Lost and found at sea

Edwin is a fisherman in Monkey Point. Fishing isn’t an easy profession anywhere in the world, but for fisherman in the communities it can be downright dangerous. One day Edwin told me a story about what had happened the month prior.

“We gon out fah set de lines fah catch shark,” he told me as he cut bait to prepare for his next shark fishing excursion.
“How far out do you go?” I asked.
“Bout twenty miles,” he replied. “We gon out fah tree days.”
“What boat do you use?” I asked, noticing only small, open-air pangas on the beach.
“Same one,” he said, motioning to the 16′ panga we just returned in after pulling in his bait nets.
“Wait,” I needed clarification. “You guys go out for three days in the open ocean in THAT?” I pointed to the chipped fiberglass panga he was talking about. There was no roof, no bed, no seats. Just an icebox and a 45hp Yamaha outboard motor. “Where do you sleep?”
“You put deh hammock from side to side,” he answered, pointing to the five-foot width between the port and starboard sides of the boat. I was amazed.
“So…okay,” I stammered, trying to comprehend what it must be like to go on a fishing trip where you have to sleep curled up in a tiny space for three days. “What if it rains?”
He looked at me with a smirk as he gave me the most obvious answer, “You get wet up.”

I asked him to continue his story. He went on to tell me that they had gone out, set the nets and were hauling in a pretty good amount of shark. On the last day, however, the motor quit. He didn’t go into details, but whatever part that had broken was not to be fixed until they could return. So what do you do if you are 20 miles out at sea and your motor leaves your boat dead in the water? What do you do when you have 1000lbs of shark sitting in the bottom of the boat? What do you do when there is no phone, no radio and no paddle?

“We no do noting”

It was another five days before members of the community were able to gather together enough gas and send out a rescue team to find them. The fisherman had been subsiding on fish and melted ice from the cooler. Edwin and his helper had been gone for a total of eight days before they were able to return to Monkey Point. And his biggest regret was that the shark had spoiled and he had lost about $500 in product.

He finished cutting bait and left to grab the gas tanks for his next trip. Fishing can be dangerous but, when you have to put rice and beans on the table, sometimes you have no choice. “Edwin!” I shouted as I began the walk back from the beach. “Don’t forget to bring a paddle!”

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