Boats and barnacles.jpg

Boats and barnacles

By: Margaret Brown

[email protected]

TWO WEEKS ago I wrote about the demolition and building works being carried out on the road to Lagos Marina.

The old Palácio das Conservas, otherwise known as the sardine factory, among British expatriates, has been demolished but the cracked and bent chimney remains. Protected by scaffolding out of respect for a pair of nesting storks living on top, a slight change has been made to their penthouse eyrie since I saw it last.

The nest and around four feet of original brickwork have been lifted away from the main stem and placed alongside, on a platform at the top of its iron corset. As soon as I saw this I thought of Saint John the Baptist, whose severed head was given to Salome on a plate when King Herod told her to ask for whatever she wanted as a reward for her dancing: the triggers that awaken a train of thought are very strange and a source of constant surprise.

Take a look next time you pass by: for me it brought to life the dreadful tyranny of those ancient days and similar attitudes and actions of today’s despotic rulers, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. There seems to have been very little change with regard to Man’s inhumanity to Man through the centuries.

The Sopramar boatyard Photo: Supplied
The Sopramar boatyard Photo: Supplied


At the time, we were on our way to Sopramar Boatyard with a job to do and, while there, wandered among the mass of yachts in their cradles. Some were having a repaint, others an overhaul ready for the new season and a few just needed a bottom scrape to remove barnacles.

During their development these strange crustaceans pass through two stages as free swimming larvae and travel by current and tide until a suitable environment such as a rock or boat is reached. Cementing themselves head first into position, they remain there for life and grow by adding further material to their original protective plates, feeding on Plankton which they gather with their feet.

Another member of the same family, the Gooseneck Barnacle, is considered a great delicacy in Iberia.  Found only on rocky coastlines exposed to wave and tide, those who harvest them do so at considerable risk resulting in the occasional drowning. Known as percebes they look like small elephant feet with a portion of leg attached.

When available, cafés and bars stick up a notice to say “Há Percebes” and a cooked portion may be bought over the counter. Rubbery and redolent of the sea, the meat is pulled out from the horny covering on the barnacle’s foot and chewed for a while before swallowing: not at all unpleasant, the nearest equivalent in texture being a boiled snail which may be sold on the same premises. Both are an acquired taste and very popular with the Portuguese.

Farmers’ wives

Back to the boatyard which was bustling with enthusiasm under a wide blue sky. Crews were living on yachts while doing their own refits, others had hired professionals to do the job and it was good to see trawlers being worked on among the elegant racing hulls. Eminently seaworthy and built on traditional lines designed for the hauling and casting of nets, two of the fishing boats were set on chocks slightly apart from the rest. Think of them as a couple of square built middle-aged farmers’ wives in a party of chorus girls, each suited to the job in hand and with their own unique beauty.

Also having a paint-up was the little flat bottomed ferry, aptly named Vai Vem, that crosses between Lagos and Meia Praia beach during the summer months. An open box on a catamaran hull with an awning for shade and a small outboard motor, it plies to and fro’ the River Bensafrim all day: a brief and leisurely trip bringing shops and beach within 10 minutes of each other and is occasionally rocked by one of the many pleasure craft which far outnumber today’s work boats.

The fleet of trawlers we used to watch, coming home laden under a veil of hungry seagulls, has all but disappeared. A few years ago, the Bay was invaded by a number of Spanish boats which, according to rumour, were using finer nets than permitted and subsequently depleted the whole area of replacement stock. Perhaps, with time, the shoals will return, but by then there may be no one to go trawling.

Driving licence

Anyway, we have a problem of our own at the moment. With a visit to Wales planned in May and both our driving licences coming up for renewal, rather than go through the trauma of visiting the Direcção Geral de Viação (DGV) head office in Faro, we opted to ask the local driving school to do the hard work. Having handed over the expiring plastic to an unsmiling bureaucrat and parted with 45 euros each, we gave sighs of relief and settled down to wait.

Two months later the Boss called in to try to hurry things along and was told that both licences were waiting for us in Faro. We could not receive them through the post as promised until our Residencias were checked – photocopies would not suffice. Never before had we been asked to do this and it was with great reluctance that we gave them to Lagos school to mail to Faro. Time is running short and still we wait ….