Portland Red Triangle CC

Founded 1922

prtcc logo prtcc clubmark
 

Seduced by the Sea, The Steve Browne Story

Sitting in the Cove House Inn, Steve Browne cannot take his eyes off the sea. After 30 years taking her on he still appears to be in awe.

"Oh yeah, she gets under your skin," he said, his grey eyes reflecting the water's colour on an overcast early autumn day. "She's your mistress, the sea, if you've grown up with her."

The water off Chesil Cove is where Steve earns his living, one of just two fishermen who does so off that spot. His 40 lobster pots are always in the water. He might bring one to shore occasionally to clean it of barnacles - their sharp edges can easily slice the skin when a hand goes in to pull out any crustaceans - but other than that they sit out baited in the sea waiting for hungry lobsters and crabs.

Steve's first memory of going out crabbing was with his dad when he was 12 years old. Despite having fished for so long and being so familiar with his patch he is more wary of the sea's power than the day he started out. "I've had a few hairy moments," said Steve, 45, from Fortuneswell. "Me and a mate were out at night once and a wave came in and swamped the boat. You always take out a bailer, a bucket, with you but I'd forgotten this time and so my mate started bailing out with his wellie.

"Sometimes you can't go out for days if the weather's no good. That's why I try to sort out odd jobs over the winter so that I've got something to fall back on. I'm at an age now where I don't want to take risks. I was a bit more reckless when I was younger. It's not about the money, you're never going to be a rich fisherman.

"It's not so much getting out onto the sea but getting back in. At the end of the day it's life, what's the point going out when there's a chance you're going to get into trouble? Yeah, there's the rescue helicopter but they can only rescue you, not the boat."

Technology has developed and electronics have potentially made life easier for people like Steve, but he essentially fishes in exactly the same way as those who came before him. He said there was a time when everybody would fish for extra income and to sustain rations during and after the Second World War but nowadays the numbers that do it are very low.

He launches himself from the beach in his fibreglass rowing boat, pushing hard, and then his outboard motor can be engaged once he is out. His pulls in his pots by hand without using gloves because he is "too proud or too stubborn" and does not wear the life jacket that the law dictates he must carry. Legislation is the only area that has seen much change. "It's changed a lot. You need licenses now, mainly for safety because there have been so many accidents on the bigger trawlers."

Between September and December is the time for squid, known locally as quiddles, the most exciting time in Steve's calendar. He still feels the anticipation when he goes out, whether it is pulling up a lobster pot and waiting for it to break the surface or finding a plentiful squid spot and waiting for them to go for the artificial lures.

"Sometimes you'll go out and do well, others you'll come back with nothing. That's the thing, when that happens the next day can't really be any worse.

"The best I ever did was 30 stone of squid, which was about 300 of them. That's the beauty of it, every day is different. You're out in the fresh air and you're your own boss. When I was younger and had to go I wasn't that bothered, but as soon as I left school I knew it. I knew I had made the right choice."

Squeaker Browne, fishing
Squeaker Browne,
Fisherman-philospher