Caithness skipper George Carter, who witnessed the aftermath of wartime tragedies, landed 378 boxes of cod in one day, and once caught a great white shark in his nets, has died aged 86.
He first went to sea as a child and was fishing with creels from his boat Streaker until days before his death.
George had also been a Justice of the Peace, was a trustee of Waterline Heritage Centre, Lybster, chairman of Lybster Harbour Society and Wick branch chairman of the Scottish White Fish Producers’ Association.
He was a supporter of the Fishermen’s Mission, provided wise counsel in his own community and held office in a number of other organisations.
In 2010, George was winner of the Old Pulteney Maritime Achievement Award. The award, judged by Old Pulteney whisky, the RNLI and Wick Harbour, recognises a local who has contributed greatly towards the community and the maritime industry.
George was born at the family home at Inver House, Lybster. His father Hugh was a fish curer and his mother May (Sinclair) a dressmaker. The family also had a small boat for herring and lobster and George’s grandfather had spent his life at sea.
As a young man, George saw the horrific consequences of the torpeoding of the destroyer Exmouth when sailors’ bodies were washed up near Wick in 1940.
That same year, he saw the flaming hulk of the tanker Gretafield sailing off the coast after being hit by enemy ordnance. It resulted in oil pollution up and down the coast.
Off to sea
George was dux of Lybster secondary school but left at the age of 15 and went off to sea as a crew member on the Maggie, sailing from Lybster.
Three years later he became a deck hand and cook on the Maid of Honour with his brothers Jack, Don and Hughie.
The seine netter, based in Wick, had the reputation of being the premier cod boat in the area.
George remained with the boat until September 1956 when he went to nautical college in Leith to qualify for his skipper’s ticket aged 21.
He went on to skipper the Kittiwake and the Venus for another owners, before he and his brother David bought the Valena WK 99, a seine netter fishing for white fish.
George met his future wife Ibby while she was working as a bus conductress and the couple married at Portland Arms Hotel, Lybster, in 1958. They later had four children, Valerie, Colin, Alison and Marella.
In November 1961 George bought Silver Cloud WK 207 and his crew of four included his cousin, Robert Carter.
It was with this boat that George landed his massive haul of cod in 1966, thought to be a record on the coast at that time.
The day was flat came and he came across a shoal of cod near a bigger boat. He shot the lines and started to land cod at 10 to 12 boxes a time.
They soon had seven or eight tonnes on board the 47 foot boat and as other boats began to arrive, they put their nets out once again. This time, however, the nets broke.
They limped into harbour under the groaning weight of the fish and discovered they had caught 378 boxes of cod.
George continued to fish with the Silver Cloud but had a new boat, Silver Cloud II WK 80 built at Gerrard’s yard in Arbroath.
His daughter, Valerie, named the boat on February 2, 1972. She recalled making the journey to Arbroath and met with the Gerrard family the night before the ceremony and at a celebration dinner in the evening.
George fished with Silver Cloud II until 1991 when it was sold to a Gairloch owner.
He went back to sea, this time as a fisheries liaison officer on seismic and pipe laying vessels on the North Sea.
In later life, George acquired the sail/motorboat Streaker which he used for pleasure as well as line and creel fishing.
It was with this vessel that he encountered a great white shark in 2003. George was hauling a net when he noticed two fins and the shark entangled in the mesh.
The animal was thrashing about in the nets so George cut what he could and attached a rope to the net.
It lay placid below the boat so George began to tow it towards land to try to save as much of his gear as he could.
With help from his friend Dod Bremner, they cut the nets and the animal exploded into life and shot off.
George devoted a lot of his time to Lybster RNLI fundraising committee of which he was chairman.
He was also chairman of the Caithness branch of the Merchant Navy Association.