x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Missing fishermen keep calm and curry on

A Fujairah crew on a two-day fishing trip spent an extra day at sea after their engine failed to start, but the men say they were not perturbed: they used their time to make a curry.

Capt Mohamed Ahmed, 55, with one of his daughters, at his house in Fujairah.
Capt Mohamed Ahmed, 55, with one of his daughters, at his house in Fujairah.

FUJAIRAH // When Ishwarbhai Ratilal was stranded at sea he knew what to do: relax and make a curry.

Floating at sea with 1,600kg of fish, it seemed there was nothing else to do but set the chillis sizzling and wait for help.

It was the first time fishing in the UAE for Mr Ratilal's crewmates Ishwarbhai Ranjibahaj, 38, and Niteshkumar Ramanlal, 26.

The crew had set out at 2.00 that morning and at first all had gone as planned. They reached the deep sea at sunrise and took three hours to lay 40 wire nets before a midday siesta.

In the evening, as they prepared to return, they discovered their engine was broken. They were 60km out to sea in the twilight.

"We dropped anchor," said Mohamed Ahmed, 55, a fisherman from Dibba in Fujairah who captains the 15-metre boat.

"I was thinking, what will we do? The engine was broken, my phone was broken and my radar button wasn't working.

"You know, I have this button so all the people around know to help me. It tells the police where I am and it wasn't working. But I had no fear. We dropped anchor and decided to wait until the morning.

"Chillis and garlic - then everything's OK."

Capt Ahmed related the tale from his home, grateful to be back on land where he divides his time between 21 children, two wives and two houses across the street from each other.

In his case, family is not just about love but also survival.

Capt Ahmed's family alerted the coastguard to his absence when he failed to return from his two-day trip last Sunday afternoon, and it was two of his sons and his younger brother who found him on Monday after a two-hour search.

The fishermen had solved their engine problem and started the return trip when they saw Capt Ahmed's sons - Khalid, 30, and Ahmed, 35 - and his younger brother Ali, 53.

The boats approached each other with his sons shouting blessings and calling their "Baba".

"What are you doing here? Why did you come?" asked their father. "You didn't need to come for me."

His sons reminded him of the circumstances. "You were at sea for three days, Dad," they said. "We were a little worried."

Capt Ahmed brushed it off: "It was nothing. I was completely safe. God is great, it was just a small problem."

He is typically cool under pressure, said one of his 16 daughters, a 21-year-old English literature student who did not want to be named.

"My father, as usual, had no fear. When my father has problems with the engine he starts fishing," she said, adding it was not the first time he had been "lost at sea".

Her brothers and uncle went to his rescue five years ago when Capt Ahmed was missing for 24 hours.

His 8-metre boat ran out of petrol and it was too big to row back to shore.

But Capt Ahmed does not like the word "lost". Instead, he bemoans his five sons' lack of interest in the sea.

"The sea raises men," he said. "Yesterday I could have died but I knew what to do. When I die, I have told my sons they should go to the sea to learn."

In a way, Capt Ahmed's adventures are a way of drawing them back to their heritage.

They may not know the sea but they know their father and where he likes to fish.

azacharias@thenational.ae