On our trip up the Red Sea, we often shared our anchorages with local
fisherman. Like fishermen everywhere, they were full of waves and smiles.
The life of a red sea fisherman borders on the arduous. They are totally
exposed to the elements, and on many dhows, there's no protection from the sun except from
their headgear and clothes. If the weather turns really nasty and the rain
pours down, they'll probably pull out a blue plastic tarp to keep themselves
You can spot their toilet hanging over the port side on the stern - a poop
deck of sorts. Those vertical timbers and wooden slats are all they have at
their disposal when mother nature calls.
They have the ocean to bathe in and a small stove on which to cook their
A single 75 horsepower Yamaha takes them to their destination, and a rusty
rebar anchor keeps them safely moored at night.
This dhow has a few additional luxuries not found on the most basic fishing
boats. It has a small shelter in the back of the boat which gives
fishermen shade from the burning sun. They also have a small sail that
they can deploy when wind conditions are favorable in order to conserve
fuel. Fourteen people live on this boat which stays out for weeks at a
When the northerlies are blowing over twenty-five knots, the fishing boats
anchor with us in the shelter of the islands and reefs that dot the western
coast of the Red Sea. They use a homemade rebar coral pick anchor to
hold their vessels into the wind. Fortunately, the winds don't often
shift direction, and once their anchors are set, they have a secure refuge
from the boisterous Red Sea wind tunnel.
These small fishing boats have an insulated compartment amidships, and
before they set off for a week of fishing in the Red Sea, they fill their
homemade ice chests with large blocks of ice. The ice vendors drop the
blocks of ice on a tarp, and the fishermen cut the large blocks into smaller
chunks that fit into their ice compartments. Without the ice, the fishermen
would have to return home every night with their catch. Fuel is too
expensive for daily fishing trips, and ice makes it possible for these hardy
fishermen to stay at sea for a week at a time.
The Red Sea fishermen are a pleasant and happy lot. You don't need a
million dollars to have a million dollar smile.