National Geographic : 1968 Apr
" TEVOEIRO!" murmured Joaquim Mar / ques Rosa, pointing to the northeast. S "Fog!" I stood up in our 16-foot dory and watched it roll in, enshrouding other frail fishing boats on the placid sea. Apprehensively I glanced at the dory's com pass. We could still see our mothership, the four-masted schooner Jose Alberto, and I noted that it lay east-southeast of us. As I watched, it too disappeared in the fog. Suddenly we were alone-a 27-year-old fisherman who understood no English, and I who spoke no Portuguese-fogbound off the west coast of Greenland, in Davis Strait. We were above the bank called Store Helle fiske ("big halibut fishing" in Norwegian), hoping to catch big cod. With other vessels of the Portuguese fleet-its 66 ships and 5,400 men form the world's largest codfishing armada-the Jose Alberto sailed here last April. After a month on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, the Por tuguese had migrated toward the Arctic Circle in search of more plenti ful fish (map, page 576). Earlier that morning Joaquim and I had break fasted on hot codfish soup, bread, and a cup of brandy-traditional Por tuguese fisherman's fare. Then our dory was low ered over the side, one of 60 that fanned out from the ship. EKTACHRON As soon as we hit the water, Joaquim grabbed an oar and pushed off. Long experience had taught him to move quickly, for in rough seas waves can smash a dory against the ship's side. But today there were no angry waves. Nor was there wind enough for Joaquim to hoist his little sail. He rowed for about a mile, then set out a buoy, tying to this an anchor line. Near the anchor, he made fast one end of his fishing line-aptly called a long-line, since it stretched nearly a mile when fully extended. Consisting of 19 separate lines for ease in adjusting the length, this long-line bristled with a thousand hooks. These were attached with leaders every few feet. Joaquim baited the hooks with chunks of frozen mackerel, flicking them over the side at the rate of 10 per minute. Occasionally he clenched the line in his teeth, pulling on the oars to keep it taut as he strung it along the bottom 200 feet be low, where the cod feed (page 577). Among a dozen codfishing nations, only the Portuguese still fish in this time-honored way. They use much the same method as did their forefathers who first came to the Grand Banks more than four hundred years ago.* But the long-line still gets good results. On it Joaquim has caught a ton of cod in a single day. After he had payed out about 150 hooks, he looked up and said, "Peixes-fish." He could feel the first cod hitting the bait. A good fish erman can tell roughly how many fish he's getting by the feel of the line. Too little action, and he will pull up and try his luck in a different spot. Tot of brandy at launch ing time, a tradition in the Portuguese fleet, helps a doryman face another day on the cold sea. Over the side at sunrise go the Luisa Ribau'sdories. With lines, bait, and lunch boxes stowed, the men raise their oiled lugsails and search the Banks for likely-looking water. "A waste of wallowing sea," wrote Rudyard Kipling of the Grand Banks in Cap tains Courageous,"cloaked with dank fog, vexed with gales, harried with drifting ice.. and dotted with the sails of the fishing fleet." ABOVE)AND KODACHROME ( N.G.S. Another dory drifted near us. In it stood Joaquim's brother-in-law, Jose Bernardo Gomes Cruz. They exchanged greetings, and Jos6 moved on. From my sea-level perch, it looked as if the waves had swallowed his dory, leaving him standing knee-deep in the ocean. The rhythmic plunking of hooks in the water was interrupted when Joaquim and I turned to watch the fog billow in. There fol lowed an eerie stillness broken only by the lapping of waves against the boat. As Joaquim resumed the baiting of hooks, I picked up a scoop and bailed water that splashed in. All too little of this dory rode above the surface-only about a foot and a *See "I Sailed With Portugal's Captains Courageous," by Alan Villiers, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, May, 1952.