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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.