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We looked around for a while and ended up getting a Brinkliner 28. There are a few around and they are a variation on the Starfish hull, just stretched 2ft more. We brought her back, made some alterations and named her Galloper. The choice of name should seem obvious now as this is the name of the offshore bank around which Dad had made his name years before and the place that still captures my imagination today. 
 
The Brinkliner has higher decks and more room than the Starfish, she was a little lacking in shelter as well as speed though. Fortunately, we had her at a time when fishing was excellent inshore. In the winter we averaged around 100 cod a trip and come the spring we could catch plenty of roker within 10-15 miles from home. Although I still wanted to head offshore. The wrecks may have seen better days, but there were still other fish to be caught. In the winter we had some cracking fishing for cod on the offshore banks. Most boats didn't head off here as there were plenty inshore, but the stamp of fish was far better offshore.
 
Starfish fishing boat
Starfish underway
 
The boat was not fast enough, but the fishing was good and having a slow boat made me appreciate it more as I got faster boats later on. One of the most memorable days that winter, and of my career as a skipper so far, was on a glassy calm sunny day just before Christmas. We headed off 30-odd miles with just three on board. Myself, Uncle Paul (Maris) and Tom who was one of my workmates at the time. We left early and caught the tide out. Even with the tide, that boat would only make 9knts or so at best. The best part of four hours later, we arrived at our chosen mark. We fished two rods each and had 40 or so cod. All but one were double figures, and the biggest fell to Tom at just over 18lbs. This had been Tom's first-time sea fishing, and Paul told him not to bother as he wouldn't see a better day's up-tide fishing for cod.
 
Tom and Paul cod fishing
 
A few months later, we were to head back offshore to try and catch the tail end of the cod as they left us for the summer. We had a few more people on board this time, and our sights were lower as there were now very few codlings inshore. Again, time was limited by the boat's speed, or there lack of, so we anchored our first mark. Stacey was into a decent fish shortly after we stopped. It put a good scrap up before surfacing. It turned out to be a spur-dog and a good one at that. It pulled the scales around to 21.3lbs and is still the biggest I've had on the boat. It was the first one I had seen alive, and as we hadn't expected it, we didn't have any suitable end tackle to deal with their sharp teeth. We were bitten by several more throughout the day but had 14 to the boat and a dozen cod mixed in with whiting, pouting and rays. These trips were amazing considering we could only fish for 4-5 hours due to steaming time.
 
For some years now we had been trying to catch plaice off of Essex. Dad had caught a few accidentally while wreck fishing, but we wanted to target them. The previous year Stacey and I had succeeded when we headed off on our own one day. Now I had my own boat I was keen to prove it wasn't just a fluke and tried to catch some more. A long time ago, plaice were caught inshore, and they still are in nets, even now, but we had to head 40 miles out to find them. That summer we put a few trips in with some good anglers on board including Mick Toomer and Uncle Paul Maris and Uncle Steve. We had a few plaice for our efforts, although most were small. True to form, Stacey had the biggest at 3lb something. Once again, our time fishing time was limited but memorable.
 
After trips like these, it's understandable that I was keen to get back offshore and had a severe case of 'dieselitis' which I haven't quite recovered from yet. The Brinkliner was a sweet little boat and boats are always a compromise, but this wasn't the right compromise. Needless to say, I made plans to get a different boat. Dad really wasn't keen on this idea after the time and money we had invested in this one. He may also have worried it would mean I couldn't afford to move out for a while longer, but he needn't have worried as Stacey would make sure that wasn't the case.
 
To be continued in part 6
Scott Belbin
Fishing Charter Skipper
Published on 2020-07-14