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AN ISLAND ASYLUM FOR MAD FISHERMEN
Jack Olsen
November 08, 1965
Isolated from Portugal by eight miles of rough seas, the 400-year-old fortress (left), built to protect shipping from pirates, is now protecting anglers from the sanity of the mainland
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November 08, 1965

An Island Asylum For Mad Fishermen

Isolated from Portugal by eight miles of rough seas, the 400-year-old fortress (left), built to protect shipping from pirates, is now protecting anglers from the sanity of the mainland

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"I'm not going," the Englishman said.

"Why not?"

"I'm scared," the Englishman said.

My own natural feeling of cowardice was not allayed by the story Parreira told me one night through an interpreter who was even less ept than the customary ones. Parreira spoke for about 30 minutes, a short peroration for a Portuguese, whereupon the interpreter interpreted:

"He say he go one time to the Farilh�es Islands near here with a party of French peoples—a father, a mother, an old lady of 70 was a grandmother, and a little boy. They are towed to this little tiny island to fish, and the fisherman who tows them he is going to come back in three hours and pick them up. Soon comes up the sea, a bitter squall, and the sea it pounds over this little rock and sweeps away the picnic baskets and the rods and everything. And Senhor Par-reira and the French peoples all is standing in their necks in water and praying for the fisherman to come back and pick them up. Now the old lady was smart, because she thought perfectly what is going to happen. She sees the tide is rising, and she sank to make things easier to the others. She sank to don't make things worse."

"She sank?" I asked.

"Yes," said the interpreter. "To keep them the spirits up. First she sank a French song, and then she sank some songs the senhor no more remembers."

Finally the fisherman arrived in his large boat and dispatched his son in a skiff to recover the beleaguered anglers. But when Parreira climbed into the skiff, the father shouted to the boy (according to the interpreter), "Now row back! Don't taking no more peoples! Is too dangerous!" Parreira pulled a knife on the boy and said, "You die with me if you don't save those people." All were saved in a chilling adventure featuring a leap from the rock to the boat by the old lady, who landed square on Parreira's leg and broke it.

Such mishaps were as invigorating to Parreira as they were dismaying to me. One day while we were at the pousada a wind came up, and the seas churned into 20-foot waves and troughs. Parreira and a Frenchman, far at sea in a dory, discussed the worsening blow. "There are two possibilities," the Frenchman said. "One, that we will turn back and catch no fish. Two, that we will go ahead and be drowned."

"Quite so," said Parreira. "The first possibility is therefore out of the question."

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