Downstairs the Fortaleza buildings, northeast Brazil, the sea is adorned with a few picturesque jangadas. Inseparable from the coastline of the state of Ceará, the jangadas, fishermen, (traditional boats with a triangular sail) seem straight out of another era. They existed long before the Portuguese colonization, in the early sixteenth century, but their reign is still significant. With their exceptional seaworthiness, the jangadas crossed the ages. Their hull, formerly made of logs bound, is now made up of plates, but this is the only sign of modernization. The rigging and manipulation did not changed over the centuries. On the hull, so flat that the waves overwhelm it, two benches have been installed: one serves to support the mast slipped into the triangular sail, the other serves as the helmsman seat installed in the rear. Between the two benches a slot allows to slide the fin.
Occasionally, the jangada can also be used as a tent camp on the beach (to protected from wind and sun), or as a game, at any age, in his astonishing miniaturized version, faithful to the original. Despite their basic appearance, the jangadas are nimble and swift. The settings of the hollow sail and the tension on the tack are as finely studied as those of modern sailboats. When the crew wet the sail it is to close the fibres and make it flatter and therefore more efficient in the trade winds muscled of Ceara.
Today about 30 000 families are living thanks to Jangadas. The jangadeiros, both seamen, fishermen and carpenters, leave at dawn to sea and come back in late afternoon. But some disappear behind the horizon and move away safely in a hundred miles of the coast for several days, sometimes braving storms aboard their precarious rafts. Far from being driven by unconsciousness, Mestres (skippers jangadas) rely on an offshore knowledge, a marine flair and a unique nautical knowledge that are transmitted over the centuries and the history of jangadas.
Texte : Anne Jankeliowitch