Days and Nights of Freetown – Helping the fishers

I am rarely able to sit still for very long and within an hour of lunch I wanted to explore.  Jan said he would join me; he could do with a walk.  We waded across the river which was now hardly more than the trickle of water and we walked across a mass expanse of flat sand to reach the dunes.  We could see they sat atop a long spit of land, and from where our little river broke into the Atlantic, there spread about 5 kilometres of flat hard beach sand.  We were up for exercise following our long lazy lunch and we set off at a pace.  We passed plenty of other tourists from Franco’s for a while doing something similar but he further we walked the more we met just locals; some kids playing away from the village, the odd fisherman who was checking a boat moored up on the beach.  Off in the distance we saw a huge amount of activity both on the beach and in the water.  It became obvious as we came closer that a whole village had come out in the late afternoon and the fishermen had let out a massive net in a semi circle from the beach.  Several boats were out in the deep keeping an eye on the net which was kept in position by a number of floats.  One boat was holding the far end of the net in position close to the edge of the beach.  A second boat that was  letting out the net was drawing close in to the beach about a 100 m from the first and several men from the beach dashed into the water and grabbed hold of the net.  At this point they arranged themselves on the beach in a line and started to haul the net in.  About thirty people pulled like in a tug of war and dragged the net about half way up the beach.  The man pulling at the back would release his grip on the net, and while some people behind him were folding the net neatly on the beach, the man ran to the water again and took up a new position at the front.  Jan and I watched for a while until people realised we were standing there and smiled.  Jan was a keen photographer and started to take some snaps.  I was invited to help haul in the net so I took my position up near the front and started to pull.  It was horribly hard work.  The net was already heavy but it was loaded down with sea water and some bric a brac – even the occasional fish caught in the string.  But the net, called a seine, was gradually tightening – the semi circle growing smaller and the boats out in the water were checking that it was not losing its grip on the bottom and letting fish escape.  Such a clever simple system – floats on the top to keep the fish from escaping over it, weights on the bottom to stop them from scrabbling underneath, and all the time we pulled the net hand over hand the net tightens and the fish herded closer and closer together.

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On the beach

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