The Hunt for Anchovies and Inspiration

Rogoznica is a small, inviting village on the Dalmatian Coast that attracts the rich and famous from all over the world. They shelter their large yachts in gloriously-blue bays, and either retreat to hillside villas or to small restaurants lining the coast. In the Iliad, it’s written that Trojan War hero Diomedes sailed these waters looking for refuge. That’s mythology.

My hoping to find a safe port where I could renew my energies was a real need.I felt lost, out of sync with the world. Thinking Rogoznica would cure my unease, I drove there, and strolled past a line of fishing boats. One was preparing to embark, to go into the Adriatic Sea to hunt for  mackerel, sardines and anchovies. ‘How has the fishing been these last few days?’ I boldly asked a gray-bearded man who was tending to ropes on a small boat.

“Decent, I can’t complain,” he briskly answered. “Where are you from? Do you like fish?” Before I had time to respond, this seaman surprisingly asked me, “Do you know the Adriatic. It can be rough out there, very rough. Do you want to join me and my small crew? We are good people.” I didn’t hesitate. I jumped aboard, eager for this adventure. It turned out this grizzled seaman, Josip S, was the captain, and he was hoping to land a large catch of anchovies. Josip didn’t talk much. He was too intent on manning the helm, positioning the boat about 10 miles off Rogoznica. About one hour into this foray, Josip began to look worried.The fish, or the lack of them, were sending him a message. We changed course.

“When there is no anchovy, there will be sardines,” he snapped, sounding like a wise man in the Iliad. “There is never any giving up.” The sun was already setting, and as we headed elsewhere,  I started to wonder, ‘do I really want to be on this boat at night?” “Formaaaa!” shouted Josip, and almost instantly his order to stop the boat stirred the crew to lower the anchor. They turned on the spotlights, hoping to seduce the sardines. “Fish is brought in the light,” Josip explained. “We will do this for the next few hours. At dawn we will drop the nets.” Here I was, stuck on a boat in the Adriatic. I was anxious but still excited by the activity around me. “Polaaaa  Quarter,” barked a sailor, signaling that half a net has been dropped into the sea. Now we could only wait. The tension grew. Josip was used to uncertainty, but his face reminded me of my feelings before embarking on this hunt. Life was often a struggle, a constant juggling act, accepting the good with the bad.

My thoughts were interrupted by a sailor’s yelling, :Look at the net! Good fish. There are sardines. We will have a good day.” He was right. The nets began filling with sardines, and we were soon heading back to port. “I learned a lot during that short time on the boat. Or at least was reminded of one crucial lesson. When faced with inner turmoil, uncertainty, you keep going…keep dreaming.

Written by Anita Palada

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