The older I get, the more respect I have for African farmers, and now fishermen. Sometimes – maybe most of the time – we in the west may look down on those who use the old ways of fishing as “backward”. But really, they are 10 times the mariners we are now with our fuel driven motors, our GPS navigation, our auto pilot, and mechanically driven machines for retrieving our fishing gear.
Malagasy fishermen practice the mariner skills lost generations ago in the north. Not out of some folksy reflection on the past, but as their way of life. They live much of their lives 6 inches below the surface with 12 inches of freeboard in their canoes, some that are not 2 feet wide. They put their sails up each day to get where they are going, then may anchor and fish over the side with a hook and line hand line, or set a small gillnet and haul it by hand. All out on the big ocean.
Watching them paddle is also a joy. They know how to paddle on just one side of their canoe, using a sort of J stroke at the end of each sweep to keep the boat steering straight- something I’ve never mastered. Lots of purely innate courage and skills these fishermen still have. When the fuel runs out or we kill ourselves fighting over it, it’s somehow a comfort to me to know these people will continue on as they have, and maybe get their turn at running the world for awhile.