Tuesday 30 January 2007


Pulga is Spanish for flea. The pulga in this story is a boat and its story is a short one. In the gloomy post-civil war days, this spirited craft must have been a little beacon of optimism. Built in 1944 by Sebastian Roch from lines drawn by a local engineer, Lluis Ferrer, the Pulga is an 11ft 4in carvel dinghy. 75 were made in total and some, the notice in the museum will tell you with pride, were exported to the US. The plucky little boat wore 6 square metres of canvas which propelled her at a fair clip—she was reported as doing 48 miles in 16 hours and, for a few short years the class enjoyed popularity and the future looked bright, not just for the Pulga but for small boat sailing on the Spanish coast in general. But, in 1948, the son of the builder, also called Sebastian, pushing his Pulga hard in a regatta, capsized and drowned. Narrow beam and a low righting moment were the trade-off to the Pulga’s speed.

Sebastian Roch senior was so distraught that he ceased production of the boat and nobody else, it seems, stepped into the breech. Sebastian junior’s sailing companion Mariano Mallol survived the capsize and, in memory of Sebastian and the Pulga, had a model of the boat built, which was carried to the chapel of Sant Magi in Tarragona. The model is still there today.

Of the 75 boats built only one example is known still to exist--this one called Bruja, (witch) on display in El Museu del Port de Tarragona.

The Pulga is an attractive boat with lines that would look good on a much larger boat. She also has a hidden beauty in her materials, there’s no oak, spruce or mahogany, but Mediterranean white pine, wide grained, knotty and resinous and olive wood, materials that clearly state her nationality, making her an authentic piece of Catalan history.

Authentic but obscure, a google search for pulga reveals thousands of pages detailing the habits of wingless blood-sucking insects of the order siphonaptera but nothing about this brave little craft.


Anonymous said...

That's a nice looking boat. What a shame there's only one left...
Well, having sweated long and hard over my application, it now turns out that there are no places available for the course in March. The next time I'll be free will be November, so I suppose I'll have to postpone til then. By which time, naturally, i will have gone off the idea.
Ah well.
I'm still planning a visit, maybe just wait for some better weather.

Anonymous said...

I am currently building a flea, but not a Pulga,...a seaflea.
A seaflea is an 8 ft. hydroplane.