Fisherman sees GPS as godsend
“For example, if you wanted to figure out where home is you would put the radio to your ear and turn the dial to the station; if you heard people talking you were off but if you heard a little static and then silence that was the direction for you to follow,” he explained.
Harris, a former Christ Church Boys’ School student, said that “was the old time way but these [GPS systems] here made things easier to the point that you could learn the sea as a big man, when back in my time it was something young boys had to learn from the older generation”.
He said the GPS system indicated how far one’s boat was from land, which country’s territorial waters you were in, water depth, and the speed and direction of the tide.
The veteran seafarer said having those details at one’s available allowed fishermen to find fish easier, mark their favourite spot and return without difficulty, which saved time in planning sea trips. He also added that the GPS map made navigation easier at night and fishermen could determine the safest course home.
“The coordinates are already set in the system so all you have to do is punch in where you want to go. The hardest thing is learning how to utilise the compass because the system works hand in hand with the compass.
“Let’s say you wanted to go to Tobago. From here to there, as you can see, is 136 miles and 227 bearings. You use the bearings from the map to guide you on the compass.”
Harris, whose navel string is buried in Enterprise Christ Church, fell in love with the sea as a young boy playing in Oistins.
He has been the captain of his long line boat for the past nine years and has two crew members. He said he spends ten to 12 days at sea and his main catch, tuna, is supplied to the export market.
“In the late 1980s when I started fishing, it took a strong person to go out fishing. There were no iceboats, only day boats, and we used to keep the bait in a basket and if you can’t handle you would vomit. Plus the diesel back then used to smell strong and it made men vomit too,” reminisced Harris.
Fisherman Percy Harris demonstrating how the GPS system is used.
The captain of J Alexander uses a 22-mile spool line to catch fish.