25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
"Tanquero" is Not a War Tank
My uncle Ramon of Ramon's Village has reminded me to write about these boats called "tanqueros", and it is because he used to work in one of these along with his father and his brothers. Yes, Ramon was a village fisherman and made his humble living working in a "tanquero". He made hundreds of journeys to Corozal to sell fish with 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. To do this, he invented the well that was built inside his boat. This was a large box, perhaps six by six feet by four feet high built inside the boat. One-inch hole were drilled at the bottom of the boat to allow water to flow into the well. I was always intrigued by the fact 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 well that tio 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" or special net to dip out a dozen in one shot. Also when the "tanque" was empty, the boys loved to simply jump in there and swim. In fact, we used to swim in the empty tank while the boat was on journey to the trap or simply sailing around. It felt like a rich person swimming in a jacuzzi in his private boat. It was also a lot of fun just staring into the "tanque" or 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.