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Old 12th January 2016, 20:46   #1
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Default The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

"this is a vegetarian household and you walk in smelling like a bombil. Throw away those clothes in the dustbin and wash yourself with the garden hose"

Thus, having being soundly ticked off at home, I beat a hasty retreat to the garden to make myself presentable <Rewind>

This dates back to the time I went to visit my parents back in Cochin. The best benefit of sarkaari housing is the view and when you wake up to a view like this, you like to see more water.
The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0107.jpg

Its the middle of June and the rain gods are pelting Kerala mercilessly, but since I want to see more water, I decided to traipse along the Fort Cochin Sea Wall and eventually ended up at what is known as the tourist jetty. Being a covered place, one can sit comfortably for hours without being disturbed and then when I saw

The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0110.jpg

My young and impressionable mind decided I too should venture out to the sea, but who in their right minds would take me to sea was the question. Wrapped in such thoughts I crossed what is perhaps the most unique petrol pump in these parts. Built right at the mouth of a canal, trawlers tie up next to it and pump in fuel before reversing out and heading to their berths mostly on Vypin Island. Eureka! I shall head out on a trawler. A few shouted conversations later with the tied up sky blue boat and a funny face, with an impossibly intricate name which I cant till date pronounce, I had a date two days hence at Vypin Jetty at 4 AM. Yikes!

As you can imagine the reception at home was freezing at best. "your life insurance doesn't cover voluntarily taken risks, you know that na" said the father, but looking rather cheerful while saying so. "you're daft and you'll be washed out of the boat, its the monsoons" said the mother wondering what fits of madness would I produce next. The sister was busy drawing up designs on my CD collection, were such predictions to come true.

On the back of such loving thoughts, 18th June arrived blustery and windy, and the poor driver almost drove off the road when I told him the destination was the Vypin fishing jetty.

Having reached the jetty, I set out looking for a sky blue boat with a funny design out front. Anthony, the Captain of the boat told me to take out every single electronic item and lock it up in the lockers. Only later did I realise why it was so important.

So, having stowed away our phones and sundries, we set off, checking in with the fishing department's "Floating RTO Post" for the fishing grounds.

Let me say something about the sea, she's majestic and imperious. Granting favours as she deems fit, and to her; a boat, much less a human are insignificant, mere specks of dirt on her hands. The brown of the harbour and smell of diesel and sewage was soon replaced with a howling fresh easterly and the steel gray of the waves on the open water. White sea foam like drunk horses galloping away furiously on wave after wave. Rising from apparently nowhere and going nowhere. The gentle swells at first which remind of a cradle, soon give way to violent pitching as you crest each wave at an impossible angle and then suddenly its peaceful; for that brief second its like being weightless. In reality you are actually at the highest point of the wave, and then suddenly like being in an out of control roller coaster, you slide down the back of the wave with a resounding thump, each board and rivet creaking and groaning, only to start cresting the next one.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I got sea sick and promptly relieved myself over the side. But then you get used to it, and you can even stand up. However, so as to remind me that it was the monsoon hard driving rain started falling. Each drop like a slap, big, heavy and falling at tremendous speed, your only cover? A huge tarpaulin used to cover the fish holds. Cowering under that smelly tarpaulin sat 11 men quietly contemplative, waiting for the time when the boat would leave the rain behind.

Soon, someone produced breakfast, now mind you these fisher folk are extremely simple but wise. Breakfast therefore is "kanji", which is highly nutritious rice water mixed with a little bit of ghee, served hot in a regular bathroom mug, which is passed around the group, a camaraderie that I've seldom seen.

Suddenly, there was a scream from the lookout who has to stand in the prow of the boat regardless of the weather, "gulls, look over there gulls". Apparently sea gulls are the best way to locate schools of fish around dawn because as the fish rise to the surface to feed, the gulls practice the adage, early bird gets the worm.

Anthony promptly turned the boat over and everyone took up their positions to drop the net. Given that it's the monsoon, seine and mechanical nets are prohibited, but purse nets are not. First a small boat is lowered in which sits one person with the starting point of the net which the mother boat lets out in a wide circle along the periphery on where the fish are, finally ending up at the start point. Having done so, they pull the net closer to the boat, literally like the strings of a purse and voila! In the hollow of the net are the fish. This entire process takes about 4-5 hours, because the net is liable to break if pulled quickly and the fish escape.

