| Border Guards of Thua Thien Hue Province presented the National flags to Thuan An fishermen
Thai Duong Thuong Ha Giap Village with 5 residential groups in Thuan An Ward, Hue City, stretches from Thuan An Seaport to Hoa Duan Dam. In the village where people have lived off the sea for generations, life now seems to be better. If formerly sand was everywhere, houses are now spacious and close together. Below the pier are ten-meter-long fishing boats ready to sail out to sea.
Life and death
The house of Ms. Phan Thi Tet (65, Hai Binh Residential Group, Thuan An Ward) is no longer ramshackle like before. Now, it is solidly built and welcomes children and grandchildren every weekend.
| Nets mended after the deep-sea fishing trip
Winter day got dark quickly. The heavy rain continued, getting Mrs. Tet to recollect the sad story over 30 years back. On the afternoon of November 12, 1992 (the year of Horse), while at sea, Mrs. Tet's husband passed away at age 37. She said that on that morning the weather was calm with light wind. At 4:00 am, her husband together with his 16-year-old eldest son, two younger brothers, a brother-in-law, and a relative carried oil down a small boat to go fishing.
Their boat fished about 6-7 nautical miles from shore. Then around 11:00 am, it started to return. Mr. Tran Cong - Mrs. Tet's husband - was at the helm; the boat slowly entered Thuan An Estuary when the weather got unfavorable. The sea was rough with high waves. A huge wave crashed against the boat's side, causing the boat to tilt to the right.
Mr. Tran Cong and his friend fell into the sea, and the remaining 3 people tried to hold on to the boat side regardless of the breaking waves. Mr. Tran Sam (Mr. Cong's younger brother) used all his strength to skirt the boat side to the back and then lowered the fishing boat on the water surface to try to find the missing person. After an interval of “struggling against" the big waves, Mr. Sam could only save his friend while his elder brother gradually sank into the water.
| Mr. Tran Quan's fishing boat during a fishing trip at sea
Hearing of her husband in distress, Mrs. Tet promptly waded to Thuan An Estuary to wait. The shore was packed with people. Incense smoke spiraling looked as if to pray for the good of the missing person. It was dark, cold, and rainy, but Mrs. Tet was still sitting at the estuary. Stronger waves were crashing. Her relatives consoled her more, but perhaps she was no longer aware of anything.
For Mrs. Tet to return to the house, her husband's younger brother lied about the fact that her husband’s body had been found and the villagers were bringing him into the house to arrange for the funeral. She obeyed and jumped on a small boat from Thuan An Estuary along Tam Giang Lagoon to the house. The small boat went halfway; many people on the shore thought that Mr. Cong's body had been found, so they tried to ask, "Found it?" Where was it? Everyone on the boat waved their hands, trying to signal them to be quiet, but Mrs. Tet realized she had been tricked, so she suddenly jumped into Tam Giang Lagoon like a lifeless person and waded to shore.
At that time, traffic was difficult. The relatives and neighbors had to split into two directions: one group walked along the beach down the south, and the other group went up the north in search of Ms. Tet's husband's body. Two days later, the local authorities received a notice that the villagers in Dien Mon Commune, Phong Dien District discovered a male body drifting ashore.
Mrs. Tet's small house back then could not accommodate a coffin, so her husband's funeral had to be held on the vacant land next door. Her husband died; Mrs. Tet single-handedly raised 6 children. The eldest was then only 16 years old, and the youngest was 6 years old.
After that terrible sea trip, Mr. Tran Sam decided to shift to net-casting fishing in Tam Giang Lagoon; however, his income was unstable. Anyhow, deep-sea fishing was easy to make money, so after a few months off, he decided to return to work for fishing boats in the area.
At 2 pm on October 12, 1992 (the year of Monkey), the weather was sunny with light wind and calm sea. Mr. Vo Dieu's 200CV boat carrying 8 fishermen started to ride the waves out to sea. Leaving Thuan An Estuary, they headed northeast. When about 25-30 nautical miles from shore, they began to cast fishing nets. “Before leaving, we heard on the radio that the sea would be rough in a few days. Back then, going out to sea, we returned to land for the day. If catching nothing, we would stay until the next day and then back to the shore," Mr. Sam recounted.
The next morning, Mr. Vo Dieu's boat and the fishing fleet in Thuan An followed one another to shore. The weather worsened, and the sea raged. At Thuan An Estuary, the waves were quite high. On the boat's cabin, Mr. Dieu stood on one side of the steering wheel, on the other side was another fisherman. Together they controlled the fishing boat through the estuary to shore. The waves crashed on one side, and the boat driver on the other side held back the steering wheel. Just like that, the two people exerted themselves to steer the boat against the waves. The water was less than 3m shallow, but the waves were quite high, causing the boat to slowly tilt and then capsize. They jumped off the boat. The boat owner Vo Dieu and his nephew Vo Cuong quickly sank into the water and disappeared shortly afterwards.
