Francis Meyrick

Moggy’s Tunaboat Helicopter Manual Ch.1-A “What’s it all about? – Finding Fish! “

Posted on July 11, 2009

My home, my bird, my own personal airfield, with six feet clearance from my rotorblade tips





This section contains, in rapid sequence, most of the “technical basics ” of tuna helicopter flying.
I have tried very earnestly to avoid saying ‘this is the way’.
You will often find different points of view expressed, and you will doubtless form your own opinions. That is the intention, anyway!
Remember though… that surviving contentedly and safely on a tuna boat is not just knowing how to fly, twirl a wrench, or recognize a ‘breezer’ from a cloud shadow.
The funny ‘stress psychology’ of tuna boat life is dealt with much more in Section ‘B’.
I offer you a caution: Section ‘A’ is what you may think tuna boat life is all about. And, sure, some guys do trip up badly in technical errors. I know I did…
BUT. Where things often really go sour and pear-shaped on a tuna boat… is not in the technical realm, but in the human, emotional aspect of things. Section ‘B’ !!

And you know something? That does not just apply to tuna boats….!

Chapter 1-A “What’s it all about? – Finding Fish! “
Ch.1-B Skipjack, Yellowfin, Bigeye, Albacore, Bluefin, log fishing, purse seiners, longliners, good pilots and dead trees
Chapter 1-C “Foamers and Breezers “

Chapter 1-D Radio bouys, Bird radar, Dirty tricks and Sculduggery

Chapter 1-E Herding, and the ‘tow-line’; the Brown Ball, speedboats, netboats, green dye, seal bombs, underwater breathing devices

Chapter 1-A: “What’s it all about? – Finding Fish! “

The reason a helicopter is used on a tuna boat is the same all over the world, from the Pacific across to Panama, and from there down to the South American waters. It’s all about finding fish.
Occasionally, a pilot may find himself involved in personnel transfer. Maybe the captain will want to visit a nearby ship. That’s fine if the other ship has a vacant helideck! You might end up doing some shopping, collecting the mail, and once in a while you will end up doing a hair raising crisis medical emergency flight. More of that later.
But overwhelmingly, most of the time, sunshine, you’re going to be looking for fish! It follows that it is very helpful if you have an idea beforehand of what’s going on. Before we launch off into a discussion about the elusive tuna, first a general comment:
Some boats own their own helicopter. Many do not. Most much prefer to rent from a tuna helicopter company.
Now, note this: many helicopter companies in their contracts specifically state that the pilot’s responsibility is ‘to fly, and not to find fish!’
This may seem a bit odd, but this clause merely seeks to protect against the occasional difficult customer, who either does not want to pay the bill because ‘the pilot’s no good – he never finds any fish!’, or, alternatively, the kind of captain who starts yelling and screaming at the pilot.
In actual practice, many pilots do just that: they only fly. They are sometimes just not interested in finding fish. Fair enough. Sometimes they actually intensely dislike their observer, their captain or their life style, and their sullen dis-interest forms some kind of revenge. I once heard a pilot in a bar positively reveling in the fact that they had flown over a huge ‘foamer’ of Yellowfin, which the observer hadn’t noticed, glued as he was to his binoculars, staring into the far distance.
When asked the question “Well, why didn’t you tell him? ” by me, (hell, I was curious) this pilot merely stated words to the effect of ‘No chance!’
To me, that seems a pity. Most of these pilots all have one thing in common – they are all bored stiff! Duh….
And that, as the actress said to the bishop, doesn’t surprise me at all.
Imagine flying in a straight line more or less for two hours with nothing to do except sit and watch waves… Horrendous.
I belong to the crowd who are rarely bored. I was always flat out trying to spot logs and fish FIRST. Ahead of the observer with his fancy gyro-stabilized ‘lookers’. I frequently do. I get a great kick out of the ship catching ninety thousand dollars’ worth of fish because I spotted the breezer the guy beside me missed. Now one good observation has just paid for three months worth of helicopter rent! In the next fax or email to my company, I can quietly slip that one in at the bottom. It’s amazing how you can walk around the ship the next day and get some big smiles! A lot of the crew’s income depends on the catch. It’s a variable. When word spreads that the pilot is good at spotting fish, the boys quickly learn to like him…
And then there’s always a good chance of a hundred dollar bonus plus a pat on the back from the captain. And that of course is a great way of getting asked back. If the ship likes you, you also have a hedge against the day you screw up with your employer, the rent-a-helicopter company. Just imagine… if you break something. Whatever you break, it’s probably going to be horribly expensive, my friend. (Shudder…)
If the boss back on shore, the owner of your helicopter, is tired of hearing all the complaints about you being a miserable old stick, and then on top of that you go and break his valuable helicopter… you are going to get fired. Compare that with the hard working guy who makes an honest mistake, but his captain likes him a lot. Well, it stands to reason that the pilot’s boss in his reflections is certainly going to include on your credit side the fact that his customer likes you.
You’ve got a much better chance of being soundly scolded for flying your $350,000 helicopter into the sea,with a stern admonition: “Don’t do it again!’ Fiction? Oh, no! There have been numerous cases where pilots have ‘splashed out’ and not lost their jobs! They either ran out of gas and ditched, or hit their tail rotor off a wave whilst ‘herding’, or they messed up a landing. Or….
But the greatest and best reason for looking for fish: it’s bloody good fun!
Over the next few pages then, we’ll dive straight into the habits of our quarry:
the Skipjack tuna, the Albacore, and
the Yellowfin tuna.

Francis Meyrick

Note 1:

helpful Input from Joseph Smith ( “Aeroscout “):

Comments on Chapter 1-A: “What’s it all about? – Finding Fish! “

Yes. It’s all about finding fish. So I was eager to get started. I imagined that I would find enough fish to fill the boat the first day out.
Well, the first day out isn’t the first day out.
The first day out is departing port where you joined the ship.
It seems to be endless the delays in getting underway so you can do what you came to do.
The agents get all the personnel and deliveries to the ship.
The cook is trying to get back after shopping for his grocery list.
Supplies, fuel, water, the list goes on and on and it’s interminable.
While they are topping off all their tanks they are all venting the volatile fluids going into them.
I tried to get to a place on the ship where the breeze was fresh and uninterrupted to avoid all the organic compounds wafting through the air.
Finally the order is given to cast off.
Are we there yet ?
No way. Now we have to embark the pilot who navigates the ship clear of the docks or anchorage. Then, some time later, we idle out to allow the pilot to disembark.
So now you’re into your second day, that turns into 3 and 4 and so on.
About a week later I get notified it’s time to fly.
Yay, I’m about to go out and find fish.
I am told to go out and fly and figure out how to safely land a help on a moving ship for the first time ever.
So I do.
The next day…I’m ready to take the Captain and go out and find fish.
Not so fast.
I am assigned the second officer (sumung sa as I recall).
I am told that after flying with the second officer for long enough to prove myself worthy, I would get a shot at flying the first officer (Cho sa as I recall).
Then and only then I might get to go out with the Captain and find fish.
That happened about 3 months later, and my track record along with a very nice takeoff and landing made my Captain a regular passenger going forward.
Just in time to find some fish !!!


Last edited by Francis Meyrick on October 29, 2015, 8:52 pm

0 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 50 votes, average: 0.00 out of 5 (0 votes, average: 0.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this.

Leave a Reply