV, I’d always wanted to at the very least see Amity, and as the saying goes “you should never meet your heroes.”
Anyway, the lovely Scottish rain made sure that I quickly got into the office, and after Jimmy picked up their lovely little dog Brodie, I finally met the man. A quick fuss of Brodie and a wee chat in the office and we went out to Amity.
It’s funny how a trawler can have an emotive effect on someone. A quick climb over and I was on deck. Then it was a climb down into the fish room, seeing the winches. It’s then that I realised how hard this vessel works. In the photos above that is just one winch we are stood with! Alot is done with more modern trawlers to make sure that machinery and fish preparation is kept apart as much as possible to ensure the quality of the fish. Jimmy is rightly proud of the quality of his catch, and the cleanliness of the vessel.
Then, after finding out how the fish is prepped and weighed, we went through to the kitchen and I met some of the lovely crew. It was impressed upon me just how much team work is vital in fishing and you can see that with the guys who work and live on board. Jimmy said that they are like family, and you could see the respect the crew have for Jimmy. A discussion of Brexit, fishing quotas and availability of local fishermen and we went up to the wheel house.
I felt so honoured sitting in the captains seat. The amount of technology in there was amazing, even down to 3D camera technology that showed the terrain in detail, and tracking where the vessel had been, especially with “Devils Hole”. I remember that coming up in 1 of the episodes of “Trawlermen.”
It looked a dangerous pass then, just through the television, but to sit there, right in front of the actual screen was just outstanding. Just a mile wide valley where the langoustines and Monkfish will hide. It made me wonder how fishermen did it before all the technology. Jimmy said that it has to come from experience, from actually doing it, you can’t learn it from attending a college or university. You have to steer the trawler to where the fish will be, and do it safely not just for yourself but your crew. In a very small way it’s like the job I do.
I could tell someone how to fillet a flat fish or gut and gill a whole fish, but until you pick the knife up and do it, you don’t get the experience.
Jimmy explained everything, even down to the alarm on board. It keeps the skipper awake. The amount of work a skipper does, aswell as look after the crew and vessel, then sitting during long hours of the night would make anyone want to fall asleep, but the alarm keeps the skipper awake.
Going out on deck, everything has to have its place, even down to the placement of the lifeboat. Everything is geared to the safety of the crew.
Then we were looking at the nets. One net for rockier terrain, to help the net from getting ripped and torn but still maintaining the catch of langoustines. Jimmy, expertly showed me how the cod end of the net is tied, so that the fish won’t escape, but one pull on the rope on deck and the knot becomes untied so the fish just empties on deck.
All the while Jimmy was showing me around, the crew were working hard, making sure that everything was ready for going out to sea. Jimmy impressed on me that team work is vital. All the while the trawler is in dock there are things to be done, and having a good crew is key.
Returning back below deck, I had an extra little something. Jimmy is branching out into the food service, and has his own range of breaded scampi. Whilst the scampi was frying, we discovered that we are both at the Highland Show! He’s doing demos as I’m fishmongering with my friend Nicola.
Jimmy explained why you leave fish to stand a couple of minutes after being cooked. Fish contracts when it’s cooked, and if eaten straight away it can be tough. If you leave it for a couple of minutes, the fish will relax again. Also, don’t eat when it’s piping hot, it’ll burn your taste buds and you won’t get the flavour from the fish. So we all hung on for the scampi.
I’ve eaten scampi before, but this scampi is a taste to behold, and I’m not just saying that. The taste is beautiful, sweet and fresh. As Jimmy says, it’s a work in progress as at the moment the scampi can only be deep fried and is hoping to progress with it so it can be baked in the oven. I wish Jimmy all the best with his endeavours with it as it could truly be the start of something exciting and I can say I’ve had the first taste!
Back on the deck, we had the photo I’ve been waiting for for over 3 years! Very proudly standing next to Jimmy under the Amity name.
In parting, Jimmy said that I should keep the passion going for the industry. I can be a connection for the consumer to the fishing industry, as skippers and crew don’t usually see the customer.
After my week away, I couldn’t be more passionate about what I do, I couldn’t be more proud of what the trawlermen do and the vessels who bring in the catch.
I sincerely hope that as a fishmonger for a retailer we can do more to close the “gap” between the fishermen and customer, to bring the customer to a deeper understanding of just what is needed to bring fish in and maybe realise that the price of the fish on the counter isn’t all that high.
I also met up with Mr Ken Watmough, who is a past president of the National Federation Of Fishmongers, and his lovely wife Cath for lunch in Aberdeen this week, very beautiful Peterhead sourced Haddock no less! I listened to Kens many fishmongering stories from his shop in Aberdeen, to supplying The Queen Mother at Balmoral and The Queen herself at Clarence House. Everyone I met, including Peter Bruce on Monday has a unending passion for what they do, and I just feel so great full to everyone who helped to make my journey to Peterhead above and beyond my actual fishmonger dreams, I will never forget the words of encouragement and advice.
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.