Tag Archives: jay cresswell

More on the last Portuguese fishing schooners

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Brites, built in 1936 crossing the Atlantic in the 1960s – her wooden dories clearly visible on deck

(Above, left )Adelia Maria, (above, right) Coimbra, both of which were built in 1948

Novos Mares

Following his tip-off about the stunning Lonely Men of the Dories Youtube videos Jay Cresswell has sent through some old photos of the last of the sailing Grand Bankers of Portugal from his personal collection.

The Lonely Men of the Dories footage shows the crews of the Portuguese Grand Banker schooners using the small wooden boats called dories for long-lining cod.

Luisa Ribau was the last sailing Grand Banker to be built, and was launched in 1953 and destroyed on the Grand Banks by fire in 1973.

A number of large Grands Banks schooners were built by the Portuguese after World War II, notably the four-masters Adelia Maria and Coimbra in 1948.

Collectively known as the White Fleet, the last departure of the schooners from St John’s in Newfoundland was the wood-built lugre named Novos Mares in July 1974. So ended the last significant chapter of trans-Atlantic commercial sail, an aspect that Jay remarks seems to be barely known about here in the UK, and which seems to have been missed by famous maritime historian Basil Greenhill when he was writing wrote his 1980 book Schooners, which was published by Batsford – although he did include the Canadian Bankers at the very end of the dory-schooner fishery on the Banks, and enjoyed rowing a dory on near his home towards the end of his life.

Perhaps he hadn’t heard about the Portuguese – the world was a bigger place in those days, and I suppose it’s a reminder that historians, like journalists and everyone else, can miss important points from time to time. What I find striking is the discovery that these large sailing fishing craft were working so late into the 20th century. When I grew up I remember everyone said that the days of large sailing craft were long over outside of sail training ships – but everyone was clearly wrong.

A beautiful model of a ring-netter

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Jay Cresswell’s model of Ribhinn Donn I, and (bottom right) Antonia & Ruaraidh

This stunning model of a ring netter has been made by Jay Cresswell, an ex-trawler skipper, long-standing Old Gaffers Association member and authority on marine history who has for many years lived near Aberdeen.

He writes:

‘You might like to see the attached. I’ve nearly completed a 3/4in to 1ft model of the 54ft Alex Noble & Sons-built ring netter Ribhinn Donn I. (Her sister is Silver Quest, which is currently sitting in the mud at Penryn down by Falmouth.)

‘I still have to complete rigging details, wheelhouse interior and other bits and pieces such as semi-balancing edge to rudder. The bottom is quite literally anti-fouled. The model is built from original yard drawings for these two boats.

‘This is the second ringer I’ve tackled, the other being a Weatherhead & Blackie 56-footer to same scale named Antonia & Ruaraidh after my two oldest children. (See above.) The original boat in this case is the Catherine Anne, which was chopped up a few years ago in one of the UK fishing vessel decommissioning rounds.

‘I hope you like the images. It’s been a year’s worth of spare time. There are no metal fastenings in the hull, with all planking dowelled to the frames.

‘Regards, Jay Cresswell, Aberdeen’

I certainly do like them Jay – you’ve created a couple of meticulous models that rival or better many of those seen in museums. I particularly like the way every detail seems to be properly to scale. Many thanks for sending them over.