Open whaling canoes were rowed and sailed out to where the whales had been sighted and once the whale had been killed (with handheld harpoons and lances), they might have to tow it as much as 30 miles back to land.
Today, several enthusiasts have restored the old ‘canoas’ which were 34ft long taking a crew of 7 including a helmsman, harpooner and 5 rowers. Ian Coates, MD of Archipelago Choice, had the unique opportunity to join a crew aboard ‘Senhora de Fatima’ in October. This beautiful boat was built in 1945 in Capelas on Sao Miguel island and was active from the 40’s right up to the 80’s.
Follow the link to see a video of Ian’s exhilarating trip… Whaling canoe outing
Ian described his experience, “it is just incredible to think that the whalers would be out hunting 60ft sperm whales in this small, unstable canoe. Everyone else knew what they were doing so I was just told to hold onto a rope from the centre of the boat and lean out to keep it from tipping too much. When we tacked, it got really interesting- I had to get down into the boat and lay flat otherwise the boom would have taken my head off! I got soaking wet during the trip but loved every minute of being out in the Atlantic in this piece of Azorean history.”