Sun, Sand, Salt, Surf and Sea… Missing the time at the beach

Photos by Lena Petersen

Right now, I’m suffering from withdrawal symptoms. I cannot go near the sea or the beach, and I am suffering for it. It is the fresh salty air, the ubiquitous sea breeze, and the ever-changing coastal landscape that have drawn me to the sea all my life.

Psyche Roxas-Mendoza wrote of the subtle thrill of the seaside, “Every time I stand before a beautiful beach, its waves seem to whisper to me: If you choose the simple things and find joy in nature’s simple treasures, life and living need not be so hard.”

I was fortunate, no doubt, to be born in the small port town of Bluff, in New Zealand, which boasts the southernmost deep-water port in the world. In its heyday the Port of Bluff was responsible for exporting millions of tons of South Island raised and processed lamb and mutton to Russia, the United Kingdom and the Middle East, it exported millions of logs and processed wood products to Japan, and has been the logistics terminal for the Tiwai Aluminum Smelter across the other side of the harbor.

It is famous as home too, to the Foveaux (pronounced Fovo) Straits oyster boat fleet, crayfish and wet fish commercial fisheries, and is the service hub for the amazing Stewart Island, where tourists, among many other pursuits, brave the cold seas to ‘cage-dive,’ with 5 and 6 meter long Great White Sharks.

Not me though, I can’t even swim, yet I never ever turned down a chance to be ‘at sea,’ whether it was on a fishing boat, oyster boat, the Stewart Island ferry, a yacht or a dinghy, I was always game for whatever came next. We fished off the wharves and rocks and reached under the big rocks and boulders of the rocky shoreline for the ‘paua,’ which you know as abalone. Those life experiences were normal for those of us born in the tiny port town with a population of around 3000, and still are today, though the port has seen its huge tonnages of yesteryear very much depleted.

Coming to Oman has seen the ‘boy’ in me re-emerge somewhat, and Lena and I, even though living in the interior, have found it easy to hop in the car and get to the seaside. We befriended prominent local fishing identity, Sulieman Al Hajri and he and Franz Kohler introduced us to the thrill of trolling, a form of fishing where lures are towed along behind a boat, and the predatory ‘game fish,’ such as Kingfish, Tuna, and Mahi Mahi provide some pretty exciting action when they strike. We even bought a boat ourselves but living 150kms away from it took the fun out of it, so we sold it.

Lena has become more and more keen on fishing in recent years, and we have enjoyed the fact that we can fish together from the shore, enjoying each other’s company, and being active. We share the catches, and ‘the ones that got away,’ with passion, and Lena has found the ‘baitcaster’ reels and relatively light rods suit her well, while I favor ‘spinning’ reels and longer, heavier rods and gear. I think we are about even with our catches, but when Lena gets ‘on the bite,’ she gets plenty! We only take the decent sized fish home and release any exotics or small fish. There is absolutely no satisfaction for us in taking a beautiful ‘Parrot fish,’ or a ‘Picasso fish,’ for eating.

The fishing though, is only part of the story, as it’s the health benefits of the exercise, the clean fresh air, the Sun, the feel of the sand and sea between your toes, that all add up, each time, to a new, revitalizing experience. With the beaches closed for now under the Supreme Committee directives, we can only yearn for the sea while looking through the kitchen window at Jebel Akdhar! It’s a truth, a tie, a bond, of which JFK said, “When we go back to the sea, we are returning whence we came.” I do wish I could… I came from the sea.