National Geographic : 1952 May
567 ... to Start Their 5,000-Mile Voyage A few days before sailing, a workman finishes painting the hull of the Pacos de Branddo, a 187-ton three-master without auxiliary power. In the fall of 1951, filled with cod, she went down in a hurricane. the rigging, and the white water gurgled and splashed at the curved bow.* Down below in the rancho, as the fore castle of a Portuguese banker is always called, half the complement of dorymen were settling in. The other half would be shipped in the Azores, for the Argus was bound first for Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel Island. The rancho was a cavernous place full of big men, big bunks, and all kinds of cooking, fishing, and seafaring gear. On the side of his bunk, holding a mug of wine in one hand and a slice of crisp bread in the other, sat Antonio Rodrigues, 63 years old (page 585). Antonio, I learned, was mak ing his forty-third voyage to the Banks for cod. He was a handsome old man with a face gnarled and brown, but his body was still as spry and agile as a youth's. I had seen his wife go over the side with the others. There was still a faraway look in his eyes. "How does it feel to be making your forty third trip back to the Banks?" I asked. "I wouldn't be any place else, and there isn't a better ship," Antonio grinned, taking a swallow of purple wine. "It's a good life for a man." "How long have you been with the Argus?" "Ever since she was built," the old man said. And that went for almost all her dory men, except the very young ones. Most were middle-aged. The Man Who Hooked a Ton a Day A little later I noticed a gaunt, determined looking man with a striking face taking his turn at the wheel. The mate-a cheerful youth aged about 22, making his fifth voyage -told me that this was the First Fisher, Francisco Emilio Battista, champion doryman of the whole fleet. He caught a ton of cod a day. A ton a day! I looked at him with astonishment, for I'd no idea that fish could be caught in such bulk by hook and line. Francisco's shipmates had a joke about his fishing prowess. "He has a hatchery of his own," the second mate explained. "He has his own cod and he just goes and takes them." Captain Adolfo, the master of the Argus, was standing by the wheel. He was a lithe, dark man, about 50 years of age. I knew he had been at sea in sailing ships since he was eight years old. He still had his shore clothes on, a smart business suit and a soft felt hat, with brightly polished shoes. On his right hand sparkled a diamond ring. He had joined the ship at the last moment, coming aboard with the clearance papers. His wife and family were at Ilhavo, the famed village of shipmasters and cod hunters which stands on an arm of the sea south of Aveiro in the north of Portugal. From it hail most of the schooner masters. But though Captain Adolfo had been going out from Ilhavo for more than 40 years, he was not fond of a fisherman's life. "The Captain," said the mate, "he hates the sea. But he will fill his ship with codfish. You see." I looked forward to seeing. And now the good Argus headed out toward the Azores, and the dorymen began to get * Sailing with the Portuguese Grand Banks fleet is the most recent of Alan Villiers's many sea adventures. Others described in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGA ZINE include: "Sailing with Sindbad's Sons," Novem ber, 1948; "Last of the Cape Horners," May, 1948; "North About," February, 1937; and "Rounding the Horn in a Windjammer," February, 1931.