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Dying Arts Of Fishermen -Making Wells Inside Boats Part 3

By Angel Nuñez

Okay, so I have given you a little insight of how to knit a gill net and how to build a fish wire trap right in front of your beach in the sea and today we will take a look at another dying art- the art of making wells inside boats. Whenever I think of these ‘tanqueros’ or boats with fish tanks or wells, I think of my Uncle Ramon because he used to work in one of these along with his father and his brothers. Yes, Ramon Nuñez was a village fisherman and made his humble living working in a “tanquero”. He made hundreds of journeys to Corozal to sell fish with their boat La Lupita, one of San Pedro’s most famous “tanqueros”.

There were the regular 20 or 24 foot sailing boats that were used as fishing boats. With these the fishermen used to get to their fishing sites. However, the wire trap fisherman found the need to keep large quantities of fish alive so he could take it to Belize City and Corozal Town to sell alive and fresh at the market since they fetched better prices. To do this, he invented the well that was built inside his boat.

Sailing Boat Tanks, Wells, Tanqueros made by local Sanpedranos to keep their fish alive so they could later sell fresh in Belize City

This was a large box, perhaps six by six feet by four feet high built inside the boat or any height that was above the water level outside.  The secret is that water would rise inside the well only to the level of the water outside. One-inch hole were drilled at the bottom of the boat to allow water to flow into the well. As a little boy I was always worried that water would enter the boat and flood it until it sunk, but no, the water only came as high as the water level outside. It is in this boat well that Ramon and many other fishermen used to place up to two or three hundred live fishes and carry them to sell fresh at the market. Well, look at the diagram to get a better idea of the “tanque” or well.

The “tanquero” boats were a lot of fun. When it was loaded with fish, my uncle or a friend would say, “Go to the “tanque” and get a few fish. One used a “jamo”, which is a hoop net to scoop out a dozen fishes in one shot. Also when the “tanque” was empty, the boys loved to simply jump in there to freshen up.  Talk about a cruise ship with its swimming pool.  This was pretty close to that.
Also it was a lot of fun just staring into the fish well to see so many fish lashing their tails fighting for space. It was a huge aquarium in days when nobody had aquariums in their homes. Indeed the “tanqueros” were a lot of fun 25 years ago.  I guess that any carpenter can build a fish well today.  However, they rather take the fish and refrigerate it thinking that it keeps the fish just as fresh.  Is It?

25 Years Ago Books Can Be Purchased At:
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Read Dying Arts Of Fishermen -Making Gill Nets #2

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