I was aboard the Campbeltown built, fully Sheltered 87 footer Arkh from her launching in November 1990 until December 1998. I started off with the late Kenny Bain on his previous fishing boat, the MFV Mount Royal K458, as a 17 year old “Yopper” (Youth Training Scheme) in 1987 and through time he gave me a job. Through my time on board the Arkh, I was cook/deckie for years and ended up as a driver for the last year and a bit. I was never an engineer but I managed to get by. I also gained my Class 2 Fishing CoC (Certificate of Competency) whilst on board the Arkh Angell.
I first seen the Arkh Angell in the build process around June 1990, whilst on holiday. I went to the shipyard and it was a busy place. The one thing that stands out looking back – there was not too much Health & Safety back in the day (lol), as when I asked for a look around I got the go ahead no problem and could just go wherever I wanted to have a look – and for myself, this was brilliant!
The launching of the Arkh was in November, 1990. The few days in Campbeltown for the launch were a big deal for a lot of family, friends and work colleagues. Kenny and his wife at the time, Avril, organised a charter plane from Kirkwall to Campbeltown for guests to get to the launch. When the Arkh rolled down the slip – I’ve never experienced anything like that before (or again) – the rumble was just awesome… The launch was followed by an excellent meal and we danced the night away.
The crew were down for probably 8-10 days, for the fitting out and getting the sea trials done and the Arkh ready for sea. Again, this was an ‘experience’ for us Orks and the Campbeltown hoteliers – very fond memories.
The Original Crew
Kenny Bain (Skipper/owner), Colin Mackay (Engineer), Alan Sinclair (Big Sinks), Andy Ross (Rossie), James Dickinson, Stuart Garson (Gaskie), and myself, Sandy Cooper. After a couple of trips John Drever (Jeckko) joined the crew and sailed as Mate/2nd Skipper.
Kenny was great to work for. If you worked, he appreciated it, but if things were going wrong, there was always a good bit of shouting! Looking back now, it’s funny – I was the “young c**t” (I got called that a lot!) at the time and myself and James usually got the wrath of the abuse (nowadays the P.C. would call it banter) when there was a raffle in the net or single end happened with the gear. But as soon as it was sorted it was back to normal crack!
In my opinion the Arkh Angell was an awesome fishing machine, well fitted out, 30 odd feet of space under the after shelter deck where the net drums were, that you could safely work with torn nets in any weather, up forade the fish hopper, where the fish initially comes aboard, could hold around 150 boxes of fish. Coming from an old boat where you had to box up the fish before actually starting to gut the fish, this made life so much easier and saved time. The wheelhouse was so spacious – and auto-trawl winches, a great galley and eating area, TV and stereo – wow! Having the big accommodation down below that was warm and dry was really good, and finally, a shower – this was just bliss. The only thing this boat did not have that would have been advantageous would have been a gutting machine but was just too expensive to put in initially. This boat would be at sea in some pretty poor weather whilst I was aboard her, and I would say never once was I worried about being on board her and in my 30 odd years at sea the Arkh Angell was the best sea boat I’ve been on.
A couple of my fishing memories:
This one always sticks in my mind – we had landed in Aberdeen and were sailing home to Kirkwall, coming up to Copinsay, about 1 hour from Kirkwall, when Kenny gets this feeling that “there is dogs to be caught” in the Westray Firth – an area about an hour the other side of Kirkwall. So, with a disgruntled crew we head to the Firth and shoot the gear away. 4 hauls and 36 hours later we come in to land 900 boxes of dogfish! The disgruntled boys were now happy enough with an extra £1,500 a man for the trip.
There were plenty of good trips for Spawny Haddocks caught at the Papay Bank and trips for cod catching all around the Shetland Isles. On a trip to Rockall there were six crew on board. We left Kirkwall, through Eynhallow Sound, and touched the bottom going through, but Kenny being Kenny decided all was fine and continued west to the ‘Rock’, so a 36 hour steam there, two days fishing for 650 boxes of haddocks and a 48 hour steam back round to Aberdeen to land – another good trip!
I was at sea on my 21st birthday and we were getting a good fishing of cod, but Kenny insisted my birthday would not be forgotten, I remember sitting on the side of the fish-washer, washing big cod and Kenny supplying me with a couple of Irish coffees to celebrate.
Kenny and John fished the boat very well. Most of the time the boat had a crew and a half, so we mostly sailed from Kirkwall and worked 8 to 10-day trips at sea and mostly landed in Aberdeen through AIF (Aberdeen Inshore Fish Selling Company) doing 2 trips on board and a trip ashore. Aberdeen landing days were always long, as you had been scrubbing the boat down on the sail in from the fishing grounds, landing into the market between 2 and 6 in the morning, then hold cleaning, taking boxes and ice, refuelling, any spares, getting fishing gear that was required, and we were usually clear of boat related work around 10 in the morning. Then we were either up the town for a wee shop or quite often out together as a crew for a Chinese and a pint or two around town, but always ended up in the Anchorage before heading north back to Kirkwall (a 14 hour steam home) for a crew change.
Kenny tragically was killed in a car crash in 1997. Sadly John (Jeckko) and Alan (Sinks) are no longer with us either. RIP.
With quotas getting tighter, days at sea regulations affecting the fishing and a change in family circumstances, I left the Arkh Angell in 1998. Like a large amount of other fishermen, I crossed over to the Merchant Navy, where life has also been good for me, as I’ve worked with Northlink Ferries since 2002. I’m currently sailing as 2nd Officer aboard the M.V. Hrossey, which sails between Aberdeen, Orkney and Shetland on a daily basis.
Sandy Cooper July 2019
You can view more of Sandy’s photos here.
Sandy also appeared on STV’s ‘All Aboard’ – A unique insight into life onboard the MV Hrossey, seen through the eyes of the crew and passengers who travel on it.