Growing up around St. John's, Newfoundland, we often saw the Portuguese fishing vessels in port. Sometimes a single vessel, bringing an injured fisherman to port, would tie up at the waterfront. Other times, the entire fleet came to port due to impending inclement weather, or for supplies. The vessels, known affectionately as the "white fleet" due to the white sails and white color, were something to behold when they were in port.
These fishermen made a huge contribution to the economy of St. John's for hundreds of years. Their smiling faces were welcome in the port city by businesses and residents alike. They were an important part of the culture of the city, country (before 1949) and province.
Their vessels had fishing dories on board. The fishermen, using hand lines, fished all day out of the dories, returning to the vessel to gut, split and salt the fish. It made for long days of back-breaking work that could last as long as six months, depending on the catch. Then in 1974, after four hundred years of great co-operation, the last vessel sailed out of St. John's for the final time. The declining fish stocks had ended the practice.
Yesterday in Lisbon, we did a city tour during which the local tour guide casually mentioned that a former warehouse for codfish from the North Atlantic has been turned into a museum for some unrelated thing. She mentioned a fishing fleet and moved on to something else. I didn't.
Memories of those times and our connection to these hard working men are one of the reasons I wanted to come to Portugal. Their life's blood helped build this beautiful place. Obrigado!