Documentary following life on the English Channel. A tiny tugboat steers a giant tanker safely into port, and young British sailors attempt a speed record to France.
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Stretching from Land's End to Dover...
this is the busiest seaway in the world.
And come hell or high water...
Three, two, one.
No amount of training can ever prepare you for what we faced that night.
..it's open for business 365 days a year.
Over 90% of the world's trade travels by sea.
It's not just TVs and refrigerators, it's everything around us.
Teeming with every type of vessel...
Everyone on board reckons their job is the hardest.
..and a rich diversity of wildlife.
It's kept safe by those who patrol its seaways.
Throw it onto the boat!
Their actions standing between triumph...
SHOUTS OF ENCOURAGEMENT
Ease off, ease off.
..on the unpredictable waters of the English Channel.
Today a tiny tug boat steers a giant tanker
safely into port.
If you delay turning into minutes then you would
be in serious difficulties coming around the turn.
Young British sailors attempt a speed record to France...
So at the moment we're in the middle of the shipping lane.
This is the worst place, really, that the wind would have died.
If we get in front of these big ships then we don't want to be there.
And a boyfriend and girlfriend team try to muscle in
on the whelk fishing market.
If everything comes up empty, all this work was free.
No-one makes any money.
Surrounded on all sides by the sea,
throughout history Britain has always been a nation of sailors.
Sir Ben Ainslie is the most decorated Olympic sailor in history.
But when it comes to deep water sailing,
we're lagging behind.
So on a cold February morning down at the River Hamble
near Southampton, a new generation are about to take to the water.
We'll drop this down here, Will.
Yacht racing Team Concise are dedicated to producing Britain's
future deep water race wins.
Ned Wakefield is the skipper of their 40-foot yacht
and today he's set the boat a hefty challenge.
We're going to race across to Cherbourg
and we're going to try and break the record.
There was a record set in 2004.
It took them seven hours.
We're out to basically beat that.
The forecast is sort of average, it's not really in our favour
but this boat's quite quick.
I think as long as we're really on our game, and pushing the whole way,
we've got quite a good chance of beating it.
We're determined to break the record.
We've got one of the fastest, if not the fastest boat in her class.
We've got everything on board we need
so should be quite good to go.
Will Semken looks after the boat
and made his first Channel crossing when he was four.
I've been sailing since, well, since I can remember, really.
I never think of giving it up.
I tried for a little bit, yeah.
The girlfriend decided that I needed to spend more time at home
and then that didn't exactly work out.
Will may be wedded to the sea,
but even he knows she can be a fickle mistress.
The English Channel is a very weird mix of water
because you've got the amount of sh...
You've got a stupid amount of shipping going down it.
You've got loads of racing and you always get really quite weird
wind systems with the jet stream.
Every time you sail on it, it's never the same.
Sailing to catch the mid-afternoon tide,
Ned and the crew are out on the River Hamble
towards Southampton Water.
So basically this is our only downwind leg
and then as soon as we go around The Needles,
it's peeling to one of our bigger jibs
and then it's going to be a reach all the way across to Cherbourg.
Hoping for the fastest time possible,
the team have left nothing to chance.
We've got so many sails on board
because we sail in so many different angles of the wind.
So what we'll do is Solent up,
this thing down, change the sheets, change the halyards, back up.
Come on, Billy, hoist it.
With over 80 miles between them and France,
and two of the world's busiest shipping lanes to negotiate,
breaking the record is no easy task.
And to beat it they need to maintain an average speed
of 11.5 knots.
They're making good headway.
But as the sun sets two hours into their voyage,
Ned and his crew must navigate the rest of the journey
to Cherbourg in darkness.
We've got about 40 miles to go now,
maybe 45 miles to go to Cherbourg.
Erm, so actually, we're sailing along, doing about 10 knots
over the ground. We're making really good headway.
After the first half of the voyage,
Team Concise are in a good position to break the record.
But with conditions in the Channel changing at a moment's notice,
they're at the mercy of the elements.
The breeze has just got up a little bit,
so we've started to see 16/17 knots of wind.
Basically, the sail we had up is a light wind, up wind sail and
we can't hold it in that sort of breeze. It's just too light.
There is a possibility of the sail ripping.
So it's all hands on deck quickly.
The Concise 8 is now flying at a rate of knots.
But cutting into the shipping lanes at these speeds
isn't for the faint hearted.
