All aboard (but not just yet)!

Boa Esperança replica caravel to become stationary “interpretative centre” in Lagos

The replica of the historic caravel ‘Boa Esperança’, which is due to undergo major renovation, will become a stationary “interpretative centre” focusing on Portugal’s Discoveries. The announcement has been made by Algarve tourism chief João Fernandes.

The increasingly rundown state of the caravel, which up until recently was docked at Lagos Marina, had become a hot topic on social media lately. Indeed, the truth was that it had been years since the vessel had been painted or undergone any substantial revamp.

Up until now, the main issue preventing a much-needed makeover was a lack of funding.

“The caravel is an asset that is worth investing in, but, to do so, we need to spend money that we do not always have. What we did in July 2018 was present a bid for a project that would allow us to finance the renovation of Boa Esperança, turning it into an Interpretative Centre dedicated to the Age of Discovery,” Algarve tourism chief João Fernandes told Barlavento newspaper.

The process was not easy, but funding did eventually arrive via the INTERREG VA Espanha-Portugal (POCTEP) programme. A contractor for the works is due to be found “very soon” and hopes are that the renovations will be completed by next February.

“We tried to gather resources to turn the caravel into a space that can be visited regularly, with content created from scratch and even using some of the assets that Lagos Council might have,” the tourism chief explained.

However, the caravel’s travelling days will be left in the past and the plan is to have it docked in one spot in Lagos. The location is already earmarked but not yet decided, with the idea being to have the replica shielded from “tide changes”.

According to Fernandes, the caravel will have the Nau Victoria – which was docked recently in Lagos and attracted substantial interest (click here) – as one of its partners.

“We will carry out joint promotion among our main markets,” said Fernandes, adding, however, that the Boa Esperança caravel cannot operate in the same way as Victoria, which is supported by “robust funding” from the Fundación Nao Victoria.

The same cannot be said of Boa Esperança. “Each time it goes to the shipyard to undergo maintenance, the costs exceed €100,000. That is why we want to have a much smaller structure in which the cost/benefit relationship is much more advantageous. It was no longer possible to have it decaying, year after year, due to a lack of resources and we were the first to admit it,” he said.

The management of the replica is also due to change, with a new model involving Lagos Council, the Lagos Live Science Centre and even the Lagos Sailing Club. Said Fernandes, having local entities involved in its management will play in the caravel’s favour.

There will be an admission fee for visitors, with proceeds covering the caravel’s regular maintenance expenses.

If all goes according to plan, the caravel will become another major attraction in Lagos, alongside the recently-renovated Lagos Museum, the Slavery Route and Ponta da Bandeira Fort.

Speaking to Barlavento, Lagos Mayor Hugo Pereira described the caravel as a part of Lagos’ history.

“It is something we want to continue protecting,” said Pereira. “We want to show much more than just the caravel. That is why its importance will have to be strengthened.”

The replica is believed to have been boarded by over 50,000 people during the international journeys it would embark on, giving people the closest possible experience of what it would be like to travel aboard a 15th century caravel.

It was built by specialists in wooden boat building, following the “rules of boat construction” of that era but respecting the current safety regulations and adding an element of comfort.

Owned initially by the Portuguese Association of Sailing Training (APORVELA), the replica was completed in 1990. It was purchased in 2001 by the Algarve tourism board (RTA) for 75,000 ‘contos’ (around €375,000).

The original caravels were used during Portugal’s Discoveries to round some of the most fearsome capes, such as Cabo Boa Esperança (after which the caravel is named), and open up the maritime route to the east.

Over the years, the Boa Esperança replica has been used for multiple purposes, from promoting the ‘365 Algarve’ cultural programme in Seville to being used in documentaries and films.

The next stage of its ‘duty’ will follow after its revamp is completed.

Original article written by Bruno Filipe Pires for Barlavento newspaper.