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.

32 thoughts on “More on the last Portuguese fishing schooners”

  1. I wonder where they all are now? I know that one of the Portuguese fishing schooners Argus built in 1938 was acquired by Windjammer Barefoot Cruises in 1975 and sailed with them for many years as the Polynesia. Windjammer went bust a few years back so I have no idea where the Polynesia is now but I did had he pleasure of sailing on her for a week a few years back.

    1. The Polynesia is now in bad shape in TRinidad.I was captain her and the old 2-masted
      Polynesia as well.Also I had the Mandalay,Yankee Clipper,and the Fantome.

      1. I sailed across the Atlantic with the Jose Alberto from Lisbon to St Johns, was in a horrific hurricane on the Creoula, sistership of the Argus off the coast of Greenland as a cameraman for Nat Geo Soc.
        ” Portuguese men of the Sea, the Lonely Dorymen”
        Also sailed on the Gil Eannes and filmed an operation on that hospitalship>

      2. Yankee Clipper? Irving Johnson…he sailed around Cape Horn on the Peking…I have the footage that he shot

    2. Argus have returned to Portugal, is going to be reconstructed and sail again under the Portuguese flag.
      Argus was the capital ship of the white fleet, and exists interest in recoverit.

  2. Strange how I found this – I was looking for Ierne, a Fife class yacht that was found in Portugal and restored in Barton upon Humber by Draughtsman Yachts, which led me to the article you have on Spider T which is excellent by the way they recently visited us at the

    Which led me to searching this website and reading this article about Portugese Fishing Schooners.

    Strange how the web works. I really enjoyed reading this article and shall be adding this site to my Bookmarks!

  3. Hi Gavin

    Note the comment about Greenhill and offering the benefit of the doubt that possibly he did not know about this fleet. I have absolutely not doubt at all that he knew about the vessels.

    Hi Tillerman … if you look for my earlier observations about the Portuguese schooners, I refer to Argus and her sisters Creoula and Santa Maria Manuela. All three are in good hands … in Portugal. There is a fourth "lugre" and that's the barquentine Gazela PPrimeiro … she's a part of the Philadelphia waterfront and well cared for

    1. Thanks Jay. You may well be right – I have no idea, but if he did know I can't think of a motive, good or bad, for deliberately leaving out the Portuguese.


  4. I just finished reading Alan Villiers Quest of the Schooner Argus; great book about the days of Portuguese Grand Banks/Davis Straits dory long line cod fishing. Windjammer Barefoot's Polynesia (ex-Argus) has been purchased after the demise of the company and taken to Portugal. She has been renamed Argus, and is going to be used for sail training.

  5. Dexter Donhan thank you for the info on the Poly. I have been searching for updated info. I was on her many years ago and have read the book as well.

  6. the "CREOULA" belongs to the portguese navy and is a sea trainning vessel, the "ARGUS" (aka "Polynesia") was recently purchased in Aruba in the Bahamas and brought to Portugal to be repaired under the original plans and layout, by a private company who also restored the "SANTA MARIA MANUELA" wich alredy sails and will participate in the tallships "regatta" in august, you can check out all of this and much more at the blog/site http://www.santamariamanuela.blogspot,com

    may god blow good winds on your sails

  7. Hi Gavin and everybody.

    Some coments on your article.

    As a Portuguese, I am very happy to see this discussion and interest around our past "White Fleet".

    As for Mr. Greenhill "omission" of the Portuguese part in sailing schooners history, being the White Fleet so renowed internationally, there had the be specific reasons for that, which I will not comment, as I don´t know them.

    The last dory ship to leave St. John´s NFL was called "Novos Mares" but it wasn´t "the" sailing schooner. The first "Novos Mares" was a 4-masted sailing schooner, with auxiliary engine, active between 1938-1956. She can be seen here

    In 1958 a new "Novos Mares" was built, a motor-ship, and in it my father did his 8 campaigns as a doryman, from 1967-1974. And this ship was the last of the Era of the Dories, abandoning St. John´s in the Summer of 1974, closing the book of Portuguese dory-fishing.

    The last effective sailing schooners of the fleet were made of steel, and worked between 1938-9 to 1972-3, like the "Creoula" or "Argus", still exisitng today as writen in other comments.


  8. It was good to read your comments on the Argus/Polynesia, I was priveleged to be the Captain of the Polynesia when she was owned by the Windjammer and she was the finest ship I ever sailed in; I named her the 'Pretty Polly' and we made her look beautiful,introduced the habit of playing Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. Polly allways sailed with "Amazing Grace". She was featured in the cover of a tall ships calender by 'Bekon of Cowes' she is also on the coverof the UK version of their book 'One Hundred Years of Tall Ships'. I met Senor Edwardo Van Zeller on board when he visited and we became good friends, he had sailed with Alan Villiers before Alan wrote the book and is mentioned in the dedications by Alan. Edwardo gave me a copy of 'Quest of the Schooner Argus', it was Alan Villiers' own copy which was gifted to me from his widow Nancy, needles to say it is one of my prize posessions as are the memories of my experiences as her captain. These experiences remain my finest memories in a fifty year seagoing career (so far). thanks for your comments, Jock

  9. It was good to hear someone else (Captain McGroarty) shared my love and trust of 'Poly'. I sailed on her in 1979 as a deckhand for Windjammer, the summer of David and Frederick, and we spent some time at sea in the eye of Frederick. I never had a moment's lack of faith in her, and she always answered. Even with all the superstructure added for cruising, she handled like a grand lady, although she shook loose her galley stove just before we entered the eye! I have been trying to follow her refit, with mixed emotions: glad that she has been rescued, but now it is difficult to follow her new life in Portuguese. I have to thank people who have shared images and reports of her and I look forward to gleaning more. Perhaps she will even return to Canada someday.


