The “Nova Catalina” laüt sailing from the past to the present and future
The “Nova Catalina” is the boat in which we will sail in our Volta a Mallorca, a “llaüt” (the traditional Mediterranean wood boat double ended) that was born in an evolutionary limit: she was conceived in 1940 for fishing in the Palma Bay coast (Mallorca) according to the typical design of sailing and rowing days, but incorporating already an engine as a way that was winning out since the 20’s of the last century. Those were the days in which the fishermen assume the new technology and extract it with the age-old ways of sailing, they understood his vessels as motor-sails boats, not yet as pure mechanic propulsion units.
In this context, the “Nova Catalina”, touch the sea with a humble appearance, with a length of 25 hands (5 meters length) and with the typical form of a typology, the “llaüt”, of which exist references since the ancient middle age.
The original sail rigging –that we have restored- was the “triquet” (local term referring “trinquet”: foremast) and “messana” (mizzen), very common formula in the small insular boats. The “triquet” is located bow and in which a lateen sail of easy manoeuvre is hoisted, that uses a boom to tauten the “davant”, the rope that controls the verticality of the “antena” (antenna), the yard where the head is made fast. The mizzen is located poop, a lateen sail specially vertical and easy to manoeuvre too. This arrangement of the rigging responds to the own thing to make the centre of the boat too much space for the sea tasks. Actually, it’s a rigging that it was assembled to another more complex one, it allows to complement the foremast and the mizzen with a central mast lateen sail. Even so, the coastal fishing gear fisherman sometimes keep dismasted the central mast because the minor sails were enough for working on board; only using the main sail for long displacements, in very weak wind conditions or in certain types of fishing.
Incorporating the engine in the small length units, the rigging formed exclusively by foremast and mizzen endure, at the same time that the central mast was quickly eliminated considering that, with the engine, it takes up to much space and, in addition, the mechanical propulsion offers enough autonomy in order not to require such a complete sail rigging.
But those technological resources had to obey other considerations; the “Nova Catalina” was built in a period of time in which the fishermen whose got control the engines come back to set up sails and rows again. Our “llaüt” was build as soon as the Spanish Civil War was ended and the post-war supposed strict restrictions, fuel included. By this reason, it was common the partial return to the typical propulsion systems to save, the wisdom accumulated in the ways of sailing were important to survive.
Dealing with less bellicose matters, we have decided to save fuel too, even more, we will not use the engine. It is not an involution, it is a proposal to project to the present and to the future the traditional boats paying attention to some resources that form part of their DNA. It is not our response to a post-war, but doing a global fight for sustainability. The historical perspective allows us appreciate the engine as an impasse.
It is clear that we are living the prelude (it’s taking long) of the expansion of propulsion systems feeded by clean energies, and we value it deeply, but our message starts by enjoying the sailing and rowing heritage in an act of energetic self-sufficiency and, at the same time, of respect to the sea. Our game is with the wind and rows, elements that we understand as friends of the nature we approach, with the appropriate good manners of those who enter a house that is not hers. It is a gesture, too, of cultural self-esteem, a recognition of our maritime heritage, a message that we throw assuming the paradigm of working from the local to getting the universal. With the “Volta a Mallorca”, our llaüt revives o lives a second youth. And we also get it along with her.