We are starting to see some of the ships up ahead of us
so we've got this first shipping lane coming up.
Will, can you just have a look at the AIS and check there's nothing around?
For the team to break the record,
maintaining a direct course is vital.
Below, Will is in charge of monitoring the ship's GPS systems.
Now we're getting up to the shipping lanes, we've got
a couple of ships that we need to worry about.
In the olden days we'd get a hand bearing compass out and work
out where they were and see if you've got closing bearings, etc.
Now we've got something called AIS and it tells us
what their speed, course, direction etc is.
This display will tell us if we're on a collision course
and we need to worry about it.
There is currently two ships out there.
One is on our port bow, which we don't need to worry about.
The one that is on our starboard, we might actually need to worry about.
-I've got that one on the bow.
-Yeah, I've got it.
Yeah, it is undoubtedly unnerving sailing at night.
You can't see anything around you and you have, especially crossing
a shipping channel, you have some fairly big boats.
Or in the fog you have some fairly big boats. It's a similar thing.
We rely so much on sight. Yeah, it can put you off your game completely.
It's why it's so important to have some really good equipment.
Generally, power gives way to sail but because they're massive
and going in one direction and find it quite difficult to manoeuvre,
we'll probably get out of their way.
But it's actually a lot closer than you think.
That's why we make sure we keep a visual eye on the AIS.
The AIS has told us that it doesn't... We're not going to hit it
but the AIS is telling...
This computer is very, very accurate.
That could tell us that we're not going to hit it by about four metres.
We're just going to have a look,
make sure that it's on our personal radar, so we're going to make
sure we give it a nice, clean berth and don't worry anybody.
I'm going to go behind him, but fairly close.
Obviously, I don't want to go in front of it.
For a cargo ship plying these waters, slowing down or changing
course by a fraction can cost thousands of pounds in extra fuel.
Fortunately, without drastic changes in course,
the two ships pass safely in the night.
We had the ability to look down below on the computer screen
and check its speed and heading and we were pretty confident
we knew exactly where it was.
They may be out of the danger zone,
but they can't afford to let their energy levels drop.
Lancashire hotpot, which is one of our favourites.
We quite like it.
In a racing yacht everything is down to the bare bones.
The whole galley's hung on a hook.
When the water's boiled, give it about 30 seconds,
then the ration bag's boiled.
It should be done in about two minutes.
You forget how much you get out of this.
You know, when you're stuck behind a desk and you're in the warm,
you think, "Why are we sailing? Why do we love it?"
Actually, being out here, sailing across to France,
being with a good bunch of guys, being outdoors in some kind of...
Just being out in the elements, there's not much that beats it.
A nice hot meal.
I could be back in Hamble watching TV,
sitting in my bed, nice and warm but...
I wouldn't give up this for anything in the world.
As the lights of Cherbourg come into view,
it's been a valiant effort by Team Concise to break the record.
But, as with all such endeavours, it's the wind that holds sway.
Unfortunately, all these record attempts are so weather dependent.
We had a high-pressure system moving over and the high-pressure
system moved slightly faster than we had anticipated.
We ended up with the breeze further forward than we were hoping.
It just made the record attempt slightly not possible.
We were going to have to average 11.5 knots
and probably on this trip we've averaged something closer to nine.
So it was good, it was unfortunate that we didn't do the record
but it was good training for us, we'd sort of be out here as much
as possible and checking the boat. We can come back again and do it again.
They may not have been successful this time,
but they'll hopefully get a good night's sleep before making
the return journey home tomorrow in as short a time as possible.
SHIPPING FORECAST ON RADIO
Every vessel on the Channel is at the mercy of the wind and waves.
But thanks to the Met Office, and its 500 meteorologists,
sailors of all kinds, now more than any other time in history,
have a better idea about the conditions heading their way.
40 years ago, our ability to predict major storms,
or dangerous storms more than a couple of days ahead,
two or three days ahead, that has changed so much.
Now we can look with considerable accuracy to five days ahead.
Clearly, that's plenty of time to enable ships to take avoiding
action, or maybe never to set sail in the first place.
'Plymouth, North Biscay, southerly veering southwesterly,
'then westerly later, five to seven, perhaps gale eight later.'
We get information, obviously, from satellite these days.
Many ships, also aircraft and, of course, buoys on the sea, as well.
Once we've produced the forecast here, it goes...
