5. Harsh reality

In these next few entries I begin to discover just how tough things can be. Although I was not alone on the Koei Maru 30, I was lonely. I found the physical constraints of being caged within my cabin and on board a small ship difficult to adapt to. Looking back I am not at all surprised about how I felt, after all the longest trip on a boat I had ever had was an overnight ferry to France. But at the time I was bewildered and uncertain…

Friday 18 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

I am feeling depressed. I could be anywhere in the world. I could be happy now, instead I am stuck in my 8ft by 8ft cabin, reading or sleeping or daydreaming. I have spent only one and a half weeks away from home and am seriously doubting my spirit to cope with this job. Perhaps I ought to do a countdown of days in the back of this diary – it is as good as done!


I think I shall now have a shower.

I so desperately want to write something profound and interesting, but it is difficult. To try and describe the crew, their faces and characters or to describe my mental state (and physical) – how I feel imprisoned…but it all sounds so bloody pompous. I should stick to straight observations.

I slept for four hours this morning. It is rather queer, but I seem to be sleeping twice a day (24 hour period) so I am getting two days for the price of one. Lucky me.

Fishing last night was very good indeed. There will probably be over 50,000kg – that is a lot of squid. The jigs were stopped before 5am so I was able to take lots of photographs. It was not easy with the jigger lights.


I have just tried unsuccessfully to call FISHOPS (which the radio operator kept calling SHIPOPS) (FISHOPS was the radio call sign for fisheries operations, my base and link to my world in Port Stanley) but only got a message as far as John on the patrol ship.


It is another blistering day, or at least the sun is blasting through my porthole, if you’ll pardon the expression.

I have got over my initial sadness of the death of all these squid and now have become clinical about it. All I really want to do is get my job done as efficiently and as quickly as possible.

The crew appear to invest their earnings in a spectacular array of gold teeth the likes of which I have never come across, and most smoke like chimneys.

I have now established the mealtime regime:

Breakfast at 2400 hrs

Lunch at 0600 hrs

Supper at 1200 hrs

Somehow this isn’t right!!! Sleep from 1200 to 1800. Eat at 1900. Work until 2400 etc etc etc.

It is not at all like this (26/4/88)

Saturday 19 March 1988. Koei Maru 30

Finished my first book – ‘Dr Slaughter’ by Paul Theroux. Hardly the best book to be reading when 8,000 miles away from London.

I have also finished my work for this shift and am going to try and get myself into some kind of sleep regime and am also going to undergo a positive fitness and occupation regime too – otherwise I am in danger of becoming a vegetable.

My beard is now as long as it has been since my return from Egypt, but it still only looks like heavy growth – it is itchy.

If I go to sleep at 4am or so, I can sleep until 11 or 12 and then eat. I should then be able to catch an early jig and then a late jig each day and get a lot of daylight too!


It seems to work. I slept, ate and then slept some more and am now (at 1600) ready to sample and stay up until 4 or 5 in the morning.

This morning-afternoon I took some photos of the albatross, if that is what they are, but they are not easy subjects and the setting is incredibly monotonous. I wrote again to Deb and also to R&C last night and to Andy T today.

Sunday 20 March 1988. Koei Maru 30 

I wonder if Arsenal won yesterday. I suppose it is all academic now that they are out of the FA Cup.

I am existing in a state of torpor – too much sleep. If this continues for ten months I am going to go completely bonkers. I already feel that I am beginning to go a little mad. I am having the most weird daydreams, very vivid and strange. I expect I will change a lot over the next few weeks and people at home will notice this.

Last night it was almost impossible to sleep and I have a stiff neck. At about 4am the swell really picked up. It has dropped a little now, but must have been at least 15ft.

Breakfast was disgusting. I am sick of this cold, oily food. God I could do with some nice cheese on toast! Or a bacon roll, or pasta or salami. I miss these things as much as my friends.

Let’s face it guys, I feel terrible. I don’t feel like being sick, but boy have I got a bad headache.

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I am Stephen. I live in Bristol, UK. I decided to shorten my profile...to this: Wildlife, haiku, travel, streetart, psychogeography and my family. Not necessarily in that order.

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