“Row quickly. Quick!” This is the typical command given by the keulhu, captain or chief leader of the bokkoraa or hafaali dhoani, vessels used for fishing and transporting goods, during the struggle to sweep from the nere, anchorage passages in Fuvahmulah.
Fuvahmulah is surrounded by a tough and tremendous reef flat. So in early days government created these passages to get into the island. Trying to sweep from nere or entering the nere is dangerous, but it is also a stimulating action full of excitement and skill.
The rowers or fishermen make preparation for travelling to an anchored dhoani or fishing. They drag the bokkoraa into the passage of nere. Then the rowers get into the bokkoraa and slowly row towards the opening of the nere.
In a bokkura there are three rowers. The rower who rows with two oars, is called dhekedefaali jahaa meehaa. The other two rowers sitting in the middle of the bokkura is called bandofaali jahaameehun, each rower has only one oar. The rowers have to be paired so that there is an oar on each side of the bokkoraa.
The bokkora is stationary in the middle of the nere as the spoon-like blade of the oars are twisted by the rowers and they push the stern of the oars away from their chest in a vertical-circular motion so that it generates backward thrust, keeping the vessel away from the point where the waves break.
The keulhu directs them. The waves cane be seen generating 100 to 200 feet away from the bokkoraa. The keulhu will be cautious for plunging or spilling waves that might capsize the bokkoraa if the waves break into the vessel. So he will carefully observe the wave movements.
When there aren’t any “dangerous” waves, the keulhu orders the crew to raw the bokkuraa. Then they twist the blade of the oars and start rowing as fast as they can. Simultaneously the keulhu also uses a stern to propel the vessel, by plunging it into the water and propels the bokkoraa forward and then again taking the stern out of the water and repeating the procedure till the bokkuraa sweeps from the opening of the nere.
During this dangerous movement, several bokkoraa and dhoani had been capsized when huge waves break on the vessels resulting in damages to vessels and goods. In our district, Ahamamad (Malhabige) was the most daring “keulhu” who sweeps the bokkora under his command like a US special force commander. He will not hesitate to wait for long time in the middle of the nere although huge waves pound repeatedly on the opening of the nere.