Its the strangest sound ever with so many fish thrashing in the net...an unpleasant sound grating on your ears like rough sandpaper on rock. That's however the reality of life. The caught fish are thrown into the hold, where they rest on a slab of salt and ice. I saw many other trawlers out there, each fishing its own patch trading barbs and insults and news of catches over the radios.

Anthony, decided to then head into the deeper water muttering "Aiyla, Aiyla", this it turns out was a terrible idea. A little further out, we were caught in the beginnings of a storm. 12 foot waves, over which you'd ride straight up, or get hit by thousands of liters of water flowing out of the scuppers like a mad banshee with a similar sound. Where arcing thunder and lightning sizzles in the air leaving behind the smell of Ozone. There were waves through which we couldn't see the lookout, he'd duck the crest and the trough, but remain standing rest of the while.

That's when it struck me as to why they lock up their phones and other stuff. The radio,gps and sonar are housed in a waterproof cabinet though. After about an hour of this, Renjith the first mate had about enough and signalled for turning the boat around. Upon inquiring, I was told that we were about 20 kilometers off the coast and the journey back at about 5-6 knots would take almost 3 more hours and all trawlers had to report at the floating RTO no later than 6 PM or face sanctions.

On the way in, I retrieved my phone and took some of these photos.

The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0112.jpg

The stern of the boat where you sit atop the nets on a good day or under the tarpaulin when it rains. Also note the height of the net which is neatly folded up and then used as a sitting place, imagine it being rolled out, its almost 800 mts. long and each segment can weigh upto 90 kilos.

The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0114.jpg

Heading home after a long day at sea

A few sister vessels
The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0115.jpg
The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0117.jpg

The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0104.jpg
A Pana-Max Tanker at the off-shore oil and gas terminal.

The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0116.jpg
Anthony, O Captain, My Captain

The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0111.jpg
Renjith and the Catch of the Day [ps- what is that fish?]

As the fish were being unloaded, Anthony started telling me as to how hard their life is. Each trip costs them between 25 to 30 thousand in fuel and supplies and they need atleast 800-900 kg of fish to turn a real profit, and they must survive on the law of averages to ensure that the season is not wasted. Also, they have no life insurance so if someone is lost at sea, they all chip in and give the family some money. Anthony was then kind enough to direct me to the jetty where I could get a ferry to Willingdon Island.

The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0105.jpg
The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin-image0106.jpg
A few snaps taken on the way back via ferry

However, that's where the happiness ended. Firstly, the DSC Guards refused to let me into the compound. My father did come to pick me up, took one look and told me to walk it home. Tired and weary, I trudge back home, only to be told to wash myself in the garden and throw away my clothes.

However, it wasn't all wasted, my cat thought it was Christmas day come early, and wouldn't stop jumping all over me, suffice to say it attempted to eat different parts of me all night.

A few disclaimers:
This was way back in 2009, so pardon the lack of pictures or the really crappy quality of pictures.
This is my first attempt at writing a travelogue, so reader's tips and comments are heartily invited.
Aiyla-means mackerel

Last edited by GTO : 13th January 2016 at 11:12. Reason: Taking live, thanks for sharing!
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Old 13th January 2016, 11:15   #2
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

Thread moved out from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section). Thanks for sharing!
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Old 13th January 2016, 12:23   #3
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

That was a unique and different travelogue and would love to do it sometime. BTW it is a Tuna your friend is holding.
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Old 13th January 2016, 12:57   #4
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

Wow shady_lawyer. This is absolutely a unique and fantastic experience written very well. Did they charge you for this ride or any document signed from you before this tour?

Actually this is long pending task in my To-Do list. On my last Konkan trip in Nov 2015 I inquired to 4-5 local fishermen about such tour at Devbaug beach but they refused me upfront. I even offered 2K for this ride but in vain.

I could understand their point that there is a high risk involved in it and hence the refusal.

Anyway that was a good experience and thanks for sharing!!

Last edited by GTO : 14th January 2016 at 12:12. Reason: Typo
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Old 13th January 2016, 13:54   #5
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

Great write up Shady, you seem to have had a wonderful time onboard. The boats look very well maintained as compared to the fishing trawlers we see in Bombay. Great pics and thanks so much for sharing.
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Old 13th January 2016, 13:59   #6
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

In the words of Jacques Yves Cousteau - "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."

Amazing experience it would have been and one in a lifetime opportunity.

Most of us would only think of doing something like this and you have already been there and done that.

Just one quick question though - How did they let you travel on the boat, you paid for that or it was a goodwill gesture?

