Friday, 9 September 2016

The Mergui Archipelago (day 6)

Events of Thursday, 28th April, 2016

In the post on the previous day's activities, here I described how the smaller fishing vessels clustered overnight around Bar Wel Island. On Thursday morning, by the time we were enjoying our accustomed sustaining breakfast on deck, many of these boats had either already left for a day's fishing or were preparing to go out. But quite a few of the odd-looking squid fishing vessels remained, probably having returned after a night's fishing.

Squid fishing is usually carried out at night, assisted by numerous powerful electric lamps (mercury vapour Lamps, producing a rather eerie blue light). These lamps are arrayed along a series of improbably long booms extended horizontally out from the hull. No two vessels seem alike in the details of the rigging of the booms, although they generally appeared to be converted from fairly elderly 'trawler' types, similar in layout to the one we'd visited earlier in our cruise (described here), having a stayed derrick mast (either wood or steel) on the foredeck with a single boom to unload the catch and load supplies. Usually, the booms were made of what appeared to be a series of substantial steel tubes joined together with couplers to produce the required length but I also saw trusses made from smaller tubes with welded cross-bracing. The booms require a complex series of guy ropes to support them and these ropes terminate on the derrick mast on the foredeck and on a smaller stern derrick or on the superstructure.

The fishing fleet at Ba Wel: A stern view shows the length of the steel lighting booms, which are supported by guying from a steel derrick mast on the foredeck and a smaller steel mast at the stern.

The fishing fleet at Ba Wel: This Squid Fisher has a wooden Derrick mast and both tubular and truss booms to support the lamps.

Squid are an important food source in many parts of the world. There's an introduction to the creature here. There's a little about fishing for shortfin squid here. The lighting system attracts the nocturnal squid to the fishing vessel, gathering in the unlit area beneath the hull, waiting for prey. A series of lines, carrying metal 'lures', are lowered into the water and 'jigged' up and down, encouraging the squid to attack the lures, in which they become entangled. Periodically, the lines are raised to recover the catch. Modern Squid Fishing vessels are equipped with Jigging Manchines which lower the lines, 'jig' them, raise the lines and invert the lures so that the squid fall off automatically (as outlined here) but I saw no evidence of this type of equipment in use at Ba Wel.

A Squid fishing vessel under way (pictured on a previous day).

A rather ungainly-looking squid fishing vessel at Ba Wel Island (pictured on a previous day). Six men can be seen, plus, I assume, one in the wheelhouse.

After enjoying the usual sustaining breakfast, we made our return to Kawthaung under engine power: our final opportunity to enjoy simply being at sea. After a few days around the undeveloped islands, the sheer size and the bustle around Kawthaung came as something of a shock.

Arriving back at Kawthaung.

'Meta IV' anchored in the harbour and all the guests said 'Goodbye' to the crew. We piled into the dinghy with our luggage and Aung transferred us to Myoma Jetty. My Australian friends and I were booked on the afternoon flight back to Yangon, so, once Aung had retrieved the car, he drove us towards the airport. It took me a while to adjust to the level of road traffic, much of it motor cycle taxis of a distinctive design, apparently quite modern but with the driver on the right of the machine, more suited to driving on the left of the road (as Burma did, until the sudden change to driving on the right mandated in 1970).

Around Kawthaung.

As our flight did not leave for a few hours, Aung had arranged for us to relax in the luxury of the Victoria Cliff Hotel & Resort. After a light lunch in the restaurant which offered stunning views of the Andaman Sea, I relaxed in the shade by the swimming pool. It was very hot, and I couldn't muster the energy for anything requiring more exertion.

Around Kawthaung: The swimming pool at the Victoria Cliff Hotel & Resort.

Aung picked us up in plenty of time for the final road journey to Kawthaung Airport, where we left Aung. I'm afraid that, after the comfort at the Victoria Cliff, Kawthaung Airport was rather basic but, eventually, our flight arrived and I boarded with some relief.

Kawthaung-Dawei-Yangon by air: Boarding the Apex flight to Yangon

On the way back to Yangon, we made the scheduled brief stop at Dawei, arriving at the Domestic Terminal at Mingalardon on time. My checked bag appeared fairly quickly, my transport was waiting and I was soon returned to the Doctor's house, where I was staying the night. The next morning I had another early start, as I was to fly north with the Doctor to Bagan.

Related posts

Next post in this series.

All my posts on my trip to Myanmar in 2016 can be found here.

My pictures

If necessary, pictures in this article can be viewed uncropped by clicking on the image. To view in other resolutions or download, select from the albums below:-

The Fishing Fleet at Ba Wel.
Sailing back to Kawthaung.
Around Kawthaung.
Kawthaung - Dawei - Yangon by air.
All my pictures on this trip.