Leuca, Ottavio’s 30 years at sea: «It is an exhausting life, but also magical. Every sunset follows the same seagull home with me”
There are nights and days like these on board: the whistles of the north wind – lest the nasty mad sirocco lay in ambush -, barefoot to anchor better, watermelons for lunch, hands consumed by miners, screams to be heard, whispers of encouragement to the engine so that you don’t suddenly stop right here, a permanent ecstasy before the pink, purple and yellow dawn, hooray for lots of squidleap on the waves, some worn pirate maps, the cabin with the beds, or rather covered on the floor with discolored boards.
And they are lives of mortgages and prayers, prayers and mortgages just don’t give up a profession “old and hard, truly damnable, of bestial weariness, and yet magical, full of love”.
Owner and master of a fishing boat, Ottavio Galati (pronounced with the second “a”), married, two children, Giuseppe a student in economics and Federica a dancer, is a very stubborn 51-year-old in the opposite direction.
From hubs to cooking
After all, in Italy with its eight thousand kilometers of coastline, we still plant ourselves at the trumpeted Zero Kilometer: «With our colleagues, we asked a lifetime ago for a small space for direct sales, once we landed. Stalls are enough, administrative costs would be low and compliance would be guaranteed. We continue to wait ». At this point, being surprised by delays is tantamount to a crime. «With the nets, together with the fish, we raise toilets, computers, building materials, tires. Things thrown from ships and yachts, or dropped ashore and carried by currents. Before the recent “Salva sto” decree, we could not take the garbage ashore, if you were caught there was a fine ».
So, Leuca, peninsular strip, province of Lecce. In the second half of the nineteenth century, the Galati family opened a crime. The landowners of the interior chose the village for their vacations by building mansions – porches, prickly pears, cats, hammocks, soft colors – on the road parallel to the sea. And their servants, guards, peasants and grooms like the Galatians began to fish by varying the cuisine of the masters. The Galatians turned practice into work. «From the age of eighteen I have been involved in the process: ship’s boy, cook, fishing manager, commander. Pride, hard headed. I think about it, about changing: but at my age, who hires me?. But we understand that it is not only this.
L’the start of the work shift, at four in the morning, remembers that of the marshals and drivers: the companions who also get up to share the coffee and, after all, bless the departure. Ottavio and his wife Assuntina do breakfast in the dark, on the veranda. “See that light post? When he comes home he gets off on a seagull. Same as offshore crossing. It’s not an invention, I swear. He follows me”. Like dolphins. “They’re flanking the boat, ready for our food launch.”
At Ottavio’s feet a shoulder bag. “Never forget that.” Inside: documents, stamped methods, photocopies, permission from this and the other and the other instance … The weight of bureaucracy in the anachronistic bond to paper rather than digitization. But the internet…”In the phase of leaving the port, as well as the Capitaneria, we must inform the Ministry of Agriculture. It is a pity that the signal to make the communication often skips, and without having received confirmation from Rome we cannot move ».
In the summer these days
To avoid a trivial exercise, it is better to leave out the obvious feeling of jealousy in the freedom of Ottavio and those like him, far from the city box factories, from the notorious air, from the sick dynamics of the offices and colleagues. “Just forget it: 90 percent of people would last no more than two hours. At the same time, there is the sea. To fear. Sure, the weather forecast, the winds … But he, the sea, suddenly decides. A storm occurred, the radar went out of order and I had to try to get out of that point or we would have sunk … We climbed to the top to turn the blades of the unfortunate radar by hand ». The sea doing its own thing… «Good fishing is not taken for granted. Sometimes we don’t even match expenses”. Like diesel? «It is not to cry, but today it costs one euro and twenty per liter. I need three hundred liters a day … Do the calculation … Things have happened, for God’s sake, since the war, poor people … But I think there has been speculation ».
Even in this cultured Leuca (literary events, bookshelves in hotels), as in every resort, prices have registered increases. By keeping quiet about the bathing facilities, protected by the possibility of having almost free concessions from generation to generation, and being able to ask 4 euros for a parking half an hour after sunset on a piece of sandy lawn, the restaurants are now printing obscenely. receipts. And in chain you must survive. «My trawlers, lowering the nets to the seabed. I try to favor shrimp: they guarantee greater income“.
Trawling is condemned by environmentalists on charges of destroying ecosystems through indiscriminate hunting; a barbaric practice that should be abolished. Ottavio spreads his arms.
The challenge of water
We turn around the village and hear the story of a guy who benefits from citizenship income, linked to the ownership of a trendy bar that charges 10 euros for an aperitif with four olives. Which aggravates the grief against the general andazzo.
Like the people in bikinis and flip-flops who wander into moving churches and push prams – kids watch cartoons on mobile phones – and show off in vain in the ultra-modern private marina, which adjoins the fishermen’s. And where in the first a punctual system of wells allows the hulls to be washed for hours, in the second these wells do not work. “They turned off the water by repeating that we wasted it.”
Ottavio’s fishing boat is 17 meters long and bears the name of his daughter Federica; cousin Corrado, 52, and the third member of the crew, Michele D’Amico, 62, are already victims of human trafficking. They control the motor shaft, the exterior, the winches. Ottavio maneuvers and leaves the port. The clouds look like outlines of mountains. “There is no specific area where you can drop the nets. Experience, intuition counts. I also play it where my colleagues do not go ». We pass a monumental, stationary yacht; lively waiters order chairs and tables. Ottavio drops the nets. The operation lasts half an hour: when the nets reach the bottom of the sea, even at five hundred meters, the fishing boat continues its route indefinitely. In a treacherous environment: the junction of the Adriatic and Ionian currents. An intersection that generates clashes. Or maybe not.
Poet Denata Ndreca says this is the flow feature. He is of Albanian origin. And Albanian was Aptim. “We had done some great fishing but we decided on another launch. We heard screams. ‘Help help!’. There was a man overboard. And it’s not like I’m driving a car, I can’t steer at will, have the nets under… We managed to get it back. He had hands and feet gnawed by fish. Handmade floats. A pocket knife. A fin built with electric wire. He had left Albania on an old speedboat, with brothers and cousins. The speedboat had gone broken. He, being older, despite being twenty years old, had dared to seek help. We learned from the Harbor Master’s office that a helicopter had spotted the speedboat and rescues had taken off. Aptim had been at sea for two days… A boy with a polite manner, elegant in his bearing. He spoke English, which we couldn’t … No, I never looked for him … He must have become intellectual, he looked like it, while I am nothing but a fisherman“.
5 September 2022 (change 5 September 2022 | 22:09)
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