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A man who ‘gave this fishing thing a go’

Friday 20 December 2013

"Maru Bradshaw, the skipper of the TSS Earnslaw was taking her round and I'd pestered him until he agreed to take me but I got very, very seasick and I was so pleased when we arrived in Bluff."

Dave recalls being woken up about 3am by a hell of a crash.

"I got up for a look and nearly got hit by the second sack of oysters thrown on the deck by one of his mates."

Steaming through Raggedy with rocks on either side, they anchored in Sealers Bay on Codfish Island and began pigging out" on the oysters. Rounding Puysegur, they steamed into Breaksea and Pickersgill squeezing between Crayfish Island and the beach.

"Old Maru liked to thread his way through these tight spots and I met all these fishermen down there with funny names like Possum, Bull and the Beast. I remember a young lad on the wharf at Milford splicing ropes onto pots. 'I guess you won't get any holes in those socks son' said an American tourist with a blue rinse looking at his bare feet. 'Oh I dunno, he said. My arse is made out of the same stuff..."

The Lucas family moved to Queenstown from Frankton in 1958 where, after two years as publicans of the Lower Shotover Hotel, they moved to Cecil Peak Station across Whakatipu from Queenstown, their home for the next 15 years.

"The hotel was very, very popular and I remember the local cop complained that he couldn't find a park within half a mile of the bloody thing. Dad was also very well known in aviation circles. He'd been awarded the DFC and Bar and was a foundation partner in Southern Scenic Air Services so we had all sorts of characters visit. We'd give them a cup of tea, say our hellos and they'd all bugger off and we could carry on with the work."

As visitor numbers grew an old bus was purchased to carry them from the woolshed to the homestead and the twice daily visits soon became a major part of the business, proving financially more lucrative than sheep. Initially the only means of access to civilisation and for shipping livestock were wool launches or the Earnslaw. In 1970 the Lucas's commissioned Ted Simms of Port Chalmers to build a steel barge. Two years later they purchased the Viking.

"She was a bit like a 'Fiordlander' with two 370hp Cummins V8s. She carried 22 people and did 22 knots so the trip

across only took 20 minutes. I had to get a local launchman's licence to run her."

Dave ran it for three years until the station was sold. With $200 to his name, he and his wife Heather moved to Nelson where he figured he'd give "this fishing a go". It was Charles Hufflett, the General Manager of Sealord who introduced Dave to Bob Greenwood, skipper of the Green Pastures.

"I remember Bob saying @#$% off. He wasn't taking anyone just because the boss brought him along so I wound up

on the Sealord II with Mike Connolly, Vick Hornby and Derry Woods."

Targeting barracouta, terakihi and hoki the Sealord II fished the coast but was also used to set the marker buoys for the Maui-A WHP.

"I was the knife man; I'd cut the anchor free when the guy yelled 'let go'. We put down eight markers and one in the

middle for the bit to go down. It took ages to get on the right position with the system they were using and it was all a bit tedious but it was reasonable money because we got paid what the boat could potentially do on its best day."

The Lucas's eventually bought a house in Nelson and as soon as he had the sea time Dave sat his coastal and deep sea mate's tickets.

"You could do them at the same time back then but what really annoyed me was not one day of my 'lake time'

counted! School Cert was more use to you than if you'd spent your whole life on the lake driving boats. Roger Hill was

the tutor. He was a destroyer captain uring the war and was a fascinating bugger and a damn good teacher."

"I remember the question got asked 'what did you need to know for a Deep Sea Mate's?' Someone told us if you don't

know about spherical trigonometry you might as well forget it. I thought that's the worst answer I'd ever actually heard

and it put an awful lot of people off."

As it so happened, Dave had been "mucking around" with amateur radio from a young age in Queenstown tutored

by one of the local air traffic controllers.

"I learnt more off him with maths and stuff than I ever did at school and I remember waking up to the fact I was doing physics. Hell, I didn't even know how to spell it! So I thought if I could do that, I could do that spherical triangle stuff and as it turned out, it's not all black magic!"

With his "ticket' in hand, Dave sailed on the Green Pastures with Gerritt Vleming.

"He used to get around in clogs and if things were going wrong he'd kick the bulwarks then hop around round yelling in pain.

"I also sailed on the Seafire for a trip. I thought it was a bugger of a boat. Brian Hardcastle would come down in his slippers and we'd have to piggy back him through the fish to the whaleback so he could watch us."

Dave's first job came about as skipper on the Green Pastures pair trawling with

Gordon Sutherland and the Victory.

"I remember a trip when I was anchored on the south side of Kaikoura with the Whitby and the Seafire. We steamed around in the morning and began towing north. I was in the middle and being the new kid on the block they were pulling my leg. Next thing I hear on the VHF what did ya get? Oh, about 70 (cases) of 'cuda says John on the Seafire. What about you?

150 of 'cuda says Mike. 'Course when I picked up they asked me. Oh, about 600 of red cod and 40 of rig. I'll see ya later!

They were choking; mind you, it was a hell of a big day putting that lot away."

A poisoned hand forced Dave ashore and an uncertain future. He was given the Emiko, a small boat with two 125hp outboards to liaise with the Japanese captain and to keep an eye on the barges.

I did that for about six weeks, staying in the Collingwood campground until we moved them across to the Croiselles."

It was while living aboard the tug that he began to learn Japanese; the crew told in no uncertain terms by the master to use "'only the good language".

"They were a good bunch and no one was employed if they had a tattoo. I asked the captain what his most frightening maritime experience was and he said: 'Oooh 1944 when four American torpedo come through my ship. He was 17 and one of the few, including many Kiwi and American POWs, rescued after 13 hours in the water with the sharks munching on them."

Dave went to sea on a squid jigger.

"I called it a dorei-sen, slave boat, a terrible thing! We really did the hard yards. Half the crew were from crime families, mafia and covered with gang tattoos. I got talking to this guy while we were sitting on the bow hand-fishing during a quiet spell and it turned out he'd knocked his wife over with a baseball bat and her boyfriend too!"

Dave described the skipper as being as mad as a maggot!

"We were steaming through the squid fleet with maybe 140 or more boats around us, thundering along at 10 knots passing so close you could see individual faces! I happened to glance inside and there was the fishing master lying on the deck fast asleep; no-one on watch!

So I kicked his arse. Jeeze, did he go off! But I was going off too. How we never piled into one I'll never know."

With the Seafire recently "set up" to catch squid Sealord asked Dave to teach them how to do it.

"The Japanese had put machines everywhere and we did get squid but it was never that successful; or for me for that matter. I was paid the same as everyone else but I had to show them how to use the machines, how to set up and use a sea anchor, show them what fish marks looked like, the whole bloody nine yards and after they'd all gone to bed, find out what the other' had caught, water temperatures and then send it all off to be translated. By the time I'd go to bed it was time to get up again!"

With an interest in the language and realising the benefits of being able to speak it, Dave went to Wellington to take a basic Japanese course by day and the advanced course by night - 12 hours a day for two weeks, preparing him for a trip to Nagasaki where the Whitby and Fifeshire were being built. With Bill Quinn as project manager, Dave arrived

for the final stages to make sure any defects were being rectified. In August 1977, with Tim Phipps as skipper, Dave delivered the Fifeshire home to Nelson.

"I had a short wave radio and very keen to listen to the music from the various places we went past like Saipan and Guam. Trouble was 'The King' had kicked the bucket and they had nothing but Elvis on the airwaves all the way from Japan to New Zealand!"

His time with Gary on the Fifeshire, a period he remembers with great fondness, came to an end when in January 1979

he was sent to sea as a mate on one of Sealords JVs, the Koyo Maru 21.

"There were 40 Japanese and me. I did navigation and steaming watches, the whole nine yards. I

was also an observer of sorts."

