Catamaran calling

Catamaran calling

Right in the Middle

A catamaran ride is perhaps the closest you can get to the sea when you don’t trust your swimming skills but are not content just standing on the beach. No protective depth of a regular boat in this 5th century invention. With just planks of wood tied together and a hollow interior, the next big wave threatens to toss you right into the sea.

At Kovalam beach, Nagappan assures us that he is a good swimmer, that his rubber wood Catamaran can safely carry six of us and points reassuringly to the life jackets. With the afternoon sun beating down on us we sail into the vast Arabian Sea. The silence is broken only by the rhythmic sound of rowing.

About 20 minutes into the ride we spot a fisherman diving to catch fish with bare hands. Some fishermen have caught fish as big as 20 kilos. Our enterprising guide manages to get a couple of ‘mollusks’ from the diver. Breaking the mollusks’ shell against the catamaran’s frame, he sprinkles the white eggs into water. A school of fish immediately appears from nowhere to gobble them up.

Even as we watch fascinated, Nagappan points out to tiny fish darting out for food in the distance. The water is still and clear enough to afford a view of the plant and animal life underneath. We spot some corals that are neither bright nor beautiful. The view of darting orange coloured fish, some as big as kitten, is marvellous though.

The catamaran now is steered away from the coast and we are in deep waters. The fishermen have stopped rowing and I wonder whether the catamaran has a mind of its own taking us where it wants to go. As it swings gently in the waters, we spot a motorboat and several fishing boats in the distance. This is one picture perfect moment, I think, even as I gently lower a leg each on either side of the catamaran and into the waters. I am at least 800 metres from the shores and I can still touch the Arabian Sea!

It is nearly 45 minutes since we started and we begin to row back. We see foreigners sunbathing and local boys racing each other and throwing themselves against the tides. As we reach the shores I ask Nagappan which is the best time for a catamaran ride. Learning that it is early morning, I promise myself a morning ride next time.