Hilary & Alan Hemsley on the African Queen
Fishing with the African Queen
Husband and wife team Hilary and Alan have been running charter fishing trips out of Dartmouth from their historic 67-year-old Dickens Class II vessel African Queen for 13 years.
The couple gave up their homes and jobs in Oxfordshire where Alan worked as engineer and Hilary an accountant, to live Alan’s dream of chartering his own boat.
‘Alan’s always had boats since he was about 20,’ Hilary said. ‘We had a little boat down here and we used to see African Queen going in and out of the harbour
‘Someone told us it was for sale so we sold the house and bought her. We jumped in with both feet. We didn’t want to go through life with a ‘what if’.
‘I love boats and fishing, it’s a great way to earn a living and we haven’t regretted it.
‘Alan was worried his passion would become a chore but the joy of watching a little child catching their first fish, you never lose that.
‘We enjoy watching people catch fish as much as we like catching them ourselves’.
Hilary says charter fishing is ‘very much a man’s world,’ but adds more and more women are enjoying the sport.
‘We also take out a lot of families with children or single mothers with children and they just love it,’ she said.
‘It’s a good clean hobby and gets the children away from the TV’.
The majority of anglers who fish from African Queen are men though, said Hilary, adding: ‘I get an awful lot of people trying to pull my leg but I give back as good as I get.
‘I remember once, four or five matelows’ from one of the big destroyers came out fishing with us for half a day and they spent the whole morning trying to make me blush – it didn’t work though.
‘A lot of the men like me because of their stomachs. I usually make them something nice for their lunch, like a bacon and mushroom baguette. Ninety per cent of the emails we get back mention the food’.
There is nothing Hilary likes better than being out fishing in Start Bay in African Queen. ‘You really can’t beat it,’ she said.
‘She is a beautiful boat and nice and big, you are out in nature and the bay is different every time you go out. The weather is different, the seasons are different. It’s never boring’.
Alan Hemsley writes.. “Running the African Queen enables us to give a lot of pleasure to a lot of people during the course of a year. Serious anglers are our main target, as they will fish all year round and also because we are serious anglers ourselves, Other types of work can give provide us with a payday e.g. film work, “ashes to sea” services, children’s birthday parties etc.
But the biggest part of our business is helping to entertain the many holiday visitors to Dartmouth who are looking for some fun; it’s hard work for the most part, but also very rewarding.
Fish conservation is important to us and is at the top of our agenda. We want our fishing trips to be a success but how many fish do people who are on holiday want to take home to eat? Some species are dead easy to catch. Mackerel can be plentiful around here but as we are not in the business of selling fish, we give our visitors a chance to catch enough fish without depleting the mackerel stocks wastefully i.e. just enough to eat or for bait and then we then go off and target a different species of fish.
Our visitors are often surprised to see so many different species of birds, fish and other marine creatures usually for the very first time. We try to educate kids and their parents alike about what they have caught and to respect its right, if not wanted for the pot, to be returned to whence it came unharmed. Take a fish for the table certainly but we all have to do our best to make sure that these youngsters have enough fish to catch when they become adults and want to become ‘serious anglers’ which many will.”
To contact The African Queen email email@example.com or call 07885 246061
First published May/June 2013 By The Dart