Friday 26 January 2007

El Port d'Alfacs

This is one of the bodies of water on which I’d like to float my Trow. It’s El Port d’Alfacs on the south side of the river Ebro Delta at the southern tip of Catalonia. Several square kilometres of flat, shallow water, sheltered from the prevailing swells of the Mediterranean by 4 km of sandy spit called El Trabucador.

Though protected from the sea, it receives the full force of the north westerly Mestral wind that comes howling down the Ebro valley from the Atlantic, scattering lenticular clouds like so many piles of plates as it goes. The river valley tightens as it cuts through the coastal mountain range of the Sierra del Cardò, accelerating the wind to the sort of speed that turns caravans over on the motorway. Then, fully wound up, the Mestral bursts on to the Delta where it screams across the distinctive paddy fields lifting the water in great swirls and driving the local population half mad with it’s relentless onslaught.

It’s a fantastic wind that brings Technicolor clear blue skies and cold clean air, but the local fishing fleet of Sant Carles de la Ràpita are obliged to keep to port and the only people you’ll find on the water are a hardcore knot of weather beaten windsurfers. And sometimes it’s too much even for them.

Fortunately there’s also a pleasant south westerly thermal breeze that blows between force 2 and 3 throughout the summer. Making the tepid waters of El Port d’Alfacs the perfect play ground for more pedestrian craft like my Trow.

The warm water breeds plenty of weed, fish, crabs and cockles and round the shallow edges I’ll have to unship this large centre board and row but out in the deeper water I should be able to make good ground to windward.

The Fleet Trow, from which the design for Gavin Atkin’s Light Trow is derived, belongs to similar but colder waters—the Fleet, snuggled behind Chisel beach in Dorset. Coincidently the Fleet Trow bears a resemblance to the traditional craft of the Port d’Alfacs, they are both narrow, flat-bottomed, heavily built boats, propelled by oars or a quant in the weeds, and they are both pretty, purposeful and, judging by the state of the few remaining specimens, on the verge of extinction.

It’s wishful thinking but it would be nice if this modern, ply and epoxy Trow were to inspire a new generation of craft for these waters.

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