Week 63: Sea fishing

The beach (at Terra Estreita) in the morning

The beach (at Terra Estreita) in the morning

Another view of the beach in the morning

Another view of the beach in the morning

Plum tree ready to harvest; the hint of white in the top right-hand corner is the moon

Plum tree ready to harvest; the hint of white in the top right-hand corner is the moon

Plums that look like chocolate eggs (according to my great-niece)

The plums look like chocolate eggs (according to my great-niece)

The tourist season is at its shimmering, simmering height, but you’d never think so where we are. We still go out if ever we hear a car go by because it must be someone who’s come to visit us or got lost. The bee-eaters are the only hordes to descend on this valley. Their numbers seem to be increasing. Where we used to hear them only in the evenings, now we hear them at any time of day. Their calls sound like a toy musical instrument, their shape against the sky seems composed of the protractors and compass points of a geometry set and their colours are as bright as a box of crayons. They seem to be formed from the contents of a schoolchild’s satchel. We watched them from the back terrace this morning. We also saw, over the space of a few minutes, the red-rumped swallows, many house martins, two tumbling, twirling golden orioles, a languid hoopoe and a darting blue rock thrush. Good company to have at breakfast.

Snapped in Santa Luzia. This vessel's name, Atum (Tuna), suggest its occupation, but tuna-fishing is on a much reduced scale these days

Snapped in Santa Luzia. This vessel’s name, Atum (Tuna), suggests its occupation, but tuna-fishing is on a much reduced scale these days

Another fishing boat in Santa Luzia

Another fishing boat in Santa Luzia, taken on a rare overcast day this week

Wooden boats

Why would a wooden fishing boat be any better than a fibreglass one? I asked this question provocatively of an earnest photographer and environmentalist on Saturday, ignoring my own feelings on the subject: which are that my heart lifts at the sight of an old wooden fishing boat, and it does not do the same at the sight of a fibreglass one. Husband and I had found ourselves at a hotel on the outskirts of Tavira, an old tuna-fishing village converted into a holiday centre, attending the presentation of a new association aimed at protecting the marine environment in all its aspects. A series of chance contacts brought us here; we were interested to find out what the project was all about. The proposed association – they are still jumping through bureaucratic hoops to set it up – arose out of the voluntary work done by an archaeologist, a teacher, a photographer and a tourist guide to preserve and restore an old octopus fishing boat from Santa Luzia: Os Cavalinhos (The Little Horses). About 6 metres long and 1.3 metres at its widest, it was part of the traditional octopus fishing fleet and in its time the fastest rowing boat in Santa Luzia. At sixty years old, it had fallen into disrepair. The volunteers, two of them the daughters of Santa Luzia fishermen, attempted to raise the funds to restore the boat to take part once again in the annual fishermen’s race. They succeeded, though only just in time. The race is on Monday 10 August and we plan to go and see it.

Why all this interest in an old wooden boat? It seems the government is in the process of encouraging the fishermen to get rid of their old boats, burn them on the beach if necessary, and accept some money towards the purchase of a fibreglass replacement. I haven’t been able to find out what is the official thinking behind this policy, but, as you saw, I did get the chance to ask the volunteer at the association what he had against it. Obviously, heart-lift cannot be a factor on either side. So, is a wooden boat really any better than a fibreglass one? Well, yes, he said. First, it’s sturdier, and much safer in a heavy sea. Secondly, besides strength, it has give: wood will flex in response to the movement of the sea, which fibreglass cannot. And this means, in turn, that the fisherman is better off. In a fibreglass boat, he – or, rather, his spine – becomes the most giving point of contact, which soon leads to a ruined back. Thirdly, a fisherman has a long relationship with a wooden boat. With love and care it will last for decades and be like a second skin. Not so a fibreglass boat. I was glad I’d asked. We will be interested to see the association get up and running and to find out if there’s any way we can contribute.

My father in a wooden fishing boat in the Gulf of Aden half a century ago. He loved sea fishing in his spare time

My father in a wooden fishing boat in the Gulf of Aden half a century ago. He loved sea fishing in his spare time

8 Comments

  1. Penny Johnstone

    As far as I am concerned every Wednesday morning presents a heart-lift in the shape of your post. As always, today’s is beautifully written and so evocative that I am there with you, smelling the smells, hearing the sounds and loving the images, especially that beautiful beach. Having been brought up with wooden boats, I immediately smelt the smell of the wood, which is certainly missing in a fibreglass hull. Good luck with the association!

    Reply
    1. Edith (Post author)

      Dear Penny, I’m so happy that you’re still reading the blog. Thank you for your lovely words.

      Reply
  2. Hazel

    So all you need now is a little wooden boat and some fishing tackle to go out and catch a few ocean occupants! Consider the barbecue, post successful voyage, on one of your deserted local beaches! xx

    Reply
  3. Fiona

    It would be a great pity to lose the wooden boats as they do indeed look so much more attractive than fibreglass ones. However, my father’s first sailing boat was made of wood and the amount of work involved was unbelievable – every Winter it had to be lifted out of the water and rubbed down and re-varnished several times. Days of work. Wooden boats are also of course prone to leaking. So I can understand why some fishermen are replacing them with modern ones.

    We always love to see the clinker built wooden dinghies which are still around in some parts of the UK, in particular the Isle of Wight.

    I love the photo of your dad.

    Reply
  4. Patricia Roberts

    I am learning something each week,wooden boats,great picture of Dad,he so loved sea fishing,thanks Mab.

    Reply
  5. Janet M

    Boat are interesting, but the sight of those beautiful plums made my mouth water.

    Reply
  6. fatma

    What a wonderful picture of your father! And what a wonderful and appropriate end to another interesting blog. I envy you all the equally wonderful birdlife you have access to. How wonderful!!

    Reply
  7. L.

    Forgot to say …. don’t know about Sta Luzia, but for uplift, while they last, walk along the pier at Cabanas de T. while the Fleet is in, reciting the names of the (still wooden) boats as you go – poetry of sight and sound … Ala Arriba, Panitinho, Perola de Cabanas, Tia Juanita, Mare Calmo, Olho Azul, Andorinha de Mar …. more strange, Filha de Puta …more prosaic, 7218 Tavira ….. if you are lucky there may be a pile of delicately multi-coloured sea urchins drying in the sun ….

    But perhaps best left until The Season is over? Unless you can see poetry and uplift on The Catwalk, in Overfed, Overexposed bodies that should Never Be Exposed, let alone to The Sun; and award a prize, over a daily coffee and croissant, to the ‘Best’ …. one, clearly Irishman, in July won my prize three days running (the whole family actually!); the natives here don’t stand a chance of even coming in the top 10! Why?

    And why cannot anyone design an charming, uplifting fibre glass boat? End up being poor pastiche, perhaps?

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: