Sea you soon

DISCLAIMER: Everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed or endorsed by Marine Scotland. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Marine Scotland.

I have been working for Marine Scotland now for almost three years. I longed so much for a change in career and now that I am here the feeling of actually looking forward to coming to work is a feeling again to behold. We work on a three weeks on, three weeks off rotation and we join on Monday, the hardest day leaving home, leaving my Kirsty for three weeks, after that I just crack on and the time passes fairy quickly. The working days are usually the same, the only thing that changes for us is the food. There are not many things to do on board, recreation wise, so the food is very important to get right as its one of the few things the crew looks forward to, though crew welfare is something that is being studied and worked on a bit more.

We try and offer as many varied, healthy, fresh, classic and fairly new dishes to try. Of course there are those who have dietary requirements or are not keen on something specific so we offer an alternative, and all worked in on budget which is important for us and is quite fascinating to see what can be created with basic ingredients at times if half landing runs a bit later that expected or we are nearing the last couple of days of the trip. A typical working day is usually no longer than eight hours, seven days a week. Down time in the afternoon is my own time for a couple of hours which usually allows me to write my blogs including this one.

When I originally applied for a job with Marine Scotland, I spent a lot of time weighing out the pros and cons. Things like was it the correct move, could I be away from my wife and home for such a length of time, the money side of it, the quality of life, was I selling myself out as a chef, would the little name that I had as a chef fade into obscurity, just so many questions. We had just started Stramash before I applied for the job so this was another major factor in the decision, which for me answers the fading into obscurity as we are now selling products that people have asked me to sell over the years and getting directly into people’s homes.

When you actually break it down, this is also our home for six months of the year, and it becomes like another all be it big wacky family. We all have our individual cabins which is a relief as I am to long in the tooth now for sharing a room the way my brother and I did growing up, in fact I think if I had to share I wouldn’t be doing this job as we all still need our own space in down time, though there is the crew lounge for socialising, where wit is the key, a bit of mickey taking, the big football debates of us, we and yous and the thrill of the chase on ITV, OK, it can sometimes be a long three weeks.

There are five ships in the fleet, Alba na Mara, The Scotia, both scientific vessels, Jura, Hirta and Minna are the fishery protection vessels with the Minna being my said home for six months of the year. The first four are based in either the North Sea or east coast and the Minna based on the west coast, but either, or can be dispatched where needs be.

When I first joined the Minna, it mattered not whether if it was sunrise, sunset or a specific somewhere on the west coast of Scotland. What I have learned is that most of my phone memory has been taken up with photos of said views, but it’s actually better just to stop and enjoy the moment. Anyway, back to the more important things for me, food. Today I was starting of with making a fresh tomato sauce for my pasta dish, amongst other things, the soup of the day, bread, which I feel focaccia will go well with the pasta and the soup, dinner will be chicken. As it has warmed up the last few days, I’m thinking chicken marinated in lemon and herbs, it will be light with just a couple of salads, easy night, hope all goes well and everyone is happy, even though we are cooking for fifteen, the same enthusiasm and efforts are applied as though they were paying customers on shore.

Marinated Chicken in Lemon and Herbs

Breakfast is fairly straight forward with most of the cooked items going at 10am Smoko and a tabnab is also offered with flapjacks up there as firm favourite. Lunch and dinner can consist of simple dishes like bolognaise, steakete sandwiches, wraps, comforting soups, fish, lamb shanks, pork belly with good crackling to name just a few. Puddings are offered but rarely have takers, though ice cream is usually a good option. Creativity continues with puddings, as we find what a simple creme brûlée offers after a meal or in harder times how far we can stretch our imaginations with a packet of semolina and a tin of fruit cocktail.

Our Galley is small but adequate with two basic electric ovens, eight rings, grill, hot cupboard, microwave and small dish washer and all is maintained well, store space is small but adequate with fridge and freezer space are, just. There is one mess room for all the crew which again offers that family feel to it. The other ships have two dining rooms, one for the officers and one for the deck. I myself, find this a dated format but can also see that perhaps some people could feel more relaxed this way.

When I first joined the Minna, I had just learned what half landing was. Basically half way through the trip we go into port to take on fresh water, stores etc and get the chance to stretch our legs ashore. My first half landing just happened to be in Stornoway and after all our duties have been carried out for the day, half landing buffet prepared and a hot meal left, the rest of the day is our own, unless you’re on watch or duty. I got the chance to go home for that evening which was a pleasant surprise, more so for my wife as I hadn’t told her about half landing. All I can say is that her face was a picture, and the first thing she asked, what have you done?………..isn’t that charming? At times we can be close to Ness, but so far away, I can only count the distance in days.

Now that I have given a brief description of my job I thought I better explain the role Marine Scotland plays. Marine Scotland is a Directorate of the Scottish Government and is responsible for the integrated management of Scotland’s seas. Marine Scotland’s purpose is to manage Scotland’s seas for prosperity and environmental sustainability, working closely with our key delivery partners and others.

Minna undertakes a variety of enforcement and other fishery duties. This includes but is not limited to; inspecting trawlers to check gear is in compliance with technical conservation measures and that catch is declared, detecting and deterring illegal razor fishing, patrolling Marine Protected Areas to detect/deter incursions, RIB patrols for illegal set nets for salmon, intercepting and boarding foreign pelagic trawlers exiting Scottish Waters, inspecting scallop dredgers for undersized scallops.

For further information, visit Marine Scotland’s Web page. How about a career as a cook or any other rank, just get in touch for further information.

In the three weeks, much of the time we are greeted by many with a warm welcome but occasionally met with a little hostility. At the end of the day the law is there, I don’t understand why some people look at what we do as a negative. We are there to protect the waters of Scotland. Depending on tasking we never know where we are going to be. I know myself that, the job for those fishing are difficult enough, what is wrong with correct guidance, those who are out there know what they are doing, know the licensing laws and should try and stick to them, but at the end of the day we are only human and can make mistakes. So why don’t we make it a free for all? anything goes and people can do what they want, wouldn’t that be great?

When Environmental Health used to come to the restaurants or even when they come to see us at home with Stramash we welcome them as a positive, as we can only move forward and make sure things are in order, regardless of how good a job we think we do. The same rules can be applied for any industry, that is regulated by some form of body. Bottom line is, if things are in order we have nothing to fear, but there is always room for improvement. I don’t think I can explain this any better, OK one more. If it is a 40 mile per hour zone, that is set, it’s the law. If you are caught doing 60mph in that zone, the police are a bunch of idiots, Why, they are only doing there job ensuring that people adhere to that 40 zone. I know this because this theory happened to me,. The officers were actually sound, it was a 40mph, I knew it, I busted it, knowing, and paid the price. Who’s fault was it? mine, who was the idiot? me.

I can hold my head high and proud to say that I work for Marine Scotland. I find it difficult to leave my wife and home to go to work for three weeks at a time. Once we begin and onto our second day, it gets easier. I look forward to going into work every day. When I pay off on our last day, the feeling when I drive up to our home, the kind of feeling that I want to run as fast as I can, but can’t as I usually have the car coming home. So with the feeling of departing for work at the beginning of rejoining to that overwhelming feeling coming, until there is any alteration in either, I will continue on this course.

You can not discover new oceans if you haven’t the courage to leave the shore
                                Andre Gide

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