THE former boss of a fisherman feared dead at sea says he was planning on quitting his life on the water in favour of a job on land.

Ian Bickerstaff said missing Robert Morley, who was “like family” to him, has left “a big dent” in his life.

The fishmonger last saw the 38-year-old fisherman just a day before he set off on the trip, when he was “full of beans”.

Robert had previously worked with Mr Bickerstaff for many years.

The Argus:

The incident has left the business owner contemplating whether he wants to continue fishing anymore.

“Poor Robbie was with our company for many, many years. He is like family to me. Robbie started fishing with our family many years ago, he came through the grade.

“I was with him the day before he went to sea and that is the last time I saw him.

“He was a lovely local lad and he was full of beans all the time. He loved his fishing.

“Robbie only left us and moved away from Newhaven because the rich pickings were better in the west country.

READ MORE: Heartbreak as search called off for missing fishermen on sunken boat

“He did say to me that he was planning to pack up soon and was planning to get a job on land. That is the sad thing.

“To be honest, we certainly won’t find him alive, I hope we find him to bury him.

“I’m particularly getting to the stage where I don’t want to do it much more.

“One, because of family and two, the rewards are very little now.

“It has left a big dent in me. The whole of my family is devastated.”

The Argus:

Boat skipper Dave Bickerstaff, Ian Bickerstaffs nephew’s son, was rescued from the water off East Sussex after the 45ft scallop vessel overturned.

He was found holding on to a lifebuoy almost four hours after the tragedy off the coast of Seaford.

READ MORE: Heartbreak as search called off for missing fishermen on sunken boat

A third fisherman, 26-year-old Adam Harper, is also missing.

“Dave is a well mature skipper, knows exactly what he is doing with a very good fishing vessel underneath him. Somethings gone wrong,” Mr Bickerstaff added.

“It was very hard talking to him at the time because he was quite cold and disorientated. He’d been in the water a few hours.

The Argus:

“I’ve spoken to David and he told me that he and Robbie got off the vessel but Adam was still in it. We presume he is still on the ship.”

One of Mr Bickerstaff’s vessels had been fishing alongside the Joanna C, which sank, nine hours prior to the disaster.

They had passed the ship several times that day.

“It is the hazards of the sea. It is a dangerous job and we have been doing it nearly 50 years now as a family. We’ve had our ups and downs and had near misses.

“My vessel was fishing alongside him probably nine hours prior to the incident. Weather conditions were a little bit rough but nothing that vessel couldn’t have handled.

READ MORE: Heartbreak as search called off for missing fishermen on sunken boat

“It has done that job hundreds of thousands of times.”

However, despite the “freak accident”, Mr Bickerstaff believes captain David will continue to set sail.

The Argus:

Missing fishermen Adam Harper and father Robert Morley

“David is a strong lad. He was in charge of the vessel and only he will know exactly what happened.

“What David told me happened, we have had happened to our vessel several times but nine times out of ten you get away with it. It is just the freaky time when everything doesn’t stack up.

“When you are at sea and it is a little bit sloppy and the odds are against you, you need lady luck. He didn’t get lady luck that night. These boys are professional men and they do a professional job. They all know what they are doing and they have all been trained to do what they do. Something went wrong. It was just a freak accident that doesn’t happen every day of the week.”