In early 1976 I was having lunch in a cafe near Glendale Gardens when Mike of Mike's Boatyard came and sat at my table and we got chatting. I told him I was fitting out a boat to go weeding with. "Don't bother with that", he said, "I've recently bought the Endeavour. Come and work that for me".
The following week I went down to the boatyard to find Endeavour on the slipway having a refit. I spent the next few weeks painting and doing odd jobs on her to get her ready for work. When the tides were right Endeavour was launched and tied up in Bell Bay where we filled her up with fuel and fitted our weeding rakes.
|Endeavour and Girl Elise alongside Bell Wharf|
I knew a young lad called Brian – a relative of Norman Gilson who wanted a job, so we were all ready for work.
It was towards the end of June 1976 when Mike said, "Keep near to Dudley Cooper, he supplies us and knows a good patch of weed". So off we went, across the estuary, to the wreck of the Richard Montgomery where we commenced catching weed. Endeavour worked hard all that year weeding and taking out fishing parties. We found her to be a very good sea boat in a blow.
The following spring, with weeding over, the trawl net and otter doors were shackled on and we trawled for sole. We did very well working down near South East Maplin for a while. As the soles thinned out we had to get more adventurous and look for new places to go. Around this time Brian had left for pastures new and I took on Paddy who lived on an old barge, Margate, on Leigh Marshes. I recall we were trawling near the West Leigh Middle Buoy when we came badly fast (this is when the trawl gets stuck on an obstruction). The port trawl parted, all weight came on the starboard wire – this was the one which went forward and up through the trawl gallows. Endeavour leaned over in the tide, water half way over the deck and hatch covers – we were in big trouble! We were about to run the wire off the starboard winch barrel when she suddenly came clear. When we got the trawl up we found the port otter door was gone. That prevented us from fishing for the rest of 1977.
In the Autumn, weeding started again and I worked single handed. On one occasion I was working on the North Ouse in some rather rough weather and the weed was coming in thick and fast. One rake came up particularly full so to get it aboard I stepped into the middle of the rake to grab it with both hands. Endeavour gave a lurch on a large wave and I found myself sitting on the deck with the rake around the back of my neck and trailing in the water, a very tricky situation!
About this time I took on another lad – Paul Marchant* – who turned into a very good fisherman. I was offered a chance to purchase a share in Endeavour, which I did, so was now a part owner.
I continued fishing, weeding and angling with Endeavour for another year when Mike asked me to take over the Girl Elsie, a much larger boat.
Endeavour was then sold to Johnny Moakes who had worked her and Girl Elsie for the yard in the past. He took her to Queenborough where he was living. At various times we teamed up and pair trawled for eel. One winter he brought Endeavour back over to Leigh and with Girl Elsie we pair fished for sprat for a couple of months, landing the fish on Bell Wharf.
Shortly after, in about 1980, John sold Endeavour and I lost track of her. However, I did see her in the Chatham Historic Dockyard looking in a very sorry state, so I am pleased to see her restored to her former glory.
* Sadly since Stuart wrote this article, Paul Marchant has died. In June this year, Paul, along with other pro-Brexit fishermen from Leigh, famously confronted Sir Bob Geldof on the Thames outside the Houses of Parliament.