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May 10, 2007

Start of the 2007 Mediterranean Expedition of the Oceana Ranger

BY: Carlos Suárez


© OCEANA / Carlos Suárez


On the 7th of May we set sail from Torredembarra (Tarragona, Spain) in a northerly direction, and after the planned preparations we sailed through the Mediterranean sea. I was very excited at the start of this expedition, and a little nervous.

The weather was on our side and we sailed comfortably, enjoying the good temperature. Watches were allocated for the journey and the routine on-board work started. Our destination was the port of Roses, where we wanted to photograph all the trawlers of the port sailing out at once.

The following morning we made sure we arrived at the mouth of the port to coincide with the sound of the horn which is the starting signal for all the trawlers to start their journey to their favourite fishing zones. The spectacle is moving and it is unusual to witness these types of vessels competing to work first in certain zones.

After documenting this tradition, we entered the port and we all started the routine of our respective on-board jobs. At midday, we had an hour free and some of us decided to go and have a refreshing dip in the beach next to the port.

The following day we set sail for the Gulf of León. There we tried to document the activity of the Thonailles. These are French fishing boats which work with non-selective drift nets, and are currently not permitted by European regulations. As we sailed I took some photos of the crew, and we had some very funny moments. The sunset was spectacular and for a few minutes we all remained silent and just listened to the murmur of the waves slapping against the prow of the Ranger.

That night after dinner, I started my watch. For three hours my colleague Indi and I paid close attention to the radar and to the horizon. There was a lot of maritime traffic and we couldn’t relax even for a minute. Whilst we sailed across the surface of the water in silence we saw many passenger boats passing, and some fishing boats. Later, and after sharing the wheel with my colleague, our watch was nearly finished. The next shift took over from us and we were able to sleep until the following morning.

When we woke up we were finally sailing in French waters. We headed for Le Grau du Roi where our colleagues on land had informed us there was some Thonailles activity. We waited opposite the entrance to the port and started keeping watch.

We didn’t have to wait long until we saw some of these craft sailing out. We quickly set off and followed them to their fishing zones. We waited a safe distance from them and before sunset started to record their activity. Without bothering them, we took photographs and they simply continued casting their long nets. We spent the night moored in the area, hoping to be able to take a picture of their catches. However, they started taking in the nets in pitch dark and I couldn’t take good pictures.

The following day our activities were the same. We watched the departure of the Thonnailles. We followed them and spotted new boats, but by morning the state of the sea had changed significantly. Strong winds and rough seas lashed the Ranger. In these conditions we were able to film one of the fishing boats bringing in its net. The situation was very tense due in large part to the terrible sea conditions and when the manoeuvre was finished we started to sail in the direction of Marseille. The winds were very strong, reaching over 50 knots. It was exhausting facing the intense battering of the waves but the Ranger remained noble and secure.

In the afternoon we finally arrived in the port of Marseille and it was exciting to see the port of this city. We were very lucky and the head of the port assigned us a berth just opposite the city hall – a great luxury I was looking forward to enjoying!