We do produce it on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency,
so initially it is sent to them.
They make it widely available through various transmission sources
to all users of the sea, whether it's small boats or big boats.
We also send it to BBC Radio 4,
who then transmit on longwave
and that's been going on for many years.
'South Trafalgar, northerly, four or five...'
The shipping forecast by the BBC is always 330 words long.
A simple, informative and vital resource to all
those in peril on the sea.
I think of people on the ships, particularly
the further away from land they are.
In particular, when there's, let's say,
a more nasty storm coming in, I know how important it is to get this
right, to get that information out there.
That is a big driving force to save those lives at sea,
to avoid unnecessary property and especially life loss.
Of all the vessels, big and small on the English Channel,
out in all weathers, life aboard a fishing boat is
one of the hardest ways to make a living.
And with over 1,000 fishing boats registered along the south coast,
competition is fierce.
Up before dawn, aboard the Gunner's Glory,
a boyfriend and girlfriend team, Kevin and Tash.
We started whelk fishing about three years ago and we do all right.
We're holding our own.
We're not the best boat in the area but we're certainly not the worst.
The best time to fish for whelks is between February and April
and due to growing demand for the shellfish in the Far East,
the catch has become increasingly lucrative in recent years.
But, as with any fishing trip,
you never know what you're going to get.
Everyone on board is a share fisherman, taking a share of the catch.
There are days when we go out and the bait is either bad,
or we put it on bad ground and get nothing.
So no-one makes any money.
We look to catch, or we aim for about a tonne of whelks a day.
around 30 of these bags per day.
We should have a good day today.
Things change in a nanosecond out there.
Yesterday we got one string that came up totally empty.
Whelks are fished by catching them in baited pots,
resting on the seabed.
At the moment they are one of the few fish in the Channel that
aren't regulated by fishing quotas.
Today Kevin and Tash, together with crew member James,
need to haul in the 500 pots that they baited yesterday.
Divided into ten strings, each haul will bring up 50 pots at a time.
But with so many boats after the same thing, stocks are in decline.
There is a lot of boats doing it now, probably too many.
We've got regulations coming in later in the year to cut
the amount of pots we're allowed to use within six miles of the land.
We need to look after the stocks of whelks. They're dwindling.
Rather than take everything now and leave nothing behind.
Whelks prefer sandy but rocky ground
and Kevin uses a GPS sonar to guide him.
We just have to know roughly what's beneath us and make
an educated guess on whether we've got whelks on that type of ground.
But the seabed is constantly shifting,
affected by currents, tides and bad weather.
Man, that's windy. Here she comes.
I'm on the hauler, controlling the boat and getting the pots on board.
James is on the riddle, emptying them and getting them ready for Tash
just to rebait and put down on the decks.
Ready to put back.
Everyone on board reckons their job is the hardest.
With all 50 pots from the first string emptied and bagged up,
Kevin starts his tally.
Tash? What did we get in that one?
Two bags is not good.
Erm, it needs to be three, four - five would be nice.
No-one's actually getting paid until there are 24 bags on board
and then we'll start getting paid.
To break even on the trip, Kevin and his crew need to
catch at least 23 bags to cover the boat's overheads.
Hit 24 and then that's £50 a day each
but you get six more bags and that goes up to £100 a day.
-Yeah, another go.
But it's not just Kevin's crew that's competing for a wage.
We've got another boat sitting just over to the west of us.
If you've got a good patch, people will move in on it, simple as.
You just have to try and hold your ground.
How does that work?
The biggest bloke wins.
With only two bags from their first string,
what will their second bring?
Coming your way.
It looks like things might be improving.
-Are you all right there, Tash?
Even today fishing is considered a real man's job
and a woman crew member is a rare thing.
Tash is the only one at the moment. Some of the other girls have been out.
Some of the girlfriends, but Tash is the only one that's full-time whelking.
Yeah, Tash uses it as a free gym.
So she gets paid to be out here and she doesn't pay gym membership.
But, unfortunately, it's not that type of muscles they're after here.
What did we get out of that?
-Three. What's on the riddle?
-We'll work there on that one, then.
-Just 3.5 bags.
-That's not bad, 3.5 bags is good for us.
Everyone out of the way of those ropes because they're hideous.
One of the most dangerous parts of the job is dropping
the heavy weight off the back of the boat
and getting out of the way of the pots as they shoot into the water.
