At its simplest, The Old Man and the Sea tells the story of an old fisherman, Santiago, who has fallen on hard luck and has gone 84 days without a fish, but who finally catches a great marlin, only to have it destroyed by sharks before he can tow it back to shore. The story can be read on many levels and contrasts the two kinds of fishermen who plied the waters off the northern coast of Cuba at the time. There were those like Santiago, who were part of a culture that relied on experience and faith, rather than upon modern technology, and who were bound to family and tightly knit communities. To these fishermen the sea was la mar, in the Spanish feminine, loved even as she was respected and feared. The younger, more modern fishermen, who were not so closely tied to the local community, relied on boat motors instead of oars, and used buoys instead of simple handlines to fish. They spoke of the sea as el mar, in the masculine, considering him a rival or even an enemy.