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September 21, 2007

The Gaff-and-Go

When the decision is made to capture a fish, the deckies usually secure all the gaffs and tail ropes to the bollard (cleat) on one particular side of the boat. The captain is then responsible for positioning the boat correctly to give the crew the best shot at the fish. Not all fish are cooperative though, and sometimes a fish will stubbornly resist, despite the captain's best efforts. If the fish comes up on the wrong side, there isn't time to shift everything across, especially with a potential record where you may only get one opportunity.

Troy Atkins, captain of Ratu, a 34-foot Black Watch, recently showed me a clever solution to this problem. He has spliced loops into each end of a heavy piece of rope that fits perfectly across the stern from one cleat to the other. Instead of tying his "fliers" off to the cleats he feeds their end loops onto the rope.

This gives his crew total freedom to move about the deck and switch from side to side when chasing a fish. If a fish happens to turn up on the wrong side, the crew can react quickly. The cleats aren't cluttered up with ropes - there is just one, which helps to reduce the chance of tangles and keeps the deck clear.

- Alistair McGlashan, Lane Cove, New South Wales, Australia