Henry Minnaar was born in Hermanus in1906. Like his grandfather and father, he became a fisherman at a young age and experienced all the joys and hardships of those years. There were no boat engines or echofinders and when there was no wind, they had to row 20 km to the fishing waters and 20 km back. Dangers abounded. Whales chased them at times. They had to use their own acumen to know where to find fish. According to Henry there was a Agreen@ smell in the water when sardines ran. It was fantastic to see a school of sardines around the boat, big fish swimming with sardines in their mouths. But that was the era of fish in abundance in the bay.
Boats weighed between one and one and a half tons and had to be manhandled. Sixteen men had to carry a boat up the hard. Henry was reputed to have said that a fisherman’s life was slavery and that the hard work cost many their lives. Henry stuck to fishing for fourteen years, but then found work in the local telephone exchange. He still went to sea in his time free and at times he only slept two hours a night.
In his career Henry was skipper on three boats. One belonged to Peter McFarlane, Voorspoed, which he bought from a Malay in the Strand. The Malay warned him not to take the boat to sea on a Friday, the Malay’s holy day. The two other boats were Britannia of Oom Lewies (Poppies) Swart and Princess May of Koos Groenewald.
Henry married Helma Nolte from Wellington. Their three children are Melvyn, a well-known journalist, Andre working in Hermanus and Karen-Ann. They lived in Marine Drive, near the Ocean View, for many years. When Henry died in 1980, aged 72, one of the colourful characters was lost to the Hermanus fishing community. Helma still lives in Fynbos Park Retirement Village.
Blogger: Jeanette du Toit Information S.J. du Toit Photo: Old Harbour Museum