On Monday I was disappointed to discover that the anchors at Praia do Barril are now enclosed by barrier. I had hoped to get a little bit closer to count them, as I have read there are 248 in this ‘Cemitério das Âncoras’. Seems an incredible number hence my desire to count them myself! However it was not to be.
The anchors were a vital tool in the Algarve’s tuna fishing industry. An industry which was thriving here on the Algarvian coast for much of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It collapsed in the mid 20th century when the tuna changed their migratory route. Whilst the anchors may look abandoned they have, apparently, been left here deliberately as a reminder of the tuna fishing and of the generations of Portuguese who worked here. A wonderful idea but unfortunately this ‘Cemitério das Âncoras’ isn’t accompanied by any information signs or exhibits. Consequently most visitors don’t really understand what they are looking at. The anchors were not as you might expect used to moor boats nor were they used to dry nets. They were part of a complex fishing frame the fishermen used to capture the tuna. If you are interested in learning more click here for an earlier post of mine on Barril. It includes a superb video of the fishermen preparing the fishing frame and then capturing the tuna.
Other reminders of Barril’s industrial past include the narrow gauge railway and the buildings which would have been home to the fishermen and their families during the tuna season. Both are still in use albeit for tourists these days. And again there is little, if anything, to explain the history of Barril but I am hopeful that one day this might change as a student and a local charity Lais de Guia – Associação Cultural do Património Marítimo would like to rectify this.
The enclosed ‘Cemitério das Âncoras’ was not the only unexpected change at Barril, there are also enormous sandworks. Fortunately however this is a temporary change, well sort of as the works to protect the dunes are scheduled to take 2 years! On our visit the works were taking up a huge stretch of beach immediately in front of the cemetery. Off putting I am sure for some, however we don’t mind walking and so it wasn’t long before we had got away from it all.