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On the Sea with Abdallah

by Tara

The day dawned clear and beautiful as usual, and we called Abdallah as promised to make sure we were still on for the day. The islands can get notoriously windy, making excursions out to sea very uncomfortable. Finding out that everything was still set and the windless skies would hold for a few more hours, we biked over to the dock at Sidi Fredj. Abdallah was waiting. We shook hands, locked up our bikes, and hopped on board!

Abdellah Pulling Abdellah

Abdallah untied his vessel (pretending to let us go off by ourselves, at first) and hopped on as well. He explained what the general itinerary would be, then got to the helm while Tyler and I stood up front, feeling exhilarated to be out on the sea!

Boat Rail

First, Abdallah took us all the way out to this oil rig. Tyler was most excited about this part. We learned that they use underwater pipelines to pump oil all the way to Sfax, 20 kilometers away. Today there was a safety inspection so they weren't too thrilled when we motored by the rig really closely and waved. Abdallah didn't care (they all know each other anyway). They even called him on the phone—saying they had "bigwigs" there and didn't want us making them look unprofessional.

Oil Rig Oil Rig Fire

Abdallah thought it would make a funny picture if I stood up at the front and pretended to be in Titanic, so here I am!

Titanic Antics

After the oil rig we went see the fort Borj el-Essar from the water. Unfortunately we were looking directly into the sun so none of our pictures turned out.

Then we came to my favorite part, the charfia, or fishing traps. A long time ago, islanders didn't have fishing poles or nets and simply had to rely the natural materials available to them. With an abundance of palm fronds, they devised an ingenious system to catch fish that is still used today! First they sharpen the bottom of the fronds into stakes. They then drive them into the soft sand right next to each other until a tightly knit barrier is formed in the sea. Fish swimming along find themselves at an impasse and are forced to follow along the wall until they find a way through. The first one they find, a very small opening, is actually a trap. They cannot get through to the other side, and they cannot turn around to leave. Every two or three days, fishermen come to collect their cleverly-caught bounty!

Traditional Kerkennian Fish Trap

On the way back to Sidi Fredj, Abdallah showed Tyler and I the inside of the vessel. We've talked about sailing around the world in the past, and though this ship was nothing like the one we'd need to do so, it inspired us to start talking about it yet again. (But if it happens, it won't be for a very, very, VERY long time)

Water Temp / Batt. Volt Controls Boat Sign

Close to home, Abdallah let me take over the controls! It was a lot of fun. Check out the hilarious look on his face in the third photo :)

Tara at the Helm Tara at the Helm Tara at the Helm Tara at the Helm

Thank you so much for a wonderful excursion, Abdallah!

Abdellah Waving

Back on the mainland we didn't photograph any cats but we did run into these cute animals. I love how the sheep looks really confused!

Chicken Huh?
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awesome excursion! did you pay him for the ride? what does he usually do with the boat, fishing?
Posted by lian on December 11th, 2009 at 10:12 AM
Thanks! We did pay him. When we made arrangements, we bargained him down to 30 dinar, but after the trip we decided to give him forty because it had been so awesome. He refused to take the extra ten, though, insisting to stick to our 30 dinar agreement! (Normally a trip like that costs 50 dinar at the very least).

He isn't a fisherman-- that boat is just for excursions like ours.
Posted by Tara on December 13th, 2009 at 7:51 AM
wow this is so cool!! im surprised you didnt get into trouble because normally there are no-go exclusion zones around oil rigs!

anyway keep on trucking/pedalling guys!
Posted by Arthur on December 13th, 2009 at 11:28 AM