He's got his leg caught before when we were whelking.
Thankfully, his boot came off and he didn't go over the side.
Though it has happened, not to us, but it has happened to other
fishermen and they have wound up 30 metres down.
If he was to get caught in a rope, I'd shout Kev,
Kevin would stop the boat and we would try and get him back on board.
-No, we will get him back on board!
-We will get him back on board.
He nearly went over, luckily he lost his boot instead.
Yeah, looking good.
But, even a string, even through 50 pots,
the first five can be good, the next 45 could be bad.
The ground changes so much
that one second you're on a good bit of ground,
the next second it's all finished.
Come on, Shorty!
Despite being a couple working in such an intense,
Kevin and Tash haven't let the job affect their relationship.
Work's work, that's how we deal with it.
At work I'm not his other half.
At work I'm just another crew member.
Yeah, we have our ups and downs but generally speaking, we're all right.
He certainly doesn't see me as his girlfriend at work.
We work together, we kitesurf together,
so we're with one another a lot of the time
so we have a rule at the end of the day,
you have ten minutes to say your piece about the day.
Where I will say my piece, anyone else can say their piece
and we work it out from there.
As soon as that's finished, job done.
Go home, forget about everything.
But home seems a long way away as their lucky run seems to have
taken a turn for the worse.
Not so good as the others so far.
We're down to around six or seven whelks in a pot now,
which is no good at all.
It started off OK...
The bait hasn't even been eaten.
No-one's on a payday yet.
If everything comes up empty, all this work was free.
No-one makes any money.
While fishermen search the ocean depths to bring us
the spoils of the sea, in the Channel's industrial ports,
cargo from around the world is guided to our shores.
Graham Pearson is the master of the Phenix,
one of six tug boats towing and escorting huge oil tankers in
and out of Southampton Water and Fawley oil refinery.
The reason we escort crude oil tankers through the Solent
is that there are certain points in their navigation through
the area that are particularly narrow, shallow.
If they get steering failure, we are able to produce steering forces
to steer them around the narrow areas of the Channel.
What can happen in these tricky waters was made all too plain
just a month earlier.
The area that we're navigating today is the same area
where the Hoegh Osaka, a large car carrier,
got into difficulties.
Today, Graham and his crew are responsible for the safe
escort of the Tempera, a crude oil tanker,
measuring over two football pitches long and almost 180 feet high.
And the number two on the Phenix, Ollie Amil,
has a vital role to play in ensuring a safe passage.
Basically being the captain's eyes and ears on deck
and relaying the communication
up to the captain as soon as we are fast.
Ollie has been working on the Phenix tug for six years.
Generally, shipping, you're keeping away from large vessels,
with tug vessels it's the complete opposite.
You're trying to get close to the vessel and, erm,
up close and personal, as it were.
Quite impressive, because you're so close to such a large vessel.
The first job is to attach itself to the stern of the oil tanker.
So I'm just going to hitch a...
I'm going to hitch into this messenger now
and I'm going to tell them to... Give them a signal to wind it up.
They're going to pull it up now.
This is a lighter line which allows them
to heave on our main tow line there now.
The ship will attach that to their winches
and they'll winch up our main tow line.
Dwarfed by the giant tanker,
the powerful Phenix is almost ready to help guide the ship into harbour.
The tug in terms of the size of the ships that we deal with
is punching way above its weight.
When in escort mode,
we've got over 7,000 horsepower of engine power.
In terms of the size of the tug, the horsepower is very, very large,
which enables us to assist crude oil tankers
in excess of 250,000 tonnes.
Captain Graham will be using his tug to take over
the steering of the tanker.
We are going to provide the steering forces aft so that the ship
completes her turn successfully into the Thorn Channel.
It is a particularly narrow and shallow area of the Solent.
It's up to the pilot on board the Tempera to tell Graham which
direction he wants the tug to manoeuvre the tanker,
as it gets in position to make the big turn into the Thorn Channel.
-Phenix, if you come out on the starboard side now, please,
and we'll try it with quarter weights.
Phenix, quarter weight on the starboard quarter.
So you can turn me to port.
Yeah, copied on the Phenix.
Currently, Graham and the Phenix's aft line
are pulling the tanker around to port.
But as soon as it's heading one way,
they've got to prepare for the next manoeuvre.
Phenix, if you work your way round to the port side, please. Standby.
