By Lena Strang

Residents in Lagos will have noticed that the replica of the 15th century caravel Boa Esperença is no longer docked by Lagos marina. For some years now, it has been a sorry sight with its peeling paintwork and ever deteriorating state of repair. Criticism abounded on social media networks. How could the historic ship, representing Portugal’s maritime past, be allowed to go to rack and ruin? 

However, negotiations have gone on for some time. According to a recent report in the Barlavento newspaper, in June 2018 an application was submitted for a project that would allow for the complete restoration of the caravel, transforming it into an interpretative centre based on the Age of the Discoveries. 

João Fernandes, president of the Turismo do Algarve, was keen to resolve this situation. “The caravel is an asset worth preserving but, for that, it is necessary to expend resources not always available. Finding a solution wasn’t easy,” he said. “It eventually emerged under the INTERREG VA Spain – Portugal (POCTEP) program, with an application called Exploraterra. It is aimed at preservation, enhancement and the promotion of the cultural heritage related to the first circumnavigation and maritime expeditions.” He also emphasised that there will be cross-border partnerships with Nau Victoria, which recently visited Lagos. A new model of management will be established involving Lagos Municipality, Centro de Ciência Viva and even Clube de Vela de Lagos. 

The caravel is currently at the Portinave shipyard in Portimão, undergoing a complete refurbishment at a cost of 400,000€. As there is extensive work to be done, it is envisaged that it will take until the end of February before it opens to the public. Although the details are not yet revealed, it will be permanently moored in a different, sheltered location, which is not subject to changing tides. There will be an entrance fee for visitors to help with regular maintenance costs. 

Boa Esperança was constructed in 1999 and is one of three replica caravels built at Vila de Conde in the north of Portugal. Bartolomeu Dias, dedicated to the circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope, is anchored in Lisbon. Vera Cruz, commemorating the arrival ofPedroÁlvares Cabral at the island of Vera Cruz, Brazil in 1500, is now used as a museum in South Africa. 

And what about the Boa Esperança? It commemorates the voyage of Bartolomeu Dias who achieved a milestone in the Portuguese explorations. In 1488, against all odds, he discovered the passage around southern Africa and the Cape of Good Hope (Boa Esperança), making it possible for the Portuguese to trade directly with India and the Far East. It is a prime example of an early caravel with its two masts, and lateen sails to facilitate navigation against the wind. 

It is great that the caravel will yet again have pride of place in Lagos. 

Based on information from Barlavento.

cdi@turismodoalgarve.pt (Algarve Tourist Board)