I love boats and fishing boats in particular, they portray a certain romance even though the profession they represent is far from romantic. It is an extremely arduous job as those that participate or even watch documentaries about fisherman plying their trade in tretches of ocean like the Bering Sea can testify.
Small craft that are moored or sat on a beach or quayside almost ‘stranded’ from their natural habitat appear to have a greater romantic appeal. It is the promise they hold of possible adventures, taking the craft and rowing or sailing away into the unknown.
A sailing boat may offer an equal promise of adventure and I certainly do not discriminate against vessels. Yachts at sunset can be especially evocative and there can be few that have not dreamt of sailing towards a fiery orange sky as the sun slips below the horizon.
However a small fishing craft stranded high and dry on a slipway surrounded by nets somehow appears the unlikely vessels of adventure and romance. It may only be me however that feels in this manner.
Fishermen do not in truth live the romanticised image being portrayed here, theirs is a difficult and often lonely life. Even those that fish local waters in small vessels require to leave early so as to enable them to sell their often modest catch in the markets of the port. They face the extremes of weather everyday, harsh sunlight, strong winds and rough, heaving, rolling seas. Occasionally the angry sea demands a sacrifice, many generations of fathers and sons may have have fished the shores and most families will have lost more than a single loved one to the ocean.
Those that fish from the decks of larger trawlers usually travel greater distances to the richest grounds, spending many days away from loved ones. The size of the craft offer little additional protection against the elements, so far out at sea the waves are still larger and the conditions yet worse. It is a hard, dangerous life which few can cope with and many fail in.
The reduction in fish stocks in recent years has made the task yet more arduous. It has become increasingly difficult for fishermen to make adequate catches and quotas have been installed to protect the plundered seas. Many species of fish from small herring to blue-fin tuna have had their population’s crash, finding new grounds and species is becoming increasingly difficult. This requires travelling greater distances and taking still further risks in search of dwindling stocks.
The blame for this lies with some of the fishermen themselves, especially those that use huge factory ships to capture whole shoals. Stocks dwindle the food chain is broken and eco-systems die, smaller fishermen suffer most.
The crash of fish populations usually results in search for new stocks of food fish, one such species is the orange roughy which was plundered without understanding of its life cycle. It is now understood to be a slow maturing species and its once prolific population soon crashed too; it will struggle to recover.
Many of us will have seen the film “The Perfect Storm” and though it maybe a work of fiction, much of the true story being surmised as there were not any survivors, it seems reasonable to accept its general accuracy. However what sticks in my mind are the words of the principle character played by George Clooney, in which he expresses the joys of captaining a longliner, poetic prose which is definitely romantic in nature.
The exact words fail me and although they could simply be ‘googled’ in this modern age, their general meaning is sufficient for me. Whenever I see a fishing boat leaving or returning to port, glimpse one ‘at rest’ on a beach or fishermen selling their catch and repairing nets the film often comes to mind.
It details the feelings, sights and sounds involved in setting out from harbour on a clear day, the elation as major landmarks are passed, the open ocean reached and how this all equates to the reasons for being a swordfish skipper.
An image cannot fully portray everything the senses experience in a fishing village. They can be assailed by the pungent smell of freshly caught fish, the sounds of filleting and bartering women mixing with the men to purchase the family dinner. Nets are spread all around the dock, in and amongst the boats, men work at repairing them or fixing longlines, there seems little time for rest.
These pictures always manage to transport me back to the time and place however, whether it was Seeb in Oman, Ouranoupolis in Halkidiki or Essaouira in Morocco. They allow me to relive the experience and my thoughts of potential adventure that each boat seemed to offer. I hope that you find them equally powerful and carry you away to further adventures of your own.