Bohai Clamming: GONomad

Sunrise is still hours away, yet the
fishing harbor is bustling about. Not selling fish, clams, or muscles, but getting ready for harvest. The boats are sheltered in a nicely constructed harbor but the water is littered with discarded paper instant noodle buckets, plastic bags of all colors and the boats are all precariously tied to one another. To move one boat, you have to untie two, sending the others adrift until they bump into another line of boats and then retied.

I approach a man whose tanned face glows in the darkness as he drags heavily on his cigarette. I ask him if I would be able to get on his boat and watch them do their morning work. His eyes squint and he really is in no mood for someone to interrupt his days work by risking a passenger on the boat. Another man and his crewmate approaches with a little more curiosity as white skin and blue eyes are not a common sight at 3 am at the dock, nor anywhere in rural China for that matter. I ask them the same question but with a little more local tongue. He responds positively, while the other suggests that it is too dark and I would be able to see nothing. The enthusiastic guy regurgitates what his co-fisherman says. I urged them to let that be my problem. “I will not get in your way, and just want to have a look,” I said as I gave them a little peak of a nice bottle of baijiu (a Chinese high proof spirit) that I said was all theirs. Lucky me, curiosity and booze won them over. As the cigarettes got stomped out they said just be careful on the boat. I said, safety first and both of them nodded. Their third buddy and boat driver was bringing the boat around.

The skiffs are about 12 meters long, made entirely of crooked cuts of wood. The ribs of the boats protrude inward from the hull as there are no bottom boards and thus, one walks either step by step on the rib or in the wet trough. The bows have a small deck just enough to uncomfortably sit three crew members meshed together.