SUMMER READINGS From Brindisi to Roccella Ionica/4

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gullsGiovanni Porzio is one of Italy’s greatest reporters and a passionate sailor. In his book “The Sea is Never the Same,” he recreated the essence of reportage, that is, “reporting” from a journey news, but also stories, feelings and images. It is from this very book that the story whose fourth part can be found here is taken.

I change course chasing flights and dips of seagulls in the distance: a feeding in the wake of a shoal or a big fish? (“The birds! The birds!” Shouted Tashtego. In long single file, as when herons take flight, the white birds now all ran toward Ahab’s spear; and when they were within a few yards, they began to flutter there over the water, swirling all around, with joyous squeals of anticipation.”) No, it is just the winged procession accompanying two fishing boats, engaged in trolling in pairs. Sailors salute, raising their arms and waving a yellow oilskin. The tree frog starts a couple of times: leap up, engine in neutral, barrel on belt, raffia at hand.

Dolphin sightings are always a time for celebration
Dolphin sightings are always a time for celebration

But the prey does not fight, it is dead weight: you can tell right away that it is a damn plastic bag. I hate plastic. it’s everywhere in the sea and on the beaches: garbage bags, bottles, caps, broken cutlery, pieces of tables and chairs, eyeglass cases, canisters, shoe soles, lighters… A shoal of skipjack tuna passes right by us, yet nothing, not even a hint of interest in my luscious, colorful rapalas.
“Canned tuna for lunch?” rages Francis.
But
we spot dolphins, and it’s always a feast. It is they, in fact, who spot Blue Gal and play around them: they swim at the bow glued to the keel, they vent and whistle, they turn on their side to look at you, they turn away with a lightning snap, then they come back, they pass under the boat, so close on the water surface that you can almost touch them. There are four, then ten, and more are coming: a large family with wrinkled-faced elders, youngsters darting fast, mothers with little ones jumping on the wave and, inexperienced or prankish, falling back lifting splashes of sparkling white froth.
A Cirò Marina I approach cautiously after reading the sparse annotations in the pilot book: “under construction,” “sunken boulders.”
North of Point Alice you can see an industrial plant with loading dock (minerals?) and some warehouses; then the entrance to the harbor, depths of 4-5 meters. The outer ballast was damaged by a winter siroccata: the red light, which was torn away by the swells, does not work. All the docks are occupied by fishing boats and speedboats. We have no choice but to moor alongside a fishing boat that – we are told – is not going out tonight. Having fixed the ropes and tidied up the boat, I look around. There is a narrow-gauge train that runs between houses on the waterfront. The village has a desolate appearance and the marina is in a state of semi-abandonment: no services ashore.
We are in ‘Ndrangheta territory, and Calabrian cosche, unlike Sicilian cosche, have no interest in developing tourism and getting into construction contracts. They deal with other things, mainly cocaine trafficking with Colombian and Mexican cartels. They don’t want tourists around. I don’t mind at all: Blue Gal, for once, is the only sail in port.

John Porzio relaxes by reading in square
John Porzio relaxes by reading in square

On the dock, a refrigerated truck loads styrofoam boxes full of shrimp and squid. On a boat two men brigade with saws and knives. I approach: they are guillotining a large shark, a “cowfish” or flathead shark. Professional gestures and blood flowing. I can’t help but think of the videos I found in Kabul: hostages being beheaded by Bin Laden’s followers. The lucky two throw their heads, fins, and tails overboard and drag their prey to the fish market cell. The meat is excellent, they claim.
In Somalia they certainly don’t throw their fins away. A few years ago I went out one night to hunt sharks with Somali fishermen. The warlord killers – fed up with killing and being killed – allowed themselves to be persuaded to change their lives: until they realized that killing a tiger shark was more strenuous than exterminating a Somali family and plundering its home. One would go offshore and lower the nets. Then one waited for dawn by chattering one’s teeth from the cold and the muck and chewing on shoots of Quat, the mild euphoriant drug that takes away sleep and hunger. The sharks would get caught in the nets and struggle for hours before suffocating to death. Small ones. Because if it was tiger, hammerhead, or great white sharks, you had to finish them off with spears and Kalashnikov volleys. The fins were worth $95 a kilo and went to Japan; the dried meat ended up in Kenya, Burundi, Zaire and Central Africa.

SUMMER READINGS From Brindisi to Roccella Ionica/1

SUMMER READINGS From Brindisi to Roccella Ionica/2

SUMMER READINGS From Brindisi to Roccella Ionica/3

 

Discover all of John Porzio’s reports!

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