Trying out our nets

We’ve been hoping for an opportunity to try our nets out for a while and Sunday gave us ideal conditions for it. Hardly any wind at all, neap tides and no swell. Given the forecast, though, Kensa was at Percuil, which meant we were more limited in our choice of spots for setting a net in than Portscatho. We made a really early start and headed for a spot just around the corner from the Lighthouse, near Shit Rock (just east of Zone Point), because we needed to be within reasonable distance of the river.

photo 4

It was a glorious morning sailing out of the river and we had it to ourselves at that time of day. On the way out we got the net ready to shoot; checking and double checking measurements and distances and depths. Gill nets must be laid with the headline at least 3 metres below the surface of the water, so we chose a spot that would be suitably deep to allow for that at any state of tides. We also needed to work out how long a stretch of water we’d need for our net, and to make sure the floats and anchors were on a long enough scope. We’ll get a lot quicker at this I’m sure, but the first time involved quite a lot of thinking!

getting nets ready

The next issue was to work out how to shoot the nets. We cleared space and set up the nets and floats with ropes flaked and ready to throw over and pay out, and tried to anticipate any areas of the boat that might snag lines or net. Finally, we worked out the best direction in which to lay the net given the wind, tide and our manoeuvrability and got ourselves ready to go.

shooting nets 2

The first twenty or so metres went out beautifully, if accompanied by much concentration from us both to ensure the net paid out without snagging or tangling, which it seemed keen to do. There was very little wind, but enough breeze to ghost along under sail. This was perfect until the wind died completely and we had to get the oars out to move Kensa along. So the mid section of the net went out under more sufferance. Then the breeze picked up again slightly, so we managed to sail the last section out quite smoothly. All in all, it went fine and certainly as well as we could have expected it to for a first time. I would also imagine a new, dry net is much more likely to misbehave than one that’s seen a bit of use.

photo 3

We felt it was more important to practise shooting and hauling the net today and to get our heads round that than anything else, so we decided to head into St Mawes for a couple of hours and recover the net again later that afternoon. The net had a total soak time of six hours in the end.


We picked up Debs in St Mawes, grabbed some much needed lunch and headed back out towards our net, past the fleet of pilot cutters in for the weekend.


Shortly after the photo above was taken the wind died completely, so we spent quite a while sailing very slowly out to the net and trying to justify not rowing!

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As is often the case with anchoring, hauling the net was a lot more straightforward than laying it, although harder work on the arms.

spider crabs!

It was also made easier by the fact that there wasn’t an awful lot in it! Quite a few too small spider crabs, some seaweed, goo (which I’m reliably informed is in fact plankton) and not a lot else.

hauling 4

But also nothing broken or lost, which was our main concern for the day. Next time we’ll be a lot more confident about using the net and in the meantime we’ve thought of a few things we can change both on the boat and in the way we go about it which should make a real difference.

stella in box

Stella is a fan of the net. Although she tends to sleep quite happily most of the time, we bribed her with a tasty bone while we were dealing with the net to make sure she stayed out of harm’s way!

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