Experience: Commercial Fisherman, Cruise Skipper
Regions: Otago, Catlins, Foveaux Strait, Fiordland
Interview Location: Milford Sound, NZ
Interview Date: 06 February 2016
Post Date: 01 December 2017; Copyright © 2017 Dave Taylor and Steve Crawford
1. EXPERIENCE IN AOTEAROA/NZ COASTAL ENVIRONMENTS
CRAWFORD: Where and when were you born, Dave?
CRAWFORD: What was your first recollection of spending a significant amount of time on or around the ocean?
TAYLOR: Probably 26.
CRAWFORD: Your family didn't spend time on coastal waters when you were a kid? You were an inland boy?
CRAWFORD: And by 26 years old ... you were definitely out of school by then.
TAYLOR: Well out of school. I actually bought a business to get on the water.
CRAWFORD: Really? Where did you relocate to?
TAYLOR: I was in [Waitahuna], where we had a farm. Inland from Milton, down the coast there. Back in the days when we had the financial bloody disaster in NZ, interest rates were 25%+, and I got out of farming. A business came up in Taieri Mouth - to buy a house, buy a fishing shop, and buy a boat.
CRAWFORD: Did you have your Skipper's ticket at the time?
CRAWFORD: So, this was a major overhaul that required not just the purchase of the business, and relocation to a new town, but also a dramatic change in lifestyle. And you still had to get your Skipper's ticket before you could fish commercially?
TAYLOR: When I bought the business, there was a crew on the boat, and he had his Skipper's ticket. So I employed him with his Skipper's ticket, until I got mine.
CRAWFORD: And when did you get your ticket?
TAYLOR: In those days, about three years before you actually got your ticket under the old system.
CRAWFORD: Describe your vessel for me, please.
TAYLOR: The vessel was 39-foot wooden hull trawler, also set up for Codpotting, longlining and the whole lot. Trawling was the basic source of income from it. About 80-90% of the activity was trawling.
CRAWFORD: Were you a day-fisherman? Or did you go for days and weeks at a time?
TAYLOR: Overnight two or three nights, depending how far south we were heading. But mainly day-fishing, due to the fact that we had our own factory on the wharf.
CRAWFORD: Was your range from Taieri Mouth due south? Or did you ever do any fishing up north?
TAYLOR: At different times of the year I could be in Te Waewae Bay down the bottom, mostly south of Nugget Point, Slope Point, Taieri Mouth, Green Island. Winter months heading in to Blueskin Bay, Moeraki, further north - the other side of Port Chalmers.
CRAWFORD: Your 80% trawling - was there a seasonality to that?
TAYLOR: Yes. Most of the trawling would start September-October and go right through, depending on what fish we get, to March-April. And then we'd start sneaking away and get some Cod and Groper quota for the winter. And we'd do a bit of trawling because sometimes you'd hit a bit of fish off the Nuggets during the winter months. But it depended on the fish and the year.
CRAWFORD: Was there also seasonality to where you fished?
TAYLOR: Yes. Down south, November, Te Waewae Bay and we worked our way up. Worked out of Hinahina half the summer, sort of November-December. January-February-March-Apr-May through to Taieri Mouth. And of course, June, July, August - sometime in July we'd pull out of Port Chalmers, and come back down to Te Waewae. But once again, that depended on the fish that was in Port Chalmers at the time.
CRAWFORD: You started fishing at age 26. How long did that pattern run for?
TAYLOR: All the way I was fishing, right up until 2005.
CRAWFORD: From your start to your finish, it was pretty consistent? You didn't change vessels?
CRAWFORD: You didn't change gear, or the distribution of the gear?
CRAWFORD: And you pretty much fished the same regions, same target species, same times?
TAYLOR: Yes, yes. We dropped Te Waewae off every now and then. Depending of what was happening south of the Nuggets. The weather. That was only when it veered a little bit, when we headed that way.
CRAWFORD: Ok. 2005 you got out of the fishery? Completely?
TAYLOR: Yes, yes.
CRAWFORD: Before we transition away from your fishing experience, did you have any time or inclination to do anything else during those years - like boating, swimming, spearfishing or Pāua diving? Anything like that?
TAYLOR: A little bit of diving for Pāua, but that was probably more for fun with free diving. I never really had the inclination to go with tanks or anything like that. I liked it above the water, where I could see better.
CRAWFORD: How often would you have gone free diving, back in the day?
TAYLOR: If I could get four dives in a year for Pāua, that was about it.
CRAWFORD: What did you do after moving out of the commercial fishery? Shift to another job on the water?
TAYLOR: No. I got right out of fishing altogether, and went back to my original trade when I got my Drainlayer's ticket. I actually worked for a company in Dunedin as a Drainlayer - they called me in as a foreman.
CRAWFORD: How long did you do that?
TAYLOR: Until I come here.
CRAWFORD: 'Here' meaning Milford Sound?
CRAWFORD: Ok. What drew you to Milford Sound?
TAYLOR: Getting older. Bones worn out. Enjoyed the theory of the 7-days-on 7-days-off system. And the salt's still in your blood. I just don't know whether that drew me back in, or was it an opportunity? I don't know. But I ended up here, and am enjoying it.
CRAWFORD: Was it a Skipper's job with Cruise Milford first?
CRAWFORD: So, you came up here two years ago, and you've been in that job to date?
TAYLOR: Yes. Cruise Milford started two years ago, and I was one of the two Skippers that come here originally.
CRAWFORD: Describe the vessel for me, please.
TAYLOR: A steel-hulled vessel, built by the government back in the 1980s. It was a cruise ship that cruised up and down the fiords, plus transfers.
CRAWFORD: What's the length?
TAYLOR: Length is 19 metres. Tonnage is 65-70 tonne. Typical cruising speed is 10 knots.
CRAWFORD: In terms of seasonality here in Milford Sound, are you working throughout the year?
TAYLOR: Yes, all year.
CRAWFORD: Is there a seasonal component, in terms of less busy or more busy?
TAYLOR: Yes. November is reasonably quiet. It starts winding up December, right through to Christmas Day, Boxing Day. Then the gates open up with heaps of people. Dies off a little bit end of January, beginning of February. But now it's starting to wind up again. We're busy with boatloads for another month, month and a half. Then we're into the winter season, and it can take a dive. But then it can fluctuate quite a bit, the ski season and so on.
CRAWFORD: Let’s talk winter versus summer. Roughly how many cruises would you do a week during the winter?
TAYLOR: Normally three cruises per day. Unless you get an avalanche, snow road problems ...
CRAWFORD: So, really your cruise schedule doesn't vary that much between the seasons?
TAYLOR: It’s still three cruises a day. Just our numbers change.
CRAWFORD: Ok. That's going to give you about 400 cruises a year, and you've been doing that now for two years. So, you're at about the 1000 cruise mark here in Milford Sound.
TAYLOR: About that.
CRAWFORD: And currently, in terms of boating or yachting - do you do anything like that?
TAYLOR: I still have my own fishing boat back over home, and I probably use it six or seven times a year. But that’s just to get Cod or Groper, whenever I get time.
Copyright © 2017 Dave Taylor and Steve Crawford