Tomorrow marks 50 years since the maiden voyage of what was once Fleetwood’s biggest trawler.
The Fleetwood Chronicle covered the launch of the 980-ton Criscilla on its front page.
It described her “space-age bridge, bristling with the latest in electronic aids” – which made it look more like “a jet-plane cockpit than a trawler wheelhouse.”
On the crew’s messdeck, full-length feature films were to be shown to while away recreation time on the five or six-week voyages which the diesel-powered ship would make to the distant water grounds.
She was launched by seven-year-old Elizabeth Hamer. Her father, Mark Hamer, was head of J Marr and Son Ltd, and was on-hand to take ownership of the vessel.
Reporter David Peace wrote: “It is not only in size that the Criscilla – which seemed to dwarf other trawlers as she lay beside the cargo wharf in Wyre Dock – is different from the port’s other fish hunters.”
It was fitted with all the mod cons to make fishing easier work for the crew – including specially-designed winches, a refrigerated fish room, and a special hatch which dropped the fish from the deck into a gutting area – meaning the crew no longer had to gut the fish on the open deck “in the teeth of an Arctic gale, but under cover on the factory deck.”
The crew of the Criscilla had to be kitted out with special clothing to help them cope with the cold temperatures on board.
The skipper of the vessel was 29-year-old Victor Buschini Jnr, of Beach Road, Fleetwood, who said: “She’s a grand ship, and very well-equipped, but no different to handle really than a conventional trawler.”
After carrying out trials in the North Sea, Criscilla arrived in Fleetwood bedecked with bunting, watched by hundreds of people.
The Criscilla then set off from the port – “arousing great interest” – on her maiden voyage to the White Sea, off the coast of Norway and the USSR, on November 24, 1966.
On her 40-day voyage, she returned with 40,000st of fish – plaice, haddock and cod caught in the White Sea, north of Norway.
In 1969, the vessel returned to Fleetwood from a six-week trip to Iceland – with four crew missing.
The had not returned from Reykjavik at the appointed time and skipper Buschini decided to leave without them, in order to reach Fleetwood on schedule.
In 1979, Criscilla took on a new role – roaming the seas of the world on top-secret research missions.
The Ministry of Defence’s Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough paid a reputed £750,000 before refitting the ship for its purposes.
See Tonight’s Gazette for more Memory Lane articles.