Onto the port side and standby.
The tanker's pilot also decides how much power the tug
should use to steer his ship.
Quarter weight and then steady.
Phenix, quarter weight.
-Up to half, please.
-Up to half.
Because it takes so long for the tanker to turn, it's vital
that Graham responds immediately to the pilot's instructions.
Phenix, three quarters.
That's the Phoenix all stopped.
Phoenix all stopped.
That is the ship steady now so we just stand by now,
ready for the next manoeuvre into the Thorn Channel.
Your margin for error is particularly reduced in that area.
You have to be very precise with your navigation,
make sure your ship's head is exactly where you need it to be.
We need to be concentrating all the time now.
If you delay turning into minutes,
then you would be in serious difficulties coming round the turn.
Navigating £35 million worth of cargo down a narrow channel
is a slow and exacting business.
But as the day breaks back in Cherbourg,
skipper of the Concise 8 racing yacht, Ned Wakefield,
is determined to squeeze every ounce of speed out of his boat.
I'd a few hours' kip last night
so we're preparing to do our next challenge which is back to Hamble.
We've set ourselves a 7.5 hour goal,
so we're going to push the boat pretty darn hard
and see if we can do that.
After failing to set a record on the way here,
Ned wants to set a personal best time on the way back.
Today personally, I have to admit I would be pretty disappointed
if we don't beat this time goal we've set ourselves.
The problem is, when we do things like this,
we are such competitive people,
we just have this inherent drive in ourselves.
We will be frustrated if we don't do it, so every time we go to sea,
it's really important that we make sure we're recreating
a race situation.
Leaving Cherbourg in good weather, they only have light winds
and set off with a renewed determination.
A beautiful morning for a sail.
You can see it's nice and early, the sun's out, slightly brisk,
but we're looking forward to it.
It's not long before they pick up some unexpected passengers.
A pod of bottlenose dolphins.
Attracted by the bow pushing through the water,
they are getting a power boost to a new feeding ground.
Or maybe they're just having fun.
For some, seeing a pod of dolphins
this early in the year is a good omen.
But as soon as they appear, they're gone.
The team are left to handle the rest of the crossing alone.
We've just left Cherbourg behind us.
We've got about 10 knots of wind, which is OK, that's what we forecast.
We've just put up our big mast,
so we've effectively got a broad reach across back to The Needles.
So I think, so far, we're on track.
We're doing nine knots through the water and the average
I wanted to achieve was eight so we're above target at the moment.
As long as we can keep this up the whole way,
we should beat our 7.5 hour record.
It's a good start, but the English Channel is unpredictable
and as they head north, the mood changes as the wind drops.
Come on, breeze! We could do with a little bit more.
The breeze is actually dying off now. We have eight knots.
Our average boat speed is going down. We're still just on the cusp.
I just had a look at the computer
and we're probably half a mile off the pace at the moment,
so I've got Will down below trimming.
You can just feel it now, we've had a puff,
so we've gone back up to 12 knots of breeze
so as long as we keep that going, we'll still be on pace.
I'm pretty happy on trim, four and a half trim.
Can I get you to unclip that kite, mate?
Chuck it below.
We're still probably a quarter of a mile off where we should be,
so we've just got to really keep pushing.
Let's keep the race pace up, as it were.
So we're all right on this at the moment.
As they struggle to keep the pace up,
the next challenge is the shipping lane.
We're just going to keep a visual.
We're coming up to the shipping lane
so boats will be coming left-to-right,
so just keep an eye out.
Once we cross that, we're in the transition zone
and then we're into the next one with the ships coming the other way.
The next hour or two are quite important.
I don't really want to divert course.
I'm sailing at the fastest angle at the moment
but we've got a waypoint which is where we're going to, The Needles,
and we want to sail as quickly as we can to that point.
If I have to divert off of that, I'm sailing more miles
and I'm sailing at a slower angle.
We're up against it, if I'm honest.
Then just at the wrong time, they lose the wind.
We're just going across the busiest shipping lane
and the wind has just completely shut down,
so things are getting pretty interesting.
We're doing two knots of speed over the ground
and we've got a fairly large shipping tanker just coming behind us,
so at the moment, middle of the shipping lane,
this is the worst place that the wind could have died.
Obviously, the problems are,
getting in front of some of these big ships and their distances are huge.
