Santa Maria Manuela was launched on May 10 1937, in Lisbon, Portugal. The ship was built in the CUF shipyard in 62 days, together with its sister ship Creoula. The
moment when the hull of SMM touched the waters of the River Tagus was witnessed by thousands, capturing the hearts of the people of Portugal, and marking the beginning of
an iconic journey.
Launch Day for Two Mighty Schooners 10th May 1937
This was a special day in Lisbon. Hundreds of people gathered on the docks of Rocha do Conde de Óbidos, in Alcântara, to witness the launch of two ships that had just been built: Santa Maria Manuela and Creoula. On that day the shipyards of Companhia União Fabril closed for business to allow its employees to attend the ceremony. The workers climbed to the gantry cranes and filled the banks of this harbour on the Tagus waters. Everybody wanted to witness the launch of these twin ships that had been built in 62 days only and were destined to the cod fisheries in Newfoundland and Greenland. This was a solemn occasion, attended by the Head of State and a number of ministers, and represented a unique feat for the Portuguese naval industry.
Harsh Life Fishing off Newfoundland and Greenland
Between 1937 and 1993, Santa Maria Manuela transported thousands of sailors to Newfoundland and Greenland in the pursuit of cod, the prize catch for the people of Portugal.
Life was harsh onboard. Sailors had to contend with cramped cold conditions below decks, and above with the bitter chill of the north winds, frequent storms and long hours
fishing the perilous seas of the Grand Banks in small boats.
The schooners huge decks were filled with dories or small wooden boats. They were designed to be stacked 6 or 7 boats high. When the fishing was good scores of dories would row or sail off from the mother ship to catch cod by rod and line. It sounds primitive but the diminutive fleet of small boats were bringing back tons of fish.
The White Fleet fish through WW2
In 1940 a new danger emerged; the submarines of the II World War. Santa Maria Manuela is one of the last ships of the mythical White Fleet – a group of cod-fishing vessels that had their hulls painted white to avoid being torpedoed during the military conflicts.
Between 2007 and 2010 the ship was rebuilt by the fishing group Pascoal, and subsequently was taken on by Recheio Cash & Carry, part of the Jeronimo Martins
Group. The farsighted vision of the current owners has created a culture of sail training,expedition, exploration and team development aboard the Santa Maria Manuela.
Passenger trainees are welcomed aboard as members of the sailing crew.