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Stone Fisher Self-drive Charter from Plymouth

  A friend from the Internet Fishing Club kindly invited me on the new self-drive charter boats, Arvor 230AS's, out of Plymouth with three other friends but as it turns out one of the guys could not make it so one of them dragged one of his mates Simon along. The group was me, Bob Black, Dave Huxley and his mate Simon.

Well to say my day started off badly is an understatement!
Got up nice and early for the 2+hr drive to Plymouth, car all packed ready to go the night before. Jumped into the car went to start the car nothing!
Now I have a Renault Laguna with one of those key card things. When you insert it in the slot it is suppose to disengage the immobiliser etc. but nothing this morning, Must have tried 50 times but nothing. So being fed up I walked in to see the wife asking why was I still at home, a quick explanation and she said take my car!

Now if you know my wife ANYTHING that smells even remotely fishy must NEVER, NEVER get near her car!
So a quick change over of all the gear and a phone call to the RAC to come and sort out my car and I was away albeit 40mins late.
To top it all, my in-laws who live with us, the mother-in-law fell out of bed and banged her head so my wife had to take up to the doctors to check her out!
What a start to Monday for us all!

A fairly fast drive down to Plymouth, keeping within the speed limits of course, Mr.Policeman, and nearly running out of petrol, but I eventually made it in time. In fact I was the first one there.

I meet the owner, Rob Matson, who invited me to load up my gear on the boat and we sat and chatted whilst waiting for the others to arrive.

These Arvor boats are superb. Rob's charters have only been going from the 1st June this year so the boats are virtually new.
They are equipped with Navman 7100 DSC radios and Navman 6600 TrackFish dual fish finder/colour plotter.
An electric winch to pull the 10kg anchor up with which can be controlled from the deck or cabin.
There is a see through live bait tank with fresh seawater flush facility via a pump.

Rob also supplies tea, coffee and milk with a couple of flasks of very hot water or you can boil some water on the electric kettle but he did warn us it can take up to 25 mins to do so!

We got the latest low down on what was happening where from Rob and he provides marks from rough ground to wrecks all loaded on the plotter and up to date charts with marks which matched the plotter names.

Once everyone arrived and I had taken a picture or two, Rob went through his safety briefing and explanation of what was what and where. He then took us out to see if we could handle the boat ok and we then dropped him back and headed off towards the Eddystone lighthouse stopping off for some mackerel.

His suggested mark to get small mackerel was bang on as if nothing else I seem to be able to catch mackerel these days so I managed to pull up some nice joeys and within a short time we had enough for live and dead bait.

Sea state was a tad lumpy to say the least and we soon found out how good the wipers were! The swells were up to 8ft but we managed to cruise at 15kts without much slamming, in fact it was a very soft ride albeit like a roller coaster.
We all said that if we had been out in our own craft we would have headed back long ago to find some shelter.

We got to the reef and we started to drift for Pollock and anything else that was around. Dave H was soon into a good Pollock and I managed a large pout. Simon and Bob seemed to struggle a bit then Simon got into his stride and caught a female cuckoo wrasse and small Pollock.
I seemed to manage to loose a couple of sets of gear without hooking into anything, Bob was still struggling and then he caught a very large mackerel.

Dave H seemed to manage to hook into a fish almost every drift, jammy bugger and caught a nice 6lb coalie.

It then went a bit quite so we decided to head off to another mark called Hands Deep.

Again Dave H was into fish quickly and managed a very nice 15lb Pollock.
I managed a couple of small Pollock as well, my first for many a year using this drifting method with live sandeel.

Soon it was time to head off towards home and with Bob at the controls we started to surf our way back at about 20kts with a following sea, at least this was a drier journey.

We stopped at Plymouth breakwater to have a very quick drift but nothing showed so back to the harbour to meet Rob and fill the boat with diesel.
We used about 53ltrs, which at 0.54ltr was not too bad. We did not check to see how far we had travelled but we reckoned it must have been over 30miles but it would have been much less fuel had we been able to get on the plane instead of pushing walls of water every other wave over the boat.

All in all it was a good day out with mates and fishing from somewhere different and having the chance to drive a near new Arvor. It was a shame the weather had turned from such a great weekend and for some of us the fishing was not fast and furious but that is fishing for you.

I did like the Arvor however there are a number of changes I would make if it were my own craft.
We found the tackle boxes slid all over the deck in the swell and I would have installed mats or tread master to help reduce the sliding problem, there where lots of little channels for the water to drain out but it also meant that if you dropped anything it got lost including the sandeels.
The plotter/fish finder was mounted high up on the roof panel in the cabin and it gave you neck ache in that swell to keep looking at it. We all said we would prefer two separate instruments.
I thought the wipers were a bit small for the size of screen but did like the facility of having two speeds.
Engine noise was not too obtrusive except when going at full speed but the others thought it could have done with a bigger rudder to help with slow speed control.

All the above would probably be done if the boat were run as a syndicate or a single owner but as a charter it had to be kept simple and clutter free and I think this was achieved well.

Would I do it again?
You bet!
Shame Eddie could not make it but it was good to meet Simon, Dave & Bob again.

If you are interested in doing this self-charter here is their web site Stonefisher Charters

Stone Fisher 2 (our boat)

Stone Fisher 1

The crew, Simon, Dave, Bob and Rob the owner on the far right

Dave's 15lb Pollock

Dave's 15lb Pollock again