Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pulau Weh: A Fisherman's Tale

This lithe, sinewy fisherman, with skin the color of finely polished leather and calloused hands of iron has been combing the tropical waters around Sabang for thirty years.  He once brought in a 120 kilo marlin equipped with only a weathered handline from a shaky, ten-foot dinghy, a feat of skill and overt masculinity that would make Hemingway blush.  During our stay, amongst other trophies, he landed a 40 kilo giant trevally and shrugged off the accomplishment, snapping a quick photo with his worn camera phone and hastily hauling his catch off to the market.

Ten years ago, his then teenage son (unpictured) made regional headlines as disaster struck when the small vessel he was on with two others was trolling the fabled fishing grounds of Pulau Rondo (an uninhabited islet 30 miles northwest of Sabang).  Notoriously storm-prone, but rich with large pelagic species, many an islander has been lured to these waters only to meet an untimely demise on the unforgiving open ocean.

Drifting aimlessly after an engine failure, the listless boat and its tiny crew was swept seaward by a particularly robust cyclone and spent twelve harrowing days under the firmament.  With the lack of a proper working radio and only divine providence and some favorable winds as its guide, the craft miraculously made land in Colombo, Sri Lanka... over 1,200 miles away.  Now grown up with children of his own, the wayward fisherman still plies his trade daily, yet sticks close to shore.

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