The remaining 6 fishermen were pushed away by the waves and then pushed back to the door. Everyone tried to let themselves in the same direction as the wave. With experience at sea, fishermen knew how to prevent panic and save energy. When big waves crashed, they dived. The waves were over, they emerged out of the water, grabbed the buoy, and breathed. When the waves pushed them away, they gathered together to fight. They tried to find things that had fallen from the fishing boat and were floating on the water to hold on to. Fisherman Tran Sam grabbed the barrel, quickly opened the lid, poured out all the water inside, and then put on the lid as a buoy...
From Tam Giang Lagoon, dozens of fishing boats ran at full speed to rescue. But at the intersection between the sea and the lagoon, the waves were strong, 2-3 meters high, so they could not reach the people floating in the waves. They had to stand at a distance, using all their strength to throw ropes into the water in the hope that the person in distress could grab them to be pulled up.
On the shore, at the sand bar close to the sea mouth, the relatives and neighbors stood crowded. They waited in the rain to pray for their husband and father to be saved. Nearly 3 hours passed, one by one, they were lucky enough to grab the rope and survive. In this accident, the people of Thuan An lost two children. A few days later, the bodies of Mr. Vo Dieu's uncle and nephew were found at Da Nang shore.
Living with fishing
Every three years, Thai Duong Thuong Ha Giap Village holds a Cầu Ngư (Fishery-Praying) Festival to commemorate the village's Tutelary God Truong Quy Cong (Truong Thieu's title), who taught people how to fish and trade in bamboo boats.
According to the history of the village, in the mid-16th century, Mr. Truong from Gia Mieu Village (Thanh Hoa) accompanied Lord Nguyen Hoang to the southern land. He was ordered to Truong Sa (a coastal sand strip) for land reclamation to establish Thai Duong Village in present-day Thuan An and Hai Duong Commune (Hue City). Over hundreds of years, despite the hardships of sea fishing, many people in this village have loved the sea and earned a living by fishing.
Formerly, their ancestors went to sea according to the season. When the sky was clear, and the sea was calm, they "rode" the waves out to sea to fish. In the open sea, they only knew how to use Kim Phung Mountain - about 15km west of Thuan An Estuary - to mark the location of the entrance and exit to the estuary. But now, the village's fishermen own large boats, with a capacity of up to 1,000 CV, with modern equipment such as locators, satellite phones, fish detectors, etc.
After the cold wave weakened, two fishing boats TTH - 9555TS with a capacity of 410CV and TTH - 95599 TS (650CV) of fisherman Tran Quan (born 1975, residing in Hai Tien residential group, Thai Duong Thuong Ha Giap Village) quickly set out to sea. Each boat was filled with necessities such as rice, fish sauce, instant noodles, drinking water... enough for more than 30 fishermen for 20 days at sea.
Mr. Quan's two fishing boats, after more than a day of continuous running, arrived at the fishing area. The weather was calm, the waves were light, and schools of fish began to float. At night they turned on an electric light and placed it on a raft. A fisherman rowed out to the middle to attract fish. Seeing the light, dozens of schools of fish swam toward the raft. They swam about 40-50m from the water surface. The fishing boat ran at full speed and took about 10 minutes to release all the 1.2 km-long nets surrounding the school of fish.
The sound of the engine echoed throughout the sea area. The fishermen on the boat quickly collected their nets to catch fish. Mr. Quan said that sometimes luckily encountering fish afloat on the first day, we had no strength to catch them. “Sometimes I netted an over-20-ton haul of fish. When first buying the boat according to Decree 67, I caught a great deal of fish. In the first year, my profit was up to 2 billion VND," Mr. Quan said.
Born in the countryside associated with fish and shrimp at Thuan An Estuary. As a child, every morning Mr. Quan often saw his mother carry water to the boat for his father and sister to go to sea. In the afternoon, he and his mother carried bamboo baskets to the pier to take fish when the boat docked. But when just 5 years old, Mr. Quan lost his father forever. It was the day after the Double Five Festival in 1980, the villagers rushed to report that his father and sister's boat had been hit by another boat, and two people died at sea.
When growing up, Mr. Quan got a job as a tailor, and a machine repairer to make a living, but did not dare to pursue the job at sea because of his obsession. But once he went out to sea with an acquaintance's fishing boat in the village. Mr. Quan was excited to see the vast ocean and fish swimming in shoals on the water's surface. He discussed it with his wife and decided to borrow money to buy a boat to pursue a job at sea. From the first small boat, he worked hard to save money and then bought a big boat; at one point he owned 3 boats for fishing.
Risks notwithstanding, deep-sea fishing for him is not only a job to earn a living but also a deep-rooted passion.