27 February 2011 – A day at Winneba Beach

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This morning I am as red as a lobster. I spent yesterday morning at Winneba Beach. Even with sunscreen and trying to stay in the shade as much as possible i could not beat the African sun.

After I ate breakfast I decided to walk to the beach. My plan was to check out the location of the beach today. Stay a short while then come back – so I didn’t bring my camera. (note to self ALWAYS bring your camera!) I put on my pink shorts and a purple tank top. It was a short 10 minute walk. About halfway to the beach I greeted two traders. One of the women said she wanted me to give her my top and shorts. I have always hoped that these demands for my clothing were only a way to say “I like your outfit” if I hadn’t treated it that way imagine how much more of me would be red now if I had complied with her request then and there!

At the beach I walked along the shore collecting shells. I noticed a line of people of all ages pulling on a rope. They were hauling in a fishing net. I decided to watch until the catch came in to see what they got.

I sat in the shade. As I watched I noticed a man in old white dress shirt with the sleeves cut off at the shoulders. He was also wearing an old pair dress pants cut off at the knees. He seemed to be the boss or fisherman because he was the one calling Yooo Yooo Yooo as people pulled. He also walked up and down the line giving a pat on the shoulder to one, stopping here or there to help pull in the net.

The people ranged in ages from primary to senior citizens. There were about 14 pulling the line and three or four women holding the end of the line and guiding it along the tree line. The people would plant their feet in the sand shoulder width apart. When the leader called out Yoooo they would bend their knees and lean back about 45 degrees. They would repeat this motion with a few yooos then take a step to the left. The women would then do their job of guiding and holding up the loose part of the rope.

I had been sitting there for about 20 minutes and they had moved down the beach about 100 yards. I got up and looked back in the opposite direction and saw the line stretched out another 100 yards. I followed it and saw it was tied to a palm tree trunk. I estimated they had been pulling for about 40 minutes. I wondered how much longer so looked out to the sea and saw the bobbins along the edge of the net floating on the sea. There were also two big orange bouys at opposite ends of the nets. I figured it would be at least another hour.

I continued to watch and learn. I noticed that the last man would then move up to the front of the line after a few pulls. They continued to rotate thus sharing the heavest work. As the net came closer a young man went into the water to assist the net from there.

I had many questions. Did one person own the net? Were these 14 people paid out of the catch? When did they put the net into the water? How long did it stay in the water?

They were now 200 yards down the beach form my place under the coconut palm. I rose to walk closer to them. The women at the back of the group called to me. They motioned for me to help them with the rope. I fully intended to grab the rope and help them but others began to talk to me and I got distracted. Then I saw a piece of wood in the shade and decided to go sit on that. It was about 11 and it was getting hot on the beach.

In the other direction I saw group of 13 people pulling a rope in. They were coming towards the group I had been watching. They were very close and with in minutes the two ropes came together and crossed one another. OH no I thought. The nets will get tangled.

There was a wrecked canoe and a group of people were sitting on it. Then canoes in Ghana are long boats. The are about twice as long and twice as wide as an typical American canoe.  One young woman was speaking English so I decided to sit beside her. Here was my chance, maybe she would answer some of my questions.

I sat down beside her and we exchanged the typical Ghanaian greetings. I learned her name, Gina, and that her grandfather started a village very near Trotor. Formalities out of the way I said “Sister, tell me about the fishing.”

“This is called surface fishing. They put the net in these boats and bring it out to the sea. al these people now are hauling it in. She indicated the two groups that had crossed each other.”

Ah I thought it doesn’t matter that they crossed it’s the same net. Oh but now there 25 plus people to share the catch!

“Does one person own the net?” I asked

She spoke in Twi to a young man standing near our canoe. “Yes” she pointed to the man in the white dress shirt who I thought was the leader.

She also affirmed that all the people pulling in the net get some of the catch.  She also said tehre were some market women hoping to buy some fish. She, herself, was hoping to get some fish as well.

While we waited for the catch to come in I asked her about herself. She is a student at the teacher training college in Winneba. She is studying Physical Education. She pointed out her son, about 10 years old, walking on the beach and told me she had a new 6 month old baby boy and a girl who was writing her BECE this April. Her husband was also a student studying art. He came to us with pockets full of shells. He was going to make beads from the ground shells.

As we talked much progress was being made on the net. The rope was all hauled in and now the two groups were pulling on a blue net. One person was still in the water.

“When did the net go into the water” I asked her. She again consulted our neighbor and told me they put it in about 6:00 am. I arrived at the beach around 9:00 and calculated that they had been working for about 40 minutes. That means they must leave the net in the water about 2 hours.

(To be continued…..)

-vc

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