13 September 2012

Shipwreck two

The Portuguese West coast is not among the gentlest in the world. In fact, it's so beaten by storms and heavy seas during the Winter months that it is, somehow, a surprise that this country embarked in a bigger-than-life expeditionary effort six centuries ago. We don't have a myriad of safe natural ports and sheltered basins like the guys on the North Sea. And we don't have the fair weather of the Mediterranean basin. All we have is a tempestuous sea beating on a square-drawed and vertiginous rocky coast. Hard to imagine that a small and poor nation of fishermen could see anything more than desolation in that distant liquid horizon. Granted, one thing I've always enjoyed while navigating in our waters: you have always a mile of water under your keel. At a distance of more than two miles from the shore line and you can forget shallows, sand banks, rocks, reefs and other nautical nightmares. In fact, this factor alone was so relevant for me as a seafarer that I really didn't care so much that every Winter time I was being served, quite often, with ten meter waves while on my personal quest to supply the supermarket shelves with fresh yogurts.
So, only for this circumstance alone, we can consider the Portuguese coast as a safe body of water for navigation. You can draw straight lines to your heart's content in the nautical chart. Just pay attention to the rules of the road.
Due to this evidence it's always a surprise when we hear of a grounding. Touching the bottom with your keel is something not very common while navigating along the Portuguese coast. And for that sad happening, there are only two main reasons: nautical error or propulsion/steering malfunction.
I don't really know how the fishing trawler Vougamar's life started, but I do know how it ended: lying down on her port side, agonizing on a rocky coast, near Peniche. There are two thoughts that haunt a seafarer during his entire career at sea: one is the loss of his vessel, being the other the loss of his life. And, for many that I've known, the loss of the latter would be a bearable price to pay compared with the first alternative.
Sadly and quite often, the seafaring family looses both.
Fishing trawler Vougamar grounded near Peniche, in the West coast of Portugal. Early nineties.
Picture taken with Pentax SF-1 and Pentax KAF SMC 50mm f/1.7.
Agfachrome 100 ASA scanned in Nikon Coolscan V ED.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.

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