When fourth-generation fisher Tiger Davey and his wife, Prue, decided to have a baby, it was never in doubt that the newest addition to the family would be an integral part of their life together at sea.
Elica came into the world in June, just as her parents and the rest of the FV Wild Card crew were completing a refit and preparing to take the boat back to the Gulf of Carpentaria for mackerel season.
Taking the baby girl with them was always part of the plan.
“We get the beauty of being at work and being with our kid 24/7 no matter what happens … which I’m over the moon about,” Mr Davey said.
“I’d hate the idea of having to leave her to go to sea for six months, that’d be really difficult for me to do, so I’m very stoked that we can all be together.”
While many people have come to terms with working from home during coronavirus restrictions, professional fishers are used to their home also being a workplace.
“So, I think it gives us the opportunity to really be able to be full-time parents and full-time workers as well.”
Fifth generation in family fishing legacy
Life on a professional fishing boat is never dull and the lines between work and life can be quite blurred, so how is caring for a newborn going to fit into those demands?
Ms Davey said she had no qualms about bringing a baby into a working environment in one of Australia’s most remote fishing grounds.
Whether it was plonking her daughter into a lug basket on the deck as a makeshift cot, or changing nappies on the chart table in the wheelhouse, she seemed to be taking motherhood aboard the Wild Card in her stride.
“I grew up on a farm; as far as danger’s concerned, there’s not really much difference, it just changes the angle of what you’ve got to worry about, but mostly it’s what we do, it’s our life, so she fits into that beautifully,” Ms Davey said.
“It’s opened our eyes to the importance of taking that time, when it’s there, to be a family and step away from work.
Having met her husband on the Wild Card five years ago, Ms Davey said she was instantly “addicted” to the lifestyle and the responsibility of being part of a family-based professional fishing operation.
“I am proud to be a part of that family, and even prouder to introduce myself as a professional fisherman to people I meet and see,” she said.
“But I’m also looking forward to seeing what that entails for Elica, how that pride rides through and the legacy behind her of such a wonderful and beautiful profession.”
Baby on board
Having Elica on board the Wild Card is a case of history repeating for the Davey family; her father and his two siblings, Johanna and Elspeth, grew up on the boat, too.
It was a legacy of which Mr Davey’s parents, Bruce and Juanita, were justifiably proud, even though the concept of modern parenting might take a bit of getting used to for the seasoned fishers.
“Paternity leave? My grandfather, my dad, all my uncles, me — none of us had any time off — but my son, Tiger, sprung it on me six weeks before the baby’s arrival,” Bruce Davey said.
“But no, Tiger and Prue took some time away from the boat to enjoy parenthood, so it’s been a delight to see them adapt to a new baby and she’s so gorgeous.”
Not your average grandma
For Juanita Davey, the arrival of the newest crew member is a dream come true.
After raising and educating her own children, she’s embarking on her 36th successive mackerel season on the Wild Card.
It’s an astonishing feat for anyone, but the physical demands of the job have started to take a toll on her body, and she and Bruce are ready to let the next generation take the helm.
But for the next season or two, Juanita’s motivation to remain on the boat was stronger than ever.
A ‘happy distraction’ at sea
For her part, Elica appeared oblivious to the hive of activity going on around her, with the usual last-minute chores associated with heading back to sea.
As crew members paused to hold the baby or steal kisses, it was clear they were as smitten as her parents and grandparents.
But would the baby be a distraction once the real work began at sea?
“A happy distraction, I hope,” Tiger Davey said.
“We were worried that bringing a child into a workplace could be potential for issues or disgruntlement, but everyone just loves her as much as we do, which is exactly the environment we wanted.