We really don't want to be there,
so we just have to make sure we're really careful
and looking around and talking to the other ships
and make sure they know our intentions,
they know our course,
they know the fact that we actually cannot change our boat speed
because we're sailing.
As they get closer, the tanker wants to know what they're doing.
This is Concise 8, over.
We just want to know your intention.
Our intention is to currently carrying on sailing
and avoid you.
You are maintaining your course and speed?
Yes, we are maintaining course and speed.
OK, I will pass you.
Thank you very much.
We've let them know that we are going to maintain course and speed
and that way, they know what we're doing and they can make sure
that if they need to, they can change their course.
So, it's a tense time at the moment.
Just in the nick of time, the ship passes close behind.
We've narrowly avoided a fairly large tanker behind us.
It's not just the one tanker they have to worry about,
as ship after ship comes into view.
Slightly worrying because we haven't got a huge amount of steerage
and we have these large ships around
so we're just keeping a real visual
and making sure we're keeping radio contact with the ships
and letting them know what we're doing.
We've got to hope the breeze picks up.
Fluffing around like this, we're now doing 1.7 knots over the ground.
Just like on the way over, things haven't gone their way.
We've still got absolutely no wind
and we're way off our target now.
It's not going to be any possibility that we can get in
in our seven and a half hours.
In the end, skipper Ned makes a decision to abandon the attempt
and motor out of the shipping lanes to safety.
With no wind, his seven-hour challenge
turned into a 14-hour epic.
To be honest, that's sailing.
We're completely at the mercy of the elements.
That's why we love it. That's why it's exciting.
It's out of our control, so, OK, we didn't beat our challenge,
but we had some really good training conditions,
we pushed ourselves, we pushed the boat
and we've made it back, so, all in all, we can take lots from the trip.
Beyond the behest of wind and sail,
the workhorses of the Channel's ports rely on their powerful engines
and, in the Solent, the tug boat Phenix is about to manoeuvre
the giant oil tanker Tempera as it makes its final big turn
up towards the Southampton docks.
It's... The Thorn Channel is up between the buoys up there.
That's where we're heading.
That's the direction that we're aiming for.
-Up to half.
-Up to half.
The tanker is being entirely guided by the tug
and £35 million worth of crude oil is in Captain Graham's hands.
-Take it up to three quarters, please.
-Phenix, three quarters.
The pilot seems very calm so I think everything is under control.
Hello, Phenix. We'll take it back now. Thanks very much.
Just drop to stern.
Yeah, drop rudder stern. OK, thanks very much, Bill.
That's all right. It's very reassuring, that.
With the turn complete,
the plucky little tug has shown its worth to the giant tanker.
That represents the crude oil tanker
and that's the approach into the Thorn Channel,
this being the Thorn Channel.
Now aligned down the narrow channel, a second tug joins the Phenix.
She's going to go up and make fast on the port-side
and she will assist the ship and help to push her onto the berth.
But there's still one vitally important job for the Phenix to do.
A loaded crude oil tanker of approximately 100,000 tonne dead weight,
that is the tonnage of the cargo on board,
without assistance from a tug,
would take several miles to come to a complete stop.
With our assistance, the vessel will be stopped
within half a mile or so.
We're approaching berth five now,
so it won't be long before the pilot asks us to put weight on astern
to stop him.
When tankers carry such valuable cargo,
time is money and, before off-loading,
the Tempera must first be turned through 180 degrees
so it's ready to embark on its next voyage.
We're going round to this side of the ship
so we can help it manoeuvre around,
as before we were slowing it up and stopping it.
So, now, the main objective is to manoeuvre it round
and get it alongside the berth.
The first time it is, you know, quite exciting
because it's something new.
You're up close with the vessel and, as I say, you're in awe of the power
that the tugs have and the manoeuvrability
and how much a ship depends on you, really.
It goes to show, you know, if we are needed to be used in anger,
we can and we're very effective at doing it. Some people don't...
They look at the tug and think it's small compared to the ship,
but it packs a hell of a lot of a punch.
After safely guiding the tanker
and its multimillion pound cargo to its berth,
the Phenix and her crew have earned a well-deserved rest.
But still out at sea on the whelk fishing boat Gunner's Glory,
there's no let-up and things are going from bad to worse.
Now, this string? Absolutely terrible.
There's hardly anything in any of the pots.
I have to say, the stand-up temp has really been doing grand.
-They don't work that well in...
-In big tides.
