Tuesday, November 30, 2021

All in a day’s work for fishermen at Pengkalan Balak

Sometimes, the weather does not permit them to go out to sea, and they must find other ways of earning an income.

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Fisherman Mohd Ali Abu Bakar emerges at dawn to survey the weather conditions. The wind and the strong waves mean that he will not be able to go to sea today.

His fellow fisherman Osman Ibrahim begins reorganising the nets and fishing gear to be packed away in the boats again.

A Perikatan Nasional flag flaps overhead, a reminder of the election just around the corner.

Unable to go out to sea, the fishermen gather at a small coffee shop for breakfast instead.

After breakfast, Osman heads back home to check on his small farm. The vegetables he plants help his family get by on days when he cannot go out to fish.

Flanked by his loyal dogs, he sets to work with a hoe, loosening the soil to prepare it for the new plants to come.

Osman digs out the weeds at his serai bed, where the plants are nearly ready for harvesting.

Tired from a morning of hard work, he returns to his house where his wife is getting ready to leave for work as a cook at a nearby restaurant.

After five days of bad weather, the sea is finally calm enough for the fishermen to venture out. Ali checks his boat before heading out with his equipment.

Osman (right) helps Ali heave his equipment into his boat. The two are close friends who lend a hand whenever one is needed.

As dawn breaks, Ali makes some final preparations and checks his boat one last time.

Osman helps push the boat out to sea. Once in the water, Ali starts up the engine.

Still on the beach, Osman coils up the rope while Ali heads out to open water to cast his nets. Once they are properly set out, he will return to land for a quick bite.

At noon, Ali returns to the spot where he left his nets. This time, Osman accompanies him to help him pull them into the boat. The entire process takes about two hours.

Once the nets are in the boat, the fishermen get to work separating the fish which they place in a designated area. Today’s catch is far smaller than it used to be.

At the beach, more friends are waiting to help carry the load to shore.

Ali and Osman then begin the process of bringing the boat in to shore to be stored until the next day.

This requires the use of a rig, with other fishermen pitching in to make sure the rope doesn’t get tangled up.

Once the boat has reached dry land, Ali brings in the engine to be kept separately. Such engines are worth around RM8,000 and frequently targeted by drug addicts looking to make some money.

Ali and Osman work together to shift their catch into a crate, while several customers wait alongside them in the boat.

With the flags of various political parties fluttering in the breeze overhead, they carry the fish to a stall set up along the road.

Ali and Osman lay out the fish on a table.

They arrange the fish according to kind.

Customers eager to purchase the freshly caught fish approach the stall. Ali hopes to make enough from today’s sales to save up for repairs to his boat engine.

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