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Spongebob
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BIG BANG FISHING

Everyone has a good fishing story, especially about the one that got away but mine was a once in a lifetime experience that yielded good results.
While serving my apprentiship at the Devonport Naval Dockyard in Auckland I did time in the Internal Combustion Engineering Shop which looked after the Diesel engined tugs, fishery protection patrol boats, the Commodore’s barge and all the miscellaneous small launches. The job in hand was refitting a 72 foot Motor Launch for the Fijian Navy with the shipwrights carrying out the hull and superstructure work while the engine fitter and I extracted the twin “Gray Marine” diesel engines for a complete overhaul, dynamometer testing etc before re-installation and the best part of all, the sea trials.
For some reason a depth charge rack had been installed on the after deck during the refit and when we went out into the Hauraki Gulf for the day’s trials we carried a Gunnery Officer in charge of a solitary depth charge for test purposes.
All went well, a nice day, calm seas and as we approached the area where the testing was to be carried out the engines were put to maximum RPM mode and as soon as we were up to the best possible speed, all of about twelve knots, we were warned that there would be a bit of a bump and that we should hang on. The depth charge was primed, set for depth, and rolled off the stern. It must have been set very shallow or it malfunctioned as it had no sooner disappeared under water when there was a “Cruuump” and the deck under our feet felt as if someone had just hit it with a 24 pound hammer.
Then the sea started to simmer, boil, and finally erupt into a massive plume of water and spray, very spectacular to say the least. The Navy crew obviously knew what to expect as the boat was quickly turned about to return to the drop zone which was by then littered with fish, perhaps a quarter acre of them, no kidding, mainly Snapper and Gurnard plus a few Dog fish.
The small ply dingy was launched and paid out on a line to allow a couple of ABs to gather up as many fish as they could.
We must have had a hundred or more fish on board before many started to recover from the concussive shock and swim away but then disaster struck as the long dinghy painter developed too much slack and was caught by the slowly revolving starboard propeller and several turns were jammed between the launch’s prop and the ‘A’ bracket. No initial panic as we had a trained Navy diver on board but all the gear he had was a pair of goggles and a not so sharp knife so when the weather started to blow up a bit and after he had bumped his head a few times on the rising and falling hull the Skipper set sail for home on one engine.
At this stage we civilians on board were wised up by the well practiced Navy crew, borrowed from a fisheries patrol craft for the day, to take our share of the catch and say nothing to anybody other than “The propeller seemed to have picked up a stray line from trawler fishing rig.” This was the explanation radioed into the base and explaining that our ETA would be around 2100 hrs.
We cleaned and scaled the catch during the slow slog home using a good knife fashioned from a sharpened machine hacksaw blade in the fitter’s tool box and well before berthing we had all the evidence packed away in our bags and the decks swabbed free of any fishy evidence.
We arrived without a welcoming committee, thank goodness, and the diver was able to go under with some proper gear and clear the prop without any further problems

I have since wondered why the Fijians needed this depth charge rack on such a small slow boat, perhaps they had a stash of WW2 depth charges left over and wanted to do some fishing.
Our RNZ Navy boat crew certainly gave me the impression that they had done this sort of test before. Again,
in later years I have wondered about the drop zone, it must have been shallower water to yield such a harvest and not the designated area as shown on the charts as set aside for such testing.
I was late home but when Mum started frying those snapper fillets for my tea the whole family stood in line for an extra meal.

Bob
 

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Great story SB Sounded like a lot of fun. :)
 

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intriguing story, what was the vessel resign, a deep keeled trawler [ex] side winder or stern fisher? designed or operated as a mine sweeper,? Or another of those fishing type boats even keel, drifter?? or as built RNZ Navy vessel for patrol purposes, with fishermen as crew???
I just wonder how many old salts fishermen from HULL Grimsby or Fleetwood, can retell a similar story??? Or is it a 'yarn' for me the engineer landlubber???
 

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Spongebob
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Discussion Starter #6
Falmouth dry dock provided a good catch of fish....
Devonport Dockyard NZ like wise but the fish "belonged" to the Auckland Harbour. Board staff who manned the dock.
Sometimes big hauls on certain tides and weathers and the surplus was sold to us Dockies cheap.

Bob
 

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David - Post #5 - What type of vessel was it?
It was either HMNZS Maroro (P3554), or HMNZS Tamure (P3555) - these are 72-foot Harbour Defence Motor Launches, of which NZ had 16 built in the USA in 1943. These are the only two of our HDMLs that ever went to Fiji so far as I know.
Maroro was eventually sunk up in the Pacific islands in 1982.
Tamure was eventually transferred into the RNZ Naval Reserve fleet, and I spent a year on her 1969-70. They were very good training boats.
In the UK, think HMS 'Medusa', the 72-foot HDML based in Gosport. They all came off the same drawings.

Photo 1 - P3555 Tamure, in Wellington, 1969
Photo 2 - Manga on exercises, and no, she didn't hit us!
Photo 3 - 'Medusa', based in Gosport, and still fully operational.

Tamure is now ashore at Kopu, Thames, a couple of hours from Auckland. She is in a very sorry state, and accompanied by two other HDMLs, is sitting on chocks awaiting a wealthy benefactor or volunteer group to bring her back up to seaworthiness.
Skilly
 

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Spongebob
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Discussion Starter #8
Skilly, there is one parked in the river near the Paeroa Maritime museum, I'll check its number next time passing.
Your photo of Manga is familiar, I think that she was one of the fishery protection launches when I was at the Dockyard 1952 to 1957 when the well known Lieutenant Commander Wilkie headed the protection fleet .

Bob
 

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Hi Bob,

I have just checked in with one of the owners - the three boats at Kopu in Thames are Tamure (which tried to sink itself under the Greenhithe Bridge in Auckland about 3 months back, and was hurriedly dragged ashore and trailered to Kopu), Koura, which has been in Kopu for a while, and Alert, which was sold by the navy straight after the war and converted to a ferry. The first two are still immediately recognisable as 'Black Boats' (and I served on them both between 1969 & 1973), while the Alert has been changed a lot.
There are no other 72-foot HDMLs in the Thames/Kopu area.

Bob, that Manga photo above I took in the Marlborough Sounds during Rockie Exercises in 1971. Olphert used it in their recruiting blub for quite a while.

And where was the owner when I messaged him? Sitting on the deck of ex-HMNZS KUPARU - P.3563, enjoying a beer in the sunshine. Kuparu is another boat I spent time on in 1971 - 72, and is still operational today.
A photo showing her just before launching after a total restoration by Scott Perry.
Tied up alongside in Whangarei at the end of 2019.

Cheers,
Skilly
 

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Spongebob
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Discussion Starter #10
Thanks for that Skilly, you may remember the 112 foot Fairmiles
too, they were originally engined with the giant Hall Scott engines but were down sized to six cylinder Hercules or Grey Marine Diesel engines .
One was sold and recommissioned as a passenger vessel called Iris Moana then bought back by the Navy and used as a Motuhui Iskand Liberty boat .
Another was sold to Rope Construction who were specialists in Harbour type work and the boat, re - named La Rita , was fitted out for cruising around all the NZ ports looking for work opportunities . My cousin, a good cook and a pianist got a job on board and had the trip of a lifetime .
La Rita later became a popular gulf fishing excursion craft.
For boats built during WW2 some have survived well over 70 years .

Bob
 

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"This is One-armed Pedro, he used to be a dynamite fisherman"
 
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