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Messrs. Fix It are fishermen's heroes

Update: November, 23/2014 - 22:46
Self-made: Dung ‘the mechanic' and Hoang ‘the electrician' work on a boat's engine before it sails out. — VNA/VNS Photo Le Trung

For the Mechanic, Electrician and Engineer, helping others comes as naturally as their expertise, which they picked up without any formal training. Doan Cuong and Le Trung look at what makes them tick.

Just back in Tam Quang from a long journey at sea, Le Van Tu went straight to work in his shop repairing a piece of machinery sent in by a fellow fisherman. It's hard to imagine that the expert in front of us smelling of engine oil and smoke is a self-taught professional.

After leaving school in the ninth grade, Tu started working on engines, mostly by himself. Now he owns a workshop and is a legend in the region because he's always ready to go to the assistance of a vessel that has broken down at sea.

Just last week, after receiving a radio message from a boat whose engine gave out in the middle of the ocean, Tu went to local markets to buy spare parts. He then hopped on a boat to go to the rescue.

Le Van Nam, captain of the disabled boat, said: "As soon as Tu arrived, he disappeared in the engine room and started working. A few hours later, the engine was throbbing again, although further repairs had to be done ashore.

Le Van Tu is not the only self-taught engineer in Tam Quang District of coastal Quang Nam Province. There are two other legendary engineers, Dung, "the mechanic" and Hoang "the electrician", again both self-taught. The three make a good team and are famous in the area for sometimes fixing boat engines free of charge.

Just a few days ago, fishing boat QNa 91259 broke down while at work in the sea north of Viet Nam's Paracel Islands.

"The waves were strong that day and we heard there was a storm coming our way. Everyone on the boat was worried. I remembered the team and radioed them for help," recalled Tran Sanh, the captain.

The rescue engineers arrived within minutes after abandoning their own fishing site. It took the team two hours to fix the boat. A handshake and a thank you were sufficient. Nobody even talked about money.

Dung "the mechanic" told us his story. Born into a poor family, even after passing entrance exams for Nha Trang Fisheries University and the Da Nang College for Technology, he had to drop out of school.

Dung went to HCM City and worked as a car mechanic. After returning to his home town, he joined fishing boats and took care of engines and other machines when they broke down.

He doesn't remember how many boats he has helped fix. To the people in Tam Quang, Dung "the mechanic" is the man they call when there is a boat to be fixed.

Hoang "the electrician" dropped out after seventh grade to become a fisherman to support his family. His uncle was an electrician and he started to learned the basics from him when he was 11.

After 10 years of learning the hard way on board fishing boats, Hoang is now an expert electrician.

The three men often refuse to take money for their help. Most of the time, they just sit down, have a beer together and talk about life. To them, a good deed is its own reward.

"We are not real engineers. It's just know-how we picked up as we knocked around the waterfront and went fishing. We help people we see in trouble and it is good for our children's karma," said Hoang.

It is not hard to find Dung "the mechanic's" house. He is a local hero to many fishermen for his generosity. He went to sea at the age of 14 and now commands two boats.

Dung said fishermen like himself always remembered that the sea was a treacherous thing. It gives life and it may, one day, take it away.

"At the darkest hour, we fishermen have to be able to count on each other. I am certain others would do the same if my boat broke down," he said. — VNS

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