Sunday, January 31, 2010
Passenger List of Eligible British Ladies known as the Fishing Fleet
Young eligible English ladies of marrying age, daughters of wealthy Britisher’s living in India, who traveled back and forth from England to India, were known as the “Fishing Fleet”.
While what I have read about them is quite interesting, this entry is about one of India’s actual fishing fleet that dot the coast of this incredible country.
The history of boat building dates back in the Indian region to as early as 2040 B.C. as evidenced by artifacts uncovered of the Harappan civilization that thrived in what is now southern Pakistan and western India.
This Indus Valley civilization was so advanced that they not only built docks and warehouses, but there is evidence that they conducted trade via ocean going vessels to faraway places.
For nearly 4200 years, from 2500 B.C. to 1700 A.D., India was considered the “Proud Mistress of the Eastern Sea’s” until the European powers took control of Indian shipping and the East India Company prevented the construction of large ships which were competitors to the English ships of the 18th century. Until then, boat building was undertaken in nearly 200 ports along India’s 6000 kilometer coast.
My trip to the port in Vizag gave me a glimpse of some of today’s boat building activities, where future vessels in Vizag’s fishing fleet were being constructed.
The construction yard was void of many of the modern tools and equipment that one might find in other boat yards in the western world. The boat yard also serves as home to many as well; living and working in the same place, in crude conditions is the way of life for those in fishing communities.
Boat Builders home in the shadows of the vessels
The wood being used in the construction of the fleet appeared to be crudely cut and riddled with flaws and would not be considered acceptable to use in other parts of the world where blemishes would be a clear sign of poor workmanship.
Eventually a thick skin of fiberglass will cover the flaws and gaps that exist between the planks and make it more seaworthy. A final coat of colorful paint will be applied to further enhance its beauty and provide it with a unique identity among the many boats that grace the port.
The boat builders were as interested in me as I was of them……they stopped working and yelled down at me in Hindi, and while I did not understand the words they used, the body language of the foreman of the crew indicated that he wanted me to take their picture.
There were as many as 5 boats being built, all in various stages of construction; some nearly complete while others resembled the skeletons of upside down whales……….the keel serving as the spine and the ribs reaching outward and upward toward the sky.
Scientist reconstructing skeleton of a Blue Whale in a museum
I am sure that the commissioning of a boat in India does not include a bottle of champagne being broken on the bow…….but it would surely involve a puja.
Shortly afterwards, the colorful addition to the Vizag fishing fleet will provide a captain and his crew the means to make a living in the waters of the Bay of Bengal.