Case study - Ben Bengey, Skipper
Ben Bengey, 19, is the skipper of Silver Spirit and one of the youngest skippers in the North Devon fishing fleet. Based out of Ilfracombe North Devon, Ben also runs Silver Spirit Charter who provide angling trips and lobster safaris.
"I have always loved the sea. As a child, my dad had a boat and was also on the local lifeboat crew so I was used to waking up and playing with boats from a young age. When I was 10, I started crewing various charter boats in the summer. When I finished school at 15 with some GCSEs, I planned on spending another summer charter fishing, but on Friday the 13 July 2012, I went on my first everyday lobster potting boat and from that point forward, I knew exactly what I wanted to do.
Nothing can really set you up for what you're getting into when you join the fishing industry - there is nothing like it. A good work ethic and the ability to listen is really important, as is having thick skin. You need to be willing to laugh at yourself, take little digs and enjoy the banter when out on the open water. I quickly learnt that sleep wins over everything else - no girl is worth staying up for - four hours sleep is not enough!
Time keeping is vital - setting the alarm for 2am and knowing you have to get out your warm bed is hard, but if you don't, you miss the tide and end up stuck in the harbour for five or more hours before getting out to sea. I've also found that IT skills and knowledge of Engineering are helpful to the job.
The seafood industry has provided funding for a lot of courses, which meant by the time I was 17 I had my under 16.5 meter skippers licence and a RYA Yacht masters licence. For a short while I was the youngest skipper in the county.
Being at sea all day means I get to see something others would pay a lot of money to see, I'm always taking my phone out to snap a sunrise or sunset or to get videos of dolphins. I do moan about getting up at a silly time and tell people to stick in at school, but I love my job and wouldn't change it… well maybe I'd take more fish and less rain!
Since I've started building up my skill base my pay has gone up and the working hours are okay - on the early tides I work about 10-12 hour a day. The faster the crew works the faster we get home so it's in the crew's interest to build up their skills so that we can work shorter days. The big benefit is being away from land, you can forget about your life back home and the worries you have and be at one with the sea (or maybe that's just me!)
In the future, I'll do more training tickets, but at the moment I don't have any need for them. My plan going forward is to improve the company and invest in a new boat so that I can work more days at sea and create a safer working environment for the crew."