7 - Stories from Galicia 1961 :
by Michael Furstner
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Sardine fishing with Bembaree
Bembaree (blue eyed Spaniard, younger member of the same family as Joseliño)
finally gave in to
my repeated requests in 1961.
Every time I visited Caión I tried to get
someone to take me on one of their sardine fishing trips out to sea, the rough Bay of
Biscay, but nobody wanted to do that, afraid that something might happen to me.
But Bembaree, the most daring young fisherman in the village, thought "what the
heck" and took me with him one night.
(The blue crane is new. Our boat was pulled up by the grey one to its left. In the distance La Coruña.)
The fishing fleet usually went out twice during a night. First
trip leaving shortly after 7 PM returning at midnight, the second, after unloading their
catch, going out again at 1 or 2 AM and returning around daybreak.
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I went on the
early shift. It was a windy night and the sea quite rough. I was ordered to sit in the
back and stay out off the way of everyone else. The boat, like all the others, was
rather small, 6 meters (20 ft) long perhaps, not much more, carrying the captain
Bembaree plus three crew.
Out to sea one of the crew became sea sick. I felt
fine, lit a cigaret with my contra viento y marea and smiled. After perhaps an
hour or two the crew threw the dropnet anchor buoy overboard, then started to reel out
the 500 meters (1700 ft) long, 2 meters (7 ft) deep net while steaming away from the
buoy. Once the net was stretched out in the water, Bembaree slowly completed a 360°
circuit around the buoy.
I will never forget the magical scene that followed.
Under the light of the moon and
a hissing, sputtering, brightly lit carbide lamp above the fore deck, the net was slowly
hauled in from across a horizontal, 90cm (3 ft) long wooden roller, fixed between the
tops of two vertical poles at the very front of the boat. Two men, one on either side of
the roller, started pulling the lively shaking, silver gleaming sardines (15+cm, 6+
inches long) from the net, dropping them on the fore deck, while a third crew kept
pulling in the net. Soon all three crew were standing over ankle deep in an ever growing
solid mass of wriggling silver fish.
When the entire length of the net was finally hauled in and the anchor buoy pulled on
board we headed back home. The wind had remained strong however, blowing right into
Caión harbour and it was impossible to moor onto the quay normally, as the boat
was wildly moving several meters up and down on the rough waves.
eventuality a couple of small cranes, with two large size lassos hanging from each of
them, were installed right alongside the waterfront.
Bembaree attempted to jump across from our boat onto
the quay, but missed and fell into the water, narrowly missing our violently moving hull,
but he was safely pulled ashore.
One of the cranes was turned by manpower over the water above our boat, then the two lassos (of
steel wire or strong hessian rope ?) were lowered and pulled, one on each
end, underneath our boat. This way, boat, catch and us crew, were safely pulled up, rotated back
over land and gently put down on some wood blocks on the quay.
I climbed out onto the quay and received a
complimentary large flat crate full with the freshest sardines possible.
returned to my hotel. It was now midnight but all Caión pubs were open all night,
and I passed on my fresh catch to the kitchen, where the chef immediately started to prepare the fish and returned them to me and my friends in the
bar within 15 minutes : perfectly grilled sardines, liberally sprinkled with coarse sea salt.
Hungrily consumed by us with large slices of bread and carafes of rough Galician wine. Boy,
what a night, what a feast, I will never forget it, what a life did we have back in those days!!
PS : July 2010
My former fellow student and geology colleague Charley Arps has just returned from a holiday in Galicia. Passing through Caión he was kind enough to take several photos for me there, including a nice shot of Caión harbour and of the main hotel and bar we used to stay.
Copyright © 2010 Michael Furstner