For the next 10 months, they fished for silver warehou on the Chatham Rise. Dave recalled one trip in particular where they nearly sunk the "old girl" with water in the factory.

"We loaded up with stacks of old man 'Boof Heads' and I was trying to get those gnarly old heads out the freeing ports with a bloody iron bar!"

In true Japanese fashion, the Skipper would "bless the gear" as the ship steamed out to the grounds by splashing sake over the trawl doors, the winches and the nets before turning to "shoot awa"' for the first time.

"I was amazed at the speed the gear went flying off the stern! The winches were roaring as the warp was paid away. Uumm, Captain, you won't cross the doors will ya I said? Never cross door, he barked back at me! I think they're crossed now mate I said. And they were. I'd undone all his good luck I think and he wasn't happy."

Dave came ashore and in 1980 passed the Deep Sea Fishing Skipper's ticket.

Fresh from school Dave was given the Sealord II.

"It was a bit of a job finding your way around all the fasteners even with radar, but this trip we'd 'lost' ours. I managed to dodge all those trees, boulders and old train wrecks using the sextant and vertical angles I'd learnt doing the ticket and finished the trip which was very satisfying."

"The first shot was a good one of southern king on that steep face on the other side of Palliser. Then we had a terrible run of shocking weather. I did pretty bloody well considering the weather and with some crew who'd hardly been fishing before. Despite this the boat was given to someone else and Dave was offered the job of joint venture manager but the money wasn't enough and suddenly he was unemployed.

Twiddling his fingers in Motueka, Dave was offered a place with "Shorty Duggan" on the Whitby but again he told them where they could stick their offer.

"So I missed out on the first ever roughy trip on a Kiwi boat; all because I had my knickers in a twist."

Looking to the future and with the help of a Rural Bank loan, Dave and his brother Marty bought the Unity off Peter Crapper. "We started fishing her out of Mot but at that time there was that horrible slime in the Bay; you just couldn't do anything and you'd get covered in shite shaking it out of the net so I took the boat and moved the family to Westport; gill netting and tunering for albacore and bluefin. I actually put the first fish on the Daniel Solander; that's where I met Peter Ballantyne."

Dave recalls a 230kg fish measuring 8 ft 21in, the biggest bluefin he'd caught and with that the tall tales and true begin rolling off his tongue.

"I remember one day, flat arse calm.

'Muzz' Cameron on the Sir Allan McNabb had this fish on. I was watching 'Flipper' with his arms around it trying to stop it flapping around when this mako came up, opened its gob and ate the bottom half of it! 40kgs in one bite! Its snout pushed 'Flipper's' arms out of the way!"

Dave says they sold the Unity in 1986, almost six years to the day from when the ITQ system came in "because I wasn't confident I was going to have anything to catch. I, like a lot of guys, got screwed; ended up with bugger all! I still don't believe the whole catch history process was transparent. In hindsight if the people knew what was going to happen they wouldn't have been farting round with albacore and that."

While fishing for albacore and Bluefin gave Dave a break from gill netting rig, elephants and "stuff", local scientists were also concerned about the state of the inshore fish stocks.

"Tunering was a lot of fun and like most inshore fishermen, I thought I was doing something good for the fisheries by taking the pressure off them for a time.

Instead we got bitten on the arse for it."

Dave joined Peter Ballentyne on the Solander for the bluefin season before later that year chartering the former tunapole vessel, David Baker in partnership with Peter Talley and Miles Nesbitt.

"I'd spoken to a guy trawling out of Tauranga who said he'd caught scampi in pots. He'd shoot them on his way out then pick up them on his way back in, so on the strength of that we went for it.

We used Hawaiian Fathoms-Plus plastic pots; 100 of them with 25 to a string. We could shoot them into 250 fathoms and the system actually worked like a dream.

We had a real good look around the places we'd caught scampi on the Koyo Maru; tried all sorts of baits but not one scampi! I dunno what it was he reckoned he'd caught but I have my doubts."

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