By: Emilia Blackstone
Break the Anchor, a Portuguese non-profit, is building a traditional Portuguese sardine carrier from scratch and sailing it across the Atlantic Ocean.
The traditional 40-foot vessel, a “Canoa da Picada” from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, has a sweeping lateen rig and a deeply curving belly. Fishermen once collected sardines on its deck and salted them for storage below, giving the boat its name; “picada” means “minced with salt.” Because it was mostly used as a humble fishing vessel, very little documentation of the ship exists. Without attention from Break the Anchor it would most likely be lost to history.
The project is being spearheaded by João Bentes, 32, a former architect from Portugal who came to Rockland, Maine to study boatbuilding at the Apprenticeshop.
Despite the fact that he comes from a decidedly non-seafaring family (as he says, “My grandfather doesn’t even like sardines”), he developed a strong attachment to the ocean from the first time he took the helm at age eleven. He considered being a naval architect or a fisherman, but he was led down other paths until he stumbled upon a early 2000s edition of Wooden Boat magazine at a flea market in Berlin.
In it, he read about the Apprenticeshop, one of the longest-running traditional boatbuilding schools in America. João was particularly interested in its model of experiential education. “There is nothing like that in Portugal,” he says.
After some detective work and a stint volunteering at the Apprenticeshop’s nascent sister school Albaola in the Basque Country, João found himself on a one-way flight to America, bound for a small fishing village he had never visited in person. There he developed Break the Anchor and recruited a lively bunch of fellow apprentices for the project.
The plan is to build the “Canoa da Picada” in one year, departing from the Apprenticeshop in Rockland and arriving in Portugal a few months later after a stop in the Azores.
During construction, the boat will serve as a teaching and research tool. Students will build it under expert guidance, honing their skills and learning to work with one another in the process. After construction, the project will continue in this spirit, as the vessel is sailed across the Atlantic Ocean by a group of apprentices. In Portugal, the Canoa da Picada will act as an itinerant classroom, a site for seafaring education.
According to João the construction, journeying, and continued educational use of this traditional vessel is part of a larger effort to reinvigorate seafaring cultures and the craft of boatbuilding throughout the Atlantic, particularly in Portugal, a country with a once-rich maritime culture that is currently in danger of being lost.
As access to the ocean on the coast of Portugal is becoming increasingly restricted and elite. Break the Anchor seeks to counteract that trend, opening up the ways that people interact with the sea.
João sees this project as a step towards the development of vibrant water-top cultures, not just in Portugal, but all over the world. As he says, “We imagine a future where there are floating schools, diners, cinemas, where all people have access to the use of water.”
On Thursday evening, March 29, at the Apprenticeshop, 655 Main Street, Rockland, Break the Anchor is hosting a fundraiser-Auction, where By the Bay Trio will perform live. The Auction items vary from an 11ft lapstrake skiff to a quilt with drawing of the boat to be build, a carved sardine amongst other artwork. You will also be able to find out more about Break the Anchor and the team behind it! The event starts at 6pm on the second floor of the shop.
Issue 52, Page 1
Issue 52, Page 2