What on earth were those soft, crunching sounds? It was four a.m. I rubbed my eyes, sat up in bed, and peered out of my open window into the blackness, listening to the low murmur of passing voices. A steady stream of people was passing under the window of my loft, and hundreds of feet were crunching on the smooth, wave-worn blanket of pebbles. Shapes moved out toward the shoreline - movements barely visible against the faint moonlight.
This stretch of the island had appeared quiet and secluded during the day…no hotels, no tours. Just a few thatched huts and an endless stretch of exotic, colorful, canoe-like boats - each with a big, all-seeing eye painted on either side of the bow. The boats had seemed abandoned during the day.
I slipped out into the balmy night, joining the hundred or so local men who were now gathering by the boats, hard at work raising huge, hand stitched sails. Groups of men would gather first by one boat, run the sail up the mast, heave and push the boat out into the water, then one man would jump alone into the boat and sail it off into the night. More men would move on to the next boat, and repeat the process. The boats were moving out fast.
The fishermen's good cheer was unmistakable - and everyone seemed excited. One man seemed to understand some English. I asked if my cameraman and I could sail with someone. We were filming a documentary - surely this would make a breathtaking scene. The fisherman said that we could squeeze into his boat, and we'd better hurry. I ran up the beach and knocked on Kyle's door.
Minutes later we were far out on the ocean. The sun would soon rise…already it was starting to cast dark, reddish-orange hues up into the eastern sky. The hundreds of fishermen - ours included - were racing their big eyed sailing canoes back and forth like madmen, zigzagging wildly, calling to each other and laughing as they raced about. But they weren't racing each other. They were just racing around. It seemed a mad, cooperative, random game. How strange. Stranger still, each fisherman dragged only a single-strand fishing line out behind his boat. The line was studded with crude hooks along its length. No bait. No nets. Just a single line held firmly in one hand. The other hand constantly bailed the boat out with a bucket. The fisherman's knees served to swing the tiller. The quantity of the catch was obviously not a crucial issue.
It all seemed to be about enjoying the morning's work. My breath caught when the sun rose. We were not one of hundreds of boats, but one of countless thousands of boats stretched as far as the eye could see, from horizon to horizon, all zigzagging and careening back and forth with joyful abandon, each dragging a single fishing line in tow. The scene was nothing short of stunning. By the time the sun had fully risen, the boats were all headed in to shore. The boats would soon appear abandoned. Only early risers would learn of their secret, joyful life.