From our Guest writer: Kay Baker, International Women in Portugal
Thursday 9th August saw IWP members and guests arrive by ferry at Cacilhas for a tour of the beautiful Fragata D. Fernando ll e Glória, the last model of a sailing frigate of the Portuguese Navy. She was built in 1843 at Daman (Portuguese India) from teak which was abundant there and the best wood for ship building, and her maiden voyage was from Goa to Lisbon in 1845. She had a long shipping career between Africa, India and the Azores, until her last voyage in 1878, when she was permanently moored in Lisbon. Modifications were made in 1889, and in 1938 she served as the flagship of the naval forces of Continental Portugal, based in the river Tagus.
The Commander, genteel and elegant in his immaculate whites, told us the history of the ship as he took us round each of the four decks, down near vertical but manageable stairs.
The top deck has 20 x 15 kg short range cannons known as carronades, with the gun deck having 28 x 8 kg long range cannons, plus an array of rifles and swords, lending to the atmosphere of 19thcentury shipping defences.
He also described the necessity and problems of carrying livestock on board to feed the crew. Below deck, the crew would sleep in hammocks, side by side, cramped at sometimes 200 men at a time.
From 1940 to 1963, no longer fit for naval service, the vessel became the headquarters of the Fragata Dom Fernando Welfare Institution to give general education as well as teaching seamanship to underprivileged youth. In 1963, when reparations were being made on her, a huge fire erupted, partially destroying the ship’s hull and structure. After the fire was extinguished, the frigate was towed to an area where the navigation on the river Tagus would not be disturbed, remaining abandoned and half buried in the mud-flats for the next 29 years.
In 1993 the Portuguese Navy initiated the restoration of the vessel to her original 1845 condition, and in 1998 she was awarded the International Maritime Heritage Award by the World Ship Trust, which considered the restoration as ‘one of the most astonishing historic ship preservation achievements of our time’. Thereafter she was moored in various locations as a museum open to the general public, arriving in Cacilhas in 2007. The International Register of Historic Ships considers the Dom Fernando II e Glória as the fourth oldest armed frigate, and the eighth oldest sailing warship in the world.
The Dom Fernando II e Glória is a beautiful and impressive ship, well worth a visit. We followed the tour with a short walk to the nearby restaurants, where we duly partook of the excellent seafood on offer!
Well done to Chris Rola for organising this tour.