Memories of working and playing hard on historic Hull fishing trawler Arctic Corsair as restoration progresses

WAKING up to find a huge cod alongside him in his bunk was an experience young Pete Forytarz never forgot.

He was just five-and-a-half when he went on his first deep sea “pleasure” trip alongside his father, a mate on a “snibbie” (small wooden fishing vessel) out of Hull.

They were out in the North Sea, and Pete had been asleep on the top shelf when he woke up to find the 4.5 ft fish, which was bigger than him. “I screamed and screamed. Dad said:

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‘You’re alright Pete it’s dead. I screamed: ‘Just get rid of it.”

The Arctic Corsair undergoes shotblasting to remove paint at Dunstons in Hull Picture by Simon Hulme

The third generation fisherman, 70, is one of a dwindling band with memories going back to the days when hundreds of boats, big and small, operated out of Hull.

He did two trips to the White Sea on board Arctic Corsair back in 1973 for cod and haddock. and now acts as a guide on board on the sidewinder trawler, which is being restored as part of the £30m Hull Maritime project.

In dry dock the vessel’s elegant lines are revealed, her slim hull and raked bow.

“She is going to look beautiful,” said Pete, his face lighting up.

The ship will go on display in a new dry dock berth in 2024 Picture: Simon Hulme

“It reminds me of what a hard-working ship she was and how dangerous it was. Nowadays you see fishermen with their lifejackets and hard hats. We had nothing like that in our day - we had to keep an eye on each other.”

The work was physically and mentally exhausting - you could be up at 6am and not in your bunk until 1am the following morning - but it had its rewards. Landing back into Hull three weeks later you could be in line for the equivalent of around £3,000 in today’s wages - or in debt to the trawler-owner if it had been a bad trip.

The fishermen - nicknamed three-day millionaires, played hard when they were home and wore the height of fashion. Pete’s suit was sky-blue with wide-bottomed trousers, a “Spanish” waistband and jacket with half-moon pockets. He’d go to Rayners or Halfway pubs on nearby Hessle Road.

“You’d been away three weeks and you hadn’t had a drink,” recalls Pete who retired from fishing in 1986. “You’d get four or five pints down and a couple of drams. You were not used to drinking so you’d soon get drunk.

Retired fisherman Peter Forytarz at William Wright Dock Picture: Simon Hulme

“You’d have your arms round each other and having a singsong - having a good time. The pubs opened at 11am and shut at 3pm, maybe you’d go home, get your head down then it was back in the pub from 6pm to 10pm.”

Pete’s recollections are being used by the team at Hull Council who will be turning the clock back on the Arctic Corsair when she is in her new dry dock berth on the River Hull.

Gill Osgerby, the city council’s project director, said: “Everything will go back as original as possible. We want it to feel like life on board, with cutlery in the drawers, ganseys hanging in the wardrobes and the music playing that the fishermen listened to.

“Apparently it was a lot of country and western, because when they were in the Arctic that was on the American radio stations they could pick up.”

Also in dry dock at Dunston Ship Repairs on William Wright Dock is the Spurn Lightship, which is also being shotblasted back to the original steel and repainted, before being refitted and going back on display in Hull Marina next year.

Arctic Corsair will not be on display until 2024, but the 95-year-old lightship - which was once a waypost for mariners as ships entered the Humber - should open again next summer.