Aboard the Juile of Ladram – Part 1: Meeting the Crew

June 3, 2020

Following my week at sea onboard the Waterdance vessel, Sam of Ladram, next up on my list was the Julie of Ladram (E271). The Julie was the largest ship of their fleet, measuring an overall length of 38.25m, with a sizeable breadth of 8m. She was built at the Haak Shipyard in Zaandam, Holland in the early 80’s, fishing in and around the North Sea under the name, Cornelis Maria for many years. Waterdance later acquired the vessel, renaming her Julie of Ladram in honour of their parent company Greendale’s much missed administrator, Julie Jones, who passed away in 2018.

The Julie of Ladram was quite the stunner; long, wide, with a stern I had very much missed to walk around and take in the views, complete with a sizeable deck that allowed for plenty of action shots, without generally being in the way during a busy catch. While the lads went about their business sorting out nets and the like, I headed inside to drop off my bags next to my bunk, before returning to the galley to meet with skipper Sean Deakin. I was soon informed that he was only here to see the crew off, with this week and the next, marked down as a well earned break. His calm, cool and collected manner suggested we would also get on extremely well and Sean definitely came with a brain I really wanted to pick at, over many questions (and more) that I had once again bought with me. We spoke for the next twenty minutes, touching on various topics, though this short period of time was certainly not enough. With the Julie planned for a refit later in the year, we agreed that I would return onboard following the changes and when he was back in charge, and with that, he left for shore.

Taking the helm this trip was Nathan Marshall, a 34 year old 13 year fisher, 10 of which came after his first ticket. His passion for the sea was evident, with future retirement plans already swimming around in his head regarding his own boat and the rest of the world as his oyster.

Nathan’s Mate for this trip was Mike Smith, a 35 year fisherman, with 25 years of that with a ticket under his belt. To everyone that knew him, he went by the name of Sprat, and I really had to know why. ‘I was born in August, Sprat began. My dad and grandad were sprating, fishing for sprats, and when I was born and he first saw me, he said he ain’t no bigger than a sprat, and it literally stuck from that. School teachers called it me, everybody called it me, and the only two people that won’t call it me is Helen’s (Sprat’s partner) mum, she doesn’t like it, and her aunty Win. She won’t call me Sprat either’. I asked Mike how tall he was. ‘5 foot 6. I never quite made it to 6 foot!’.


Marley Tyler, was just 17 years old, turning 18 in June and by far the youngest fisherman I had ever come across since I began documenting the many lives and livelihoods at sea. This was only his fourth month as a fisherman, yet nothing about him suggested anything but a seasoned pro. His baby face exterior clearly masked what was an apparent much older and wiser head on shoulders, and an early interest in the engine room had quickly seen him begin training to become an fully fledged engineer; his vast knowledge already for the heart of this vessel and inner workings of the Julie was very much on show this week. Marley was not only a credit to his parents and Waterdance, but to the entire UK fishing industry and I don’t think I have ever been so amazed by one individual as I had by this young lad at the end of a trip. To think if our UK vessels had a Marley on each, the future of our industry would be extremely bright indeed.

Tony Fitzsimmons

Tony Fitzsimmons is a documentary photographer and aspiring photojournalist based in the south-west of England. Waterdance have commissioned Tony to go out to sea with our fishing crews to document life on board the Waterdance fleet. Please note: any views expressed in these posts belong to Tony or the crew members, and are in no way representative of Waterdance Limited.

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