I have been waiting for the skipper’s call for a few days now. There are no fish in the sea and, although the weather is perfect, very few decide to gather a crew and go fishing. Finally, I hear my telephone ring. We’re leaving at 3 a.m. It is Irek. He is the captain on Koł17, who agreed to take me on board a few days ago. I would like to prepare another material about interesting professions, about people who do jobs which are not so well known and have not been shown earlier. We are leaving Kołobrzeg in 12 hours. I hastily put my camera and spare batteries into my bag. Everything is in place. The only thing I am afraid about is whether I can make it to the seaside before 3 a.m.
I arrive two minutes before three. On my way, I pass deer, foxes and hares. They come out of the dark of the forest to greet cars speeding down the road and stare at them with interest.
The crew await me. Just a few documents to complete for the coastguards and off we go. Our cruise is to last for two days and we have informed the guards that we will not leave the Polish waters and will stay within 12 sea miles from the shore. It is still dark. On the horizon, we can already see a few smacks, which left the port a while earlier.
After one and a half hours we reach the ground specified in the documents. The sun slowly rises over the mirror of the sea. In his loud voice, the skipper tells the crew to prepare the trawl. The first crew member to get down to work is Tomek: a mechanic, who has just been trying to compensate for the lost sleep. He disappears under the deck. Right after, two other fishermen, Piotrek and Łukasz, stand up from their seats and move to the stern of the smack. I follow them, curious about what will happen next. All three of them begin putting the long trawl into the water, while the captain supervises their work. Easy as it seems, it takes a few long minutes. Ropes cannot get entangled and need to be in the right place. And there is plenty of them here. Every few moments I can hear the fishermen shouting and mocking each other: Is this all you can do? You can tell at first sight that the team work together well and they know their job. Everyone is responsible for their own part of the fishing work and, for a layman like me, they do it very precisely.
Half an hour later the trawl is in the water. Its orange floats stay on the surface and slowly but surely move away from the smack. Now, we have to wait, says Piotrek and takes his fisherman pants and gloves off. The mechanic lies down on a makeshift bed next to the table and the rest of us prepare breakfast: a dozen of eggs, a sausage, morning coffee and tomatoes with onion. While eating, they walk me through all the aspects of their work. I absorb everything like a sponge. It is all new and exciting. The scrambled eggs disappear from the plates and we go under the deck, where we stay for the next 2 hours. The long way to the seaside and the early hours help me fall asleep quickly. The only person who stays on the deck is the captain.
I open my eyes and instantly forget what I was dreaming about. Wake up. It’s time, says one of the fishermen leaning over my bed. We go slower and slower dragging the trawl behind us like an enormous weight. Nobody knows what is in the trawl yet. Although this is the time of sand eels, which look more like overgrown worms rather than fish, we have a chance to catch any fish living in the Baltic. The fishermen slowly pull in the trawl and when they reach the floats, they move the part with the fish along the board and into the hold. The captain joins us just before they open the trawl and we all wait impatiently to see what we have caught. It is almost as if we were unwrapping a Christmas present. We look inside and see thousands of sand eels. They fill up the whole segregating area moving around frantically and flapping their tails. Every so often one of the men pulls out a bigger fish or a salmon that got entangled in the trawl. Before the fish are stored under the deck, they need to be segregated. There is no time to rest. The trawl returns into the water and stays there for the next 5 or 6 hours waiting for new fishing trophies. It is noon. Tomek and Łukasz start taking care of the big fish, which they put into containers prepared earlier. Then they wash the deck and take some time to rest. Just after five, we hear the next signal from the captain urging the fishermen to pull in the trawl. They have caught two salmons and thousands of sand eels again.
It has not been a great catch. We return with just over a ton of fish, which are sucked into special containers by means of long pipes as soon as we get back to the port. On the embankment, you can see people with disappointed expressions on their faces: they have been waiting for fresh fish before they are stored in ice and transported to a processing plant. Unfortunately, this time they will not buy a big cod or salmon. The fishing cruise ends early evening. The catch did not impress this time. We return to the place which we departed from and say goodbye to one another in a friendly atmosphere and in hope that it was the last disappointing cruise this season.