Back in the 1950’s and sixties, well 25 years ago, there were several types of sailing boats. There were “botes de carga” (cargo boats),” tanqueros” (boats with wells), “botes pesqueros” (fishing boats), and “lanchas” (boats for hauling sand). Today we will sail along on board a fishing boat on its way to Glover’s Reef or Turneffe Caye down south for a ten-day lobster fishing expedition.
The journey began early one morning with a crew of five persons at the most. There were five dories or canoes on the deck of the boat.
The speed of the boat was determined by the force of the wind. A breeze of 15 knots per hour was adequate to propel your boat at a very good speed. On board this boat there was cooking equipment and utensils. Most of them had either a two burner kerosene oil stove or one of those fancy pressurized ones. There was also a good supply of flour, rice, beans, pigtails, and several canned goods that only required warming for a quick lunch or supper.
Also on board of this boat was a large ice box, perhaps some 125 to 150 cubic feet. The ice was used to preserve the lobster catch for some ten days. There were several bags of salt which would be used to corn the fish that were speared or caught by line.
The equipment included diving masks, fins, and the popular tool called hooksticks used to catch the lobsters. There were two or three large barrels of water, well water that is. This was used for cooking and drinking only. If you are wondering whether these fishermen took a bath during a ten-day trip, no, they did not. They simply dried the salt water off their bodies and hit the bed after a long day in the sea.
Where did they sleep? In the boat, of course. Some slept on deck wrapped up in the sail or jib. Others slept under the deck, perhaps on some cardboard thrown on some planks of wood. A cardboard box was used as a suitcase and it might have served as a pillow during the night. If you slept downstairs, you had to tolerate the smell of fish and lobster all night long, and the body absorbed all these smells. After ten days, these fishermen did smell like fish, and not even a deodorant nor cologne could remove these smells. They needed a good half an hour bath with good soap and fresh well water.
There were rainy nights when these fishermen would be wet all night long. There were the windy days when the boat would rock all night long. And there were the days with thunderstorms and extremely rough seas in which they would remain on board for a vacation. The fishermen would read comic books, listen to the radio, ook, eat and sleep. At timers these weather conditions would last for up to three days, so they risked diving in murky waters and the fear of a shark attack.
Now you know why it is said that the life of a fisherman is picturesque, romantic, tough, nostalgic, challenging, etc. The glorious days of living in a fishing boat twenty five years ago.
- by Angel Nuñez, Columnist