Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Expert Fisherman

My brother, Dennis, had quite an experience at sea many years ago when he was still a teenager. He dropped out of school after form five in spite of my advice for him to continue his studies. But, you know, not all Chinese have the Chinese attitude.

Anyway, back then the playboy tried his luck in the fishing business. He made his rounds among his friends and somehow accumulated enough money to build a boat. Since Dennis couldn't find a job, the playboy suggested why not spend his time out at sea on the his boat.

According to the playboy, there's this guy who's an expert fisherman with many, many years of experience fishing in the west coast of Sabah. I can still remember the playboy's words now—he said the fellow knew the waters like the back of his hand! And he's supposed to know the exact spot where one can practically just pick up the fish. How convenient!

Now being a stubborn person who's skeptical about whatever claims without evidence, I couldn't bring myself to believe there's such a fisherman. How can one determine the exact location in the open sea with no landmarks as reference points? And back then, we did not have the GPS yet. Or rather, GPS were not readily available yet. I thought the fellow was just a bunch of craps! Without modern equipments—at least a compass—I don't believe any mortal can determine his exact location in the open sea. But of course the playboy, being much older and experienced in life than me, totally believed his claim. So he sent Dennis, his son, out to the open sea with the idiot.

They started out from Kinarut, heading towards Magellan Island (locally, it's more popularly known as Pulau Mengalun), and then continued beyond that to the open sea. The journey to Magellan alone took about 3 hours. After a few hours out from Magellan, the crew could no longer see any land in all directions.

And then suddenly the expert ordered them to slow down as they were apparently approaching the fishing ground. Excitement mounted. Finally he told them to drop the anchor, which they did. After dropping down for a depth of over 200 metres and they ran out of rope, the anchor had still not reached the bottom. All heads turned to the expert who calmly told them not to worry. He said just let the boat drift for a bit and then soon, the anchor should find the sea bed. Well, they let the boat drift for a good half an hour and then true enough the anchor did strike the sea bed in the end.

Then they started fishing. And of course not even a single bite. They started the engine again and shifted their position several times, and still no bite at all. So much for the so-called expert who knew the west coast like the back of his hand. By then, it was clear to Dennis that the fellow was just an idiot, and all of them who believed him were ever bigger idiots. So he decided they might as well go home.

They started the engine again and, following the direction of the expert, headed for Magellan where the playboy was waiting. After a few hours, Magellan was still nowhere to be seen. Soon it was getting dark and they still had no idea where exactly they were heading. That evening the sea began to swell; waves rose to a height of 10ft - 15ft, and it's obvious that they only had a few hours' worth of fuel left in the tank.

It was time to make a difficult decision. What would you do in such a situation? Would you continue wasting fuel heading towards nowhere?

Well, Dennis decided to stop the engine and drop anchor and just hope that they won't sink that night in the horrible storm. The crew members began to rebel; they said they wanted to go home—that remaining in the open sea like that was a stupid thing to do. Dennis replied that he, too, wanted to go home, but in which direction is home? He somehow convinced them to stay put and hope for the best that night; they have better chances when there's daylight the next morning.

So that night, in the big storm, they cuddled together like wet rats in the small cabin. No one could sleep, and the expert had no more advice to give. All his expertise had gone down the drain by then. Thankfully, however, they survived that night. The storm subsided shortly before dawn.

The next morning shone bright and clear, but still no land in sight. Then suddenly they saw a fishing trawler far away. Dennis told the boatmen to start the engine and try to catch up with the fishing trawler. Well, they did catch up with the other boat in the end, asked for direction to Magellan and finally barely reached Magellan with very little fuel left in the tank.

And what did the playboy say about this incident? Well, his favourite line, of course: It's a good experience for Dennis. Such experience will make him a strong and brave man.

But what if Dennis couldn't make it home that day? What good would the experience be then? Would you put your own son's life in the hands of someone you don't really know, who claims himself as expert? Would you still expect your son to respect you for being so reckless when dealing with his life?

Well, if I had a son, there is just no way I'd endanger his life like that. I just won't be able to forgive myself if he loses his life because of me. Expert fisherman my foot!


Shan said...

Thank you for this Corn. I personally did not know that Megalun was known as Magellan island. Sorry to read about what your brother had to go through and yes, it was a very stupid thing for any parent to do.

Cornelius said...


Don't rely on my information 100%!... hehehe. To be honest, I also got the information from someone else. I was given to understand that the island was named after a Magellan, but because the name has been passed down verbally over the many generations, its pronunciation has changed to Mengalun. I have not researched the truth/accuracy of this information!

Cornelius said...

Oh!... and I forgot to say that some people also refer to the island as Mengalum (which is apparently a closer version to Magellan).