If Kevin, his girlfriend Tash and crew member James
don't catch enough to cover the cost of the boat, bait and insurance,
they may go home without making a single penny.
-You ready, guys?
-I need some information from you.
-What do you want?
We've got... We're towing a dan. I didn't know we were towing a dan.
The weight's nearly ready to go. You're the eyes on deck.
With the last couple of strings bringing up next to nothing,
they're well down on their original target of 30 bags.
We could just be over a slab of rock.
Just a bit of ground that whelks don't like.
Some ground they just don't like.
Nothing in that one, either.
Please, God, make us get two bags out of this.
We're likely to hit two.
Yeah, I know.
Let's see if this string works.
Nearly empty again.
What's that? One bag?
Not good. Not good at all.
They've only managed to catch 16 bags' worth of whelks
after pulling up seven of their ten strings.
Going to run it off the end of this one.
They've got just three more strings to try and make it
to at least 23 bags, the point where they start to earn money.
-Do you want to wait?
-No, no, no.
-We're nowhere near where we want to be.
-No, not yet!
They've certainly got their work cut out
but, for Kevin, a life at sea has its compensations.
I love being out here.
We've got various other jobs we go to later in the year,
while James carries on netting to make his living.
It's just a balance of the three of us making a living.
And not wanting to be in an office.
A fisherman's life has nothing if he doesn't have patience
and it looks like Kevin and the crew's hard work
might be about to pay off.
Oh, my God!
That's a good pot.
We're about halfway down this string.
Doing all right, aren't we?
21 bags so far.
They could be on target for a decent haul
but it's been a long shift getting there.
-That was close, wasn't it? Did you see that?
-Did it get your fingers?
-No, it had my glove off the end quick.
Put my hand in the wrong place.
-As I was moving,
I just caught the rope in my hand and put my glove through there.
If my fingers had been in it, I would have had broken fingers.
-How many did we get out of that one?
He's done. We've got one more to go.
They've made it to 23 bags and finally break even.
Everything rests on the final string to see if they'll get paid
for all their hard work.
-We can't make up to a full day's pay.
-Well, we don't know yet.
-Unless this string comes up...
-With six bags.
-With six bags, yeah.
It's only the first one.
Christ, I didn't even hear a whelk in that pot.
The first few pots don't look good,
but things start looking up.
-Strewth! Some whelks!
-Is that whelks? Yay!
The final string has produced another three bags,
making their total a healthy 26.
They've earned £50 each on the trip
and it's time to head back to shore and unload.
Oh, get it up there!
By the end of the season, I look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Guns on her arms.
The whelks will now be transported abroad,
feeding popular demand for the shellfish in the Far East.
Diamond. Cheers, bud.
The crew of the Gunner's Glory may not have earned
as much as they'd hoped
but, for them, any day out at sea is worth it.
What was looking like a very good day turned out to be an average day
but an average day is still way better
than being in an office and having a boss.
I'd still rather be out there.
Whether it's for work, adventure
or the vital job of keeping these waters moving,
the English Channel is an office that never closes,
for all its inhabitants.
A tiny tug boat steers a giant tanker safely into port, young British sailors attempt a speed record to France, and a boyfriend-and-girlfriend team try to muscle in on the whelk-fishing market.
Surrounded on all sides by water, Britain has always been a nation of sailors. Sir Ben Ainslie is the most decorated Olympic sailor in history, but when it comes to deep-water sailing we are lagging behind. Yacht-racing team Concise are dedicated to producing Britain's future deep-water sailing champions - starting with a record-breaking attempt on the crossing from the UK to France. But with busy shipping lanes and unpredictable winds to contend with, it's certainly not plain sailing.
They, like every vessel on the Channel, are at the mercy of the wind and the waves. But thanks to the Met Office and its 500 meteorologists, who've been producing the Shipping Forecast for the last 40 years, they at least have some advance warning about what's coming their way.
Also reliant on this vital service are the Channel's many fishing crews. Despite the bitter cold, boyfriend-and-girlfriend team Kevin and Tash are out in all weathers trying to earn their living from the winter whelk-fishing season. It's back-breaking work - and there's a good chance they may come home with nothing.
And proof that size certainly isn't everything, tiny tugboat the Phenix punches well above its weight as it helps to guide massive oil tankers measuring two football pitches long and 180 feet high through the Solent's hazards and safely into Southampton.