The astonishing Portuguese muleta

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The astonishing Portuguese muleta fishing boat
– download a larger image here

Rooting around in my pile of old books, I found this illustration, which reminded me of a model of the muleta I saw as a boy in the London Science Museum, which has a fantastic collection of models of craft from around the world.

Here’s the blurb from the book in which I found the illustration, The Story of Sail by GS Laird Clowes and Cecil Trew. It’s well worth reading, for as well as being an interesting historical survival it seems the boat evolved for a kind of drift netting, and that the rig is a highly adjustable means of adjusting both the rate of drift and the boat’s balance before the wind as it slides gently to leeward.

It also suggests that anyone who once seens one of these boats is unlikely to ever forget the sight, and it seems to be true – even when the sighting concerned is only of a model.

Here’s a photo of the Science Museum’s model.

See illustrations of muletas and similar boats here and here.  There’s an excellent description and a small photo in a newsletter published by European Maritime Heritage. I haven’t been aware of this group up to now, but its website says it is a non-governmental organisation for private owners of traditional ships, as well as for maritime museums and other interested bodies.

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