Noami, an Ati woman, stands next to her new fishing boat along with Odel, the boat builder.

Sustainable fishing initiative underway

We’ve bought a boat.

No, it’s not for us. 

The photo at the top shows the bright red, native, canoe-style vessel (still unnamed) and the new owner, Noami, with the boat builder, Odel.

The boat will be the nicest watercraft in the shared Ati ‘fishing fleet’ — replacing one of the unsafe, decrepit, paddle boats that they currently use in daily efforts to catch fish.

The new boat is a cornerstone of another Earth Vagabonds self-reliance initiative we are sponsoring with the help of our overseas donors for the indigenous Ati tribe here in Malay, Aklan, Panay, Philippines.

As with our other charitable Ati projects (gardens, fruit trees, drinking water, electricity, chicken coop, community center, foot bridge), we hope to help stabilize and support the hundreds of poor, disadvantaged Ati families who reside near where we have paused our early-retired global wandering to wait out the coronavirus crisis.

These photos show the condition of the current Ati fishing vessels – terrible! 

In fact, I personally would not be comfortable using any of the four boats on the open sea. Yet most every day, some group of Ati (including children) do go out in the crumbling craft to try to catch fish.

Truthfully, I doubt much fishing can even be accomplished considering the bailing of water that must be a constant priority to remain afloat.

All the current boats are leaky, loose, cracked, rotten, patched — the outriggers (necessary to keep upright), attached with string, tape, vines, sticks, bubble gum — whatever can be found and fashioned.

No more.

I’ve enlisted Odel, a neighborhood friend we’ve known for more than a year — and an accomplished and respected boat builder and fisherman. 

Over the next couple weeks, Odel will refurbished and refit the Ati paddle boats for the safe, worry-free — and hopefully productive — catching of fish.

As seen in the above photos, Odel was kind enough to accompany me to the beachfront area where the Ati boats are kept. He met with the Ati, inspected each vessel, showed me the issues, and helped formulate a fix-up plan.

Fortuitously, Odel happened to have the new, small, red boat available for sale. I decided to immediately ‘swap out’ the worst of the Ati boats (which belonged to Noami) with Odel’s new one for less than $100. 

He will ‘recycle’ anything worth salvaging from the original dangerous dory. And the Ati can continue their daily fishing more safely and without interruption.

Further, the purchase also assured Odel’s ongoing involvement in making safe the remaining Ati skiffs. He has already removed the outriggers and transported the ‘next worst’ watercraft to his back-yard workshop for repair. 

Of course, we will cover the cost of new marine plywood, lumber, nails, epoxy, paint, etc. — and a salary for Odel’s expertise and effort.

But the paddle boat patch up is just part of the fishing initiative. Anybody who’s ever fished knows equipment is essential to the enterprise.

As you might guess, Ati fishing equipment is in short supply. Thus, we have already begun to secure and distribute the line and hooks and nets and tackle that will hopefully help the Ati fishing endeavors – whether boat or land based.

In the photos, you can see me wading out into waist-deep water where a group of older Ati ladies are fishing with line and hook. I was glad to see the women did indeed have a fresh catch of a few small fish. The group was thrilled to receive some of the new supplies I was distributing – and in fact, requested a new net, which I have pledged to deliver.

This land lubber plans to again tap Odel’s knowledge and experience. I’ve told him that in addition to the boat rehabbing we have a budget to acquire whatever equipment will help assure fishing success.

I am hopeful and confident that Odel will advise me in getting the proper supplies and perhaps even demonstrate some techniques and best practices to the Ati who are unaccustomed to working with a selection of gear. The Ati can then share the knowledge and equipment amongst themselves.

In all, I feel good about the new Ati fishing initiative and our various angles of approach. As any fisherman can attest, while catching fish is not guaranteed, having the workable, safe, effective means to try is crucial to any success.

Further, as we start to contemplate our future travel plans, fishing ability is another basic sustainability mechanism we would like to impart to the Ati — something more we can leave behind to encourage self help and determination in a world left less certain by coronavirus and its ongoing fallout.

As always, be thankful and generous (like our overseas donors), happy trails & more beer.

Life is NOW!

Thanks for reading, “Sustainable fishing initiative underway.”

You might also like to visit our Ati page. It includes every post we’ve ever written about the indigenous tribe.

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