  10. Hi,

    Came across this page and the reference to the Portuguese White Fleet.

    The Portuguese were well known in St. John's and Newfoundland for many years.

    There are not a few happy couples in St. John's, comprised of Newfoundland women married to Portuguese fishermen. The days of the Great White Fleet may be over but the memory of it lives on.

    One of the Transport Canada inspectors, working out of the Toronto Ontario office, who inspected my little passenger vessel, was a mate on one of the Portuguese schooners back then. It was easy and very pleasant to get him talking about those days – something which made my annual inspection a little less of a chore.

    As for Basil Greenhill; he, like so many in Britain and the USA, lost sight of the fact that there is a very large country, north of the United States which has an incredible maritime history.

    It isn't all Basil's fault; we in Canada, take our history too much for granted and do little to make sure that it is recorded and made available to those interested in it.

    Some of you may know of the lost Franklin Expedition; some of his logs or journals have just been sent to Ottawa for conservation work. When they are released to the public, it will be the first time since the disappearance of Franklin that this material will be seen by the world.

    All the best and thank you for your interest in the Portuguese / Canada connection.


  11. Trying to locate Captain Jock McGroaty. My wife and i were married in Antiqua Dec. 28, 1987 and Jock was my best man. We were on the Fantome. Traci Scott was maid of honor. Feel free to pass my addres along to the Captain.


  13. I have not seen any mention of the Gazela of Philly. I was told she is the last of the wooden Porteguese White Fleet boats. I was able to Captain her around the US and Canadian Maritimes ten plus years ago…She is in graet shape for her age, and has a very dedictaed group of volunteers that keep her moving.

  14. The Creoula, Argus and Manuela have been saved and restored………There was one more 4 masted steel schooner built the Jose Alberto featured in a National Geographic special about the white fleet in the 1960's…. Does anyone know what happened too her? Does she still exist?

  15. Guys

    Nice to see that my original note sparked such a conversation

    I realised my mistake re Novos Mares when I posted that original note

    Indeed, as was pointed out by Antonio, it was the motorship Novos Mares and not the schooner that became the last member of the White Fleet to campaign with dories in the traditional way

    I note that Argus has had a bottom clean and been annti-fouled, plus anodes renewed. But it looks like it will be a while yet before the real restoration starts. Meanwhile SMM has been to Canada and is currently engaged in a major cetacean study off Portugal. Creoula has been busy too in her role as a training shop for the Portuguese navy

    Re Jose Alberto, as far as I'm aware she was broken up. My understanding is that she started life as a square rigged merchant ship before being converted by the Portuguese for the Grand Banks fishery

    Max asks about the class of wooden motor fishing vessel called the Monterey boat, once quite common in Californian fishing ports and attributed to Moterey itself. The most I ever saw was in San Francisco in the late 1970s … white painted and very pretty; some of great age

    They are Italian Mediterranean in origin and were/are mostly around 40-50ft overall. Were frequently rigged for trolling (towed lines and not trawling) for tuna and swordfish, etc. Relatively low-powered but fast



  16. Bit more on Jose Alberto

    I've just been into my archive for a dig

    She was built in 1923 in Denmark for Marstal owners and launched as the Caroline

    That means she will have been built as a four-masted auxiliary schooner and NOT as a sq rigger as indicated in my above post

    Passed into Portuguese ownership in the mid 1930s. So she was a very modern vessel at that time

    I was also wrong regarding being broken up. Rather she went the way of so many Portuguese bankers … she caught fire off the so-called Virgin Rocks in 1968 and foundered. Its curious just how many of these vessels caught fire … and in much the same place … towards end of sail in the White Fleet, indeed the White Fleet itself

    There is, by the way, some rather interesting research regarding why this happened. A key factor appears to the the Portuguese revolution of the early 70s and thus the end of the "recruiting" system used. Basically fit, able young mean appeared to have two choices … get conscripted into the military or pressed into the White Fleet!


  17. Anyone wanting to read up the closing chapter of the White Fleet could usefully go find

    The Portuguese in Canada: diasporic challenges and adjustment By Carlos Teixeira, Victor M. P. Da Rosa. It can be found and read on the net

  18. Sailed on the Poly from 76/77 as deckhand/ships carpenter. Wynn Jones was the Captain. We sailed from Saint Maarten weekly. She was a stable and powerful ship under sail. I still have my copy of the 52' National Geographic with the Villiers story on " Portugal's Captains Courageous", and can proudly point out the porthole that was in my bunk. I am so happy to know she is back in Portugal and being restored!

    1. Great to hear from you concerning Wynne and the Poly.Wynne sailed with me and trained to to become a skipper which he did quite rapidly.
      A great guy and I miss him and many others in the Windjammer family.
      Marsh Gabriel,Lory Mc Cloud,Terry Bewley,Ted Asp,Keith Gregory just to mention a few of the captains and which I had the privilege to be part of.

  19. Ílhavo Sea Festival 2012 (Aveiro,Portugal) . Come visit some of the biggest and most beautiful sailboats in the world including UAM Creoula (Portuguese Navy), Santa Maria Manuela (Portuguese), Argus/Polynesia (Portuguese), Mir (Russian), Alexander von Humboldt II (German), Dar Mlodziezy (Polish) , Pelican of London(UK), Guayas (Equador), Fryderiyk Chopin (Polish), Zawisza Czarny (Polish), Johanna Lucretia (GB) , Maybe and others.

    I believe next year there’s more! 🙂

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