The fishermen in my village usually go out in these boats.
Each village along the coastline has its own particular colour scheme. Our village uses orange, white and blue, but there are some fishermen who originally came from another village along the coast where they use green instead of blue.
I always buy my fish from this man.
The boats are made of wood, and the fishermen either row them with wooden oars, or plonk outboard motors on the back, depending what fish they are trying to catch. They go out early in the morning, about 4a.m., so they don’t use their motors till they are away from the houses near the beach.
To catch octopus, they go out as early as midnight and shine lights into the water. This makes the octopi come up to the surface to see what is going on, so they are easier to catch. The fishermen al have a collection of nets for different types of fish, which are different sizes and have different holes and types of thread.
Some nets are extremely long, and they spread them along the entire promenade in front of the sea, to check them for holes and work along them, making repairs. Everyone in the village knows not to step on them, even though they are covering the whole pavement.
“Just doing a bit of embroidery” the fishermen usually say, as they wave at you with their curved bone needles.
This is a larger boat with space to sleep. These are manned by three fishermen, who usually go further out to sea and stay out for three days. They catch more fish, freeze them on board and sell them to wholesalers.
In our village, the fishermen work alone and sell their fish on the beach early in the morning.
Some other fish sellers join them, selling fish from the wholesale market that they have splashed with sea water and defrosted. People from outside the village think they are getting fresh fish, but we locals know who sells the real fresh stuff!
Often, their fish, prawns or calamari are still alive and squirming. If they are not, you can see from the wet, shiny eyes that they have never been frozen.
The easiest way of all to identify who is selling fresh fish is the physique of the fishermen, though. Hauling up a soaking wet net, full of live fish trying to get away, takes immense strength.
The real fishermen are broad-shouldered burly giants. And they all wince when they bend over, because they have bad backs – every last one of them!
The vast majority of the people in our tiny village depend on the sea and the fish for their livelihood. There are six fish-canning and bottling plants in the village, where the women work putting anchovies in jars of olive oil, preserving octopus and canning fresh tuna. The produce is exported all over the world, even as far away as Thailand.
These are the real masters of the sea, though!
If you’e on holiday in Sicily and fancy seeing a fishing village like this one, here’s a list of suggestions:
San Nicola l’Arena