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 13th January 2016, 16:27   #7
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

I loved it thoroughly. While at college one of my friends was into fishery, having their base at Navunda Village near Kundapura. After reading your sweet write-up, I should say, I definitely missed the opportunity of riding into the sea. Good to see you retrieving few photos from 2009. What did you have for lunch, having spent around 6-7 hours at sea, and did you face any bruises due to salt water and weather?
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Old 13th January 2016, 16:52   #8
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

Very well written. As a vegetarian fascinated by the sea, I can relate to it. I was in Konkan in August, just a couple ferries, nothing fancy. So glad I could read this.
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Old 13th January 2016, 20:27   #9
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

I'm a little stunned with everyone's kind words and encouragement. A heartfelt thank you to each one on you. who took some time and read this I'm chuffed.

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Originally Posted by KiranPatil View Post
Did they charge your for this ride or any document signed from you before this tour?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Amit_breakfree View Post
How did they let you travel on the boat, you paid for that or it was a goodwill gesture?
No, I din't pay them anything and neither did they ever even hint, in fact they wanted me to take some fish home. The entire crew were the most down to earth people I've had the privilege to meet.

@Kiran-no document, they just asked rather belatedly (when we were already off) if I knew how to swim and my affirmative answer was enough. I guess it was a more innocent age, or perhaps I was just foolhardy

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Originally Posted by LoneRidder View Post
What did you have for lunch, having spent around 6-7 hours at sea, and did you face any bruises due to salt water and weather?
I was hoping no one would ask me this. Well I dint have lunch as i feared that if I ate I'd be sick again, though Anthony insisted that I drink some more gruel. The crew generally eats fish or vegetable curry with boiled rice which is cooked on board. As for the bruises, nope, but your skin itches like crazy due to the salt. The rain leaves welts though, like the ones you get if you get slapped striking you as it does with great force. This is also why some of them wear full sleeve shirts. It might have been quite a different story had I gone up front, but I stayed resolutely in the stern.

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Originally Posted by Lalvaz View Post
Great write up Shady
Thank you! A little boost to write some more.

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Originally Posted by gadadhar View Post
would love to do it sometime. BTW it is a Tuna your friend is holding.
Aah! So not an aiyla then. It is one of those things that just works out. Do head out one day its a completely thrill a minute ride.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vaibhav_a_a View Post
Very well written. As a vegetarian fascinated by the sea, I can relate to it
Can you imagine their amusement when I refused to take the fish back citing the same reason? They were in splits. Also thank you for your encouragement.
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Old 14th January 2016, 00:32   #10
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

I must say, quite an interesting travelogue and your handle.
I could visualize 'The perfect storm' while going through the narration.
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Old 14th January 2016, 07:09   #11
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

You have a way with words dear sir.

Excellent narrative.

That's a Choora fish by the way.
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Old 14th January 2016, 16:50   #12
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

That was a thoroughly enjoyable read! I don't usually read travelogues, but your opening line caught my attention and I was hooked till the end. I really love your style of writing and hope there's more to come!
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Old 15th January 2016, 13:24   #13
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Absolutely fantastic write up !! Thanks for putting it up. You have a flair for writing and adventure too The day I turned fisherman (Ahem fisherman intern is more suitable I guess).

A very hard life it is, having to do this day in and day out just to be able to feed your family and keep the boat running.
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Old 17th January 2016, 12:09   #14
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

Quote:
Originally Posted by Inner Voice View Post
I must say, quite an interesting <snip> handle.
Haha! I'm glad you thought so. Thank you for your encouragement.

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Originally Posted by batterylow View Post
That's a Choora fish by the way.
I knew that "aiyla" thing was to good to be true. I always imagined tuna to look like something out of a Discovery Channel show, quite unlike this fellow. Thanks for the little boost, encourages one to try harder.

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Originally Posted by SteveSR1 View Post
I don't usually read travelogues, but your opening line caught my attention and I was hooked till the end.
Now that is what I call a catch. All puns intended eh Steve?

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Originally Posted by luvDriving View Post
The day I turned fisherman (Ahem fisherman intern is more suitable I guess). A very hard life it is, having to do this day in and day out just to be able to feed your family and keep the boat running.
more like a barely tolerated stowaway. I could just about find my balance and stand, these chaps were prancing on the heaving deck like Twinkle Toes & Co. Yes, its and extremely hard life but so inspirational in that, despite their hardships they face everyday with a smile. Worth emulating.
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Old 18th January 2016, 09:20   #15
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Default Re: The Brief® - With a Fishing Trawler off the coast of Cochin

Great write up & writing style! Please continue writing!
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