Net mendin'

Liam SparkeThis article is produced with the assistance of Banffshire Maritime & Heritage Association Vice-chairman Liam Sparke. A fisherman all his working life

Liam spent many years within the fishing industry, most of them in deep sea fishing and so his knowledge of the subject is based on hard experience gained over many years

It's not surprising that repairing the fishing nets was a necessary and skillful task and one generally performed in all sorts of weather. Why a need to repair nets? Typically, nets have to stand hard wear and tear associated with the harsh environment in which they are used. They are built to last and do indeed have great strength but in the depths of the seas there are many obstacles which the humble net will meet and much damage can occur as a result. With nets costing many hundreds of pounds they had to be repaired and of course productivity was vital in this highly competitive industry and so repairs had to be carried out quickly in all weathers and sea states for the net needed to be back in the water earning money

There is one basic tool required for net mendin' and that is the net needle - a simple but clever design and with this tool (and a sharp knife) the fisherman using skill, borne over many years, would set about carrying out the repair/s that would lead to the net returning to the sea


Cost of nets

Dependent on size of course however Liam quotes £1,000 per net as typical of his era

The life of a net depended very much on the ground (sea bed)

Sandy ground: A net could last for 2 or 3 years

Hard ground (rocky): Anet could last 3 to 4 months

Frequency of repairs: This could be after every haul (3 to 4 hour tows)

The only time a net was changed was when it came up beyond repair

Side winder trawlers carried two nets and enough spares to make two more. A stern trawler caried three times as much

 Early nets were woven from grasses, flaxes and other fibrous plant material. Later cotton was used. Modern nets are usually made of artificial polyamides like nylon, although nets of organic polyamides such as wool or silk thread were common until recently and are still used

In Liams words, "early nets were made of manilla and sisal, also known as 'tarry twine' because they were dipped in a tar like solution to increase their life, (a process referred to as 'barking' in Scotland. ed) this process dated from 1800 until about 1950. most ropes were made from hemp until 1960 and then nylon became more commonly used."

There are two knots used in the construction of nets: Sheet Bend and Clove Hitch



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