National Geographic : 1965 Oct
at the word of command. In the wheelhouse, the captain's eyes dart from the flickering sonar to the surface of the sea and to the other questing boats. But mostly they linger on the sonar, await ing the thick, black, continuous streaks that signal fish. The men of Alzirinha are living their moment of truth. A day's pay, 24 hours of bread and hope, hangs on Captain Gomes and the sonar. A false drop of the net-too early, too late, off the mark -and a boat returns with an empty hold. Hands tight on the wheel, Jose Maria threads among boats already hauling in fish-clogged nets and others, like Alzirinha, still scouring the sea. All around us vessels skim and wheel in a vast, unsynchronized ballet. Overhead, gulls scream their greed and swoop recklessly down to pirate silvery fish from the nets. "Mae de Deus!" hisses Jose Maria, "Mother of God!" Abruptly he spins the wheel; Alzirinha shudders into a hard 90-degree turn, barely missing a dinghy. "Close," I say. "We've had closer," says the captain. For almost three hours we sweep back and forth ... back and forth. Time after time the sonar's streaks thicken hopefully, but 474 Bucking heavy surf, fisher men bring their boats ashore at Nazare, an Atlantic fishing village named for the child hood home of Jesus. Like Phoenicians of old, Furadouro's brawny men of the sea struggle with heavy oars to bring a high-prowed barco do mar onto the beach. Teams of yoked oxen draw a boat to the safety of the sands. Bulky, flat-bottomed barcos do mar ride breakers that would swamp less sea worthy craft.