Fowl Deeds, Foul Weather - Peter Wexham

Peter Wexham took over Endeavour from Joe Deal, his father in law and they went shrimping around 1960.  He recalls Joe's singing constantly in all kinds of weather!

In good weather they were happy songs, but in a gale it was more likely For those in peril on the sea!

"I can remember standing in the cabin with the slider pulled over my head, looking aft on a bleak and sodden night and I can still see Joe standing down in the engine room with oilskin and sou'wester on; with a fish box on its side to shield his face and him singing his heart out."

While fishing off the north side of the channel by the Chapman Lighthouse he and Joe caught a bomb!

"It was about six feet long," Peter says. "We were always catching shells and lumps of aeroplanes and other things we didn't know because they were too heavy for us to lift.  We did get this bomb to the surface and made it fast to the side of the boat.

"This thing was hissing. I expect there was a hole in it where it had corroded. Air was going in and out as we went through the water and Joe was fending it away from Endeavour, the bomb was hanging in a net from two blocks that we used to hoist things aboard with."

Peter Wexham mans the tiller
With their deadly cargo swinging alongside Peter put the boat in gear and steered for the West Leigh Middle buoy, a part of the river where no one normally towed.

"When we got there Joe started to cut the net and told me: "When I say now, put the boat in gear and give her as much engine as you can... then duck!"

The bomb dropped without going bang when it hit the bottom.  Joe had remembered one of the Cotgrove family being killed when his beam trawler hit a mine and blew the transom off the boat killing him and sinking the boat.

Later, while working with Dave Spurgeon white weeding and beam trawling, Endeavour's nets caught a cache of rifles, shotguns and air rifles which the Metropolitan Police had dumped following a firearms amnesty.  These days the Met destroy guns they have recovered but times were different then.

"They were all in working order when they came up," Peter recalls.  "A lot of fishermen were wildfowlers who were grateful for the shotguns."  The rest were dumped near the Nore buoy.

During her working life Endeavour sailed in foul and freezing weather.  Peter had added a wheelhouse which gave some comfort but returning from white weeding one winter evening it began to snow.  Dave Spurgeon was on the wheel while Peter sorted the weed aft.
"It started to blow from the southwest and was snowing heavily. Dave was standing in the wheelhouse door looking over the top to see where we were going.  I came in for a warm and he didn't move a muscle.

Peter Wexham framed by the Thames Estuary
"The spray and snow covered his face and balaclava.  His beard and eyebrows were so thick he looked like he had been caught up Everest.  If he shut his eyes his eyelashes froze together.  It was a very strange sight, but a cup of hot soup did him the world of good."

On another occasion, working off the Outer Tongue lightship northeast of Margate the weather was foul again and Endeavour headed for home. The boat shipped a lot of water and Dave went below to prime the pump.

Peter says: "As he did so there was a shriek as his hand went round the power take-off with the belt giving him, in wrestling terms, an 'Irish whip' which broke his wrist."

A call for the lifeboat went out and when it arrived a large bearded man jumped aboard and said: "Hello, I'm Davy Jones!"

"So Dave is probably the only fisherman to be greeted by Davy Jones and survive.  Dave didn't think it was funny at the time but I'll never forget it."

Peter’s last trip as owner was not to the fishing grounds.  It was 1972 and Britain was about to join the Common Market.  The Government claimed all the resources under the sea, oil sand and aggregate but gave away fishing rights to European control.

Outraged fishermen vowed to protest at Parliament and a flotilla of boats from around the country made its way to the Thames for the journey upriver to Westminster. Among them, Endeavour carrying a handmade banner with SOS on it for Save Our Soles.  The 'o' was in the form of a lifebelt.  "It was a long trip up river and we had some local press with us.  As we went through Docklands all the cranes lowered their jibs to us as we went past.  It was a tremendous sight," says Peter. "I don't think it had ever happened before." 
Dave Spurgeon with Endeavour in the background

"Once we got up the river the police and the Port of London Authority stopped us and we were all told to moor up.  They said one small boat can go through Tower Bridge to make the protest and it was down to Endeavour to do this with the world's cameras watching.  They raised Tower Bridge for us to go up to London Bridge and then back to join the rest of the fleet.  "We were put on a pleasure boat to go up to Westminster Pier.  It had TV cameras on the bow and everyone got in front of them.  Then the skipper gave out over the loudhailer that everyone must move back because he had lost control as the propeller was half out of the water!  "We did our march along Whitehall and the Embankment to Big Ben where we had a coffin with signs on it saying 'British Fish for British Fishermen' and we launched it from the bridge into the water and watched it float down river until the PLA got it out saying it was a hazard to shipping."
"It was a sad day and I had a bad headache, which for some reason I always did when I went to London.  I asked Dave to drop me off at Tilbury where I got the train home. The next day I talked to my family and Dave and sold him my share in the business and never went aboard Endeavour again until we found her years later in Rochester."

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