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Stepping ashore after a successful career

Freezer trawler Örfirisey docked in Reykjavík on the 10th of August after a good trip. As so many times in the past, Trausti Egilsson was the skipper and this was his final trip for HB Grandi. There is a career at sea behind him that spans more than forty years. He has been a successful skipper, and this reserved, popular fisherman from Súgundafjörður will be missed now that he has decided to retire.

‘This was a respectable last trip. We went all over for 866 tonnes of ungutted fish and a catch value of ISK248 million,’ he said, adding that this has been a mixed fish trip of redfish, saithe, haddock, Greenland halibut and a few cod. The trip ranged from the Mountains in the south to Hali grounds to the north-west, calling in on the Látragrunn and Víkuráll grounds on the way. As soon as the trip’s catch had been unloaded in Reykjavík, Trausti Egilsson took Örfirisey north to Akureyri for its scheduled three-week maintenance visit to the slipway.

Joined Grandi in 1987

Trausti Egilsson is from a Suðureyri family and was brought up in Súgandafjörður where he also began his seagoing career.

‘I started on local boats, then graduated from the College of Navigation in 1972 with a merchant navy certificate, and took over as skipper of Fjölnir in 1973 or 1974. Fjölnir was a longliner and the first in Iceland with an autoline system. The baiting machine didn’t last long and was soon stripped out, which was simply because it wasn’t good enough. We should have had a Mustad baiting machine on board,’ he said, commenting that he then took over as skipper of Suðureyri trawler Elín Þorbjarnardóttir.

‘I moved south to Reykjavík in 1985 and took over a trawler called Dreki that was owned by Sjólastöðin, and that boat had previously been Bjarnarey. Then I had Dagstjarnan from Keflavík before I started on Grandi’s Ásbjörn. A year later I was skipper on Ásbjörn and then took over Örfirisey when that was bought from the Faroes in 1992.’

He explained that for Grandi to add such a large vessel to the registry, a great deal of tonnage had to leave the fleet first to make way for Örfirisey.  This included Elín Þorbjarnardóttir  as some of its cubic metres were used to smooth Örfirisey’s way onto the Icelandic register. Elín Þorbjarnardóttir was subsequently sold to Chile.

Inshore fishing as a health benefit

It was something of a change for Trausti Egilsson and others in the crew to switch to Örfirisey, which had always been a freezer trawler. Trips were much longer than they were used to on fresher trawlers.

‘It was strange to start with, but it wasn’t difficult. You get used to a month at a time at sea,’ he said, adding that for the last year he has been skipper opposite Símon Jónsson, who was previously chief mate. Now that Trausti Egilsson is stepping ashore, Ævar Jóhannesson takes over as skipper opposite Símon Jónsson, after having been skipper on board Höfrungur III.

What’s next?

‘I’m not expecting to have time on my hands. I bought a small boat some time ago and it’s a health benefit. Then I also spend time in the west of Iceland. My parents still live in Suðureyri and a visit to where I grew up is always a good thing to do,’ Trausti Egilsson said.