I loved Vietnam. I loved everything about it including the people, the food and the scenery. But one of the things I loved the most was the round boats that sat on the sands of China Beach.
I noticed my first one near sunset when we first stepped on onto the fine white sand. Something about the shape of it drew me in and I wanted to see more. So I walked over to a red one pulled up on the shore. It was full of fishing nets in the bottom with two simple oars resting on the top of the nets. A white plastic bucket fit in along the side of this beautiful red vessel that looked like something the Owl and the Pussycat surely would have sailed in.
These round boats are hardly unique in the world but they are abundant here. They are crafted of split bamboo which is dried in the sun, bent, woven into shape, and then tarred or varnished in order to waterproof the craft. They are excellent at repelling ocean creatures that bore into wood boats but leave these beautiful baskets alone. They are used because they are flexible, light weight, and are capable of carrying a heavy load. But one of their biggest assets is that they are able to pass through the rough surf that dots that Vietnamese coast allowing lone fishermen to get out to sea quickly and easily.
I come from a long line of Nova Scotia and Massachusetts fisherman. My 2nd great grandfather, Angus McKay, was the captain of the Marsala, a John Pew and Son company boat. He accidentally stranded on a reef during a fierce snowstorm in 1889. Angus died from exposure and pneumonia leaving a young wife and family. Mr. Pew hired my great -grandmother as his secretary and saved the family from ruin. Back then, fisher folk looked out for one another in that kind of way.
Fishing boats and fishermen are in my blood. I see them both out in the waves working together to bring in the haul and I think there is nothing better than the sea and man working in tandem. And as I watched the slight old men pushing their round boats to the waters edge in Vietnam, I thought of the fishermen around the world that share a dream and a love of the ocean.
Undoubtedly, Angus would have loved to have skippered one of these.