The Barque of Peter?

cutter-rig-altarI love this one! Pope Francis celebrates Mass on the island of Lampedusa and someone seems to want the celebration to be relevant to seamen.

Well, let’s see. The vessel seems to be about eight feet in length excluding the bowsprit, maybe with a beam of a little over three feet. Now could the rudder be the famous Pendalion, the main source of canon law in the Eastern Church? I would design the rudder to be a little longer to be effective and to avoid broaching in a heavy swell.

The bowsprit looks authentic, and is used to get the jib well forward for a cutter-rigged vessel. The problem is that I am scratching my head wondering whether this is a simple basis of a cutter rig with the original mast down – or a four-masted barque with a cross-shaped capstan amidships! Now, where would they haul up the sails and yards if it is a barque?

The colours are nice above the waterline, those of the Italian flag, with blue below the waterline.

This might be a real fishing boat with a simple lug sail rig, and perhaps the bowsprit is used for the haul down the luff, to allow as much space aft as possible for fishing. The rudder looks “fishy” to me, as it looks as if it were cut out of a single piece of plywood for both the rudder and the tiller.

All that being said, the Mediterranean Sea can be a rough place for such a small boat. Even my gaff rigged sloop is a ten-footer, but this barque of Peter does have a decent amount of free board. I have celebrated Mass in many places, but not on my boat!

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4 Responses to The Barque of Peter?

  1. Stephen says:

    I can’t be certain, but I think I read elsewhere that the altar was made of the wreckage of a boat in which some immigrants perished. The pastoral staff and the base of the chalice were also made from such flotsam. Lampedusa is, of course, one of the busiest EU centres for asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. Such is the nature of the people-trafficking scandal, that small, wildly unsuitable boats are packed fuller than a sardine can with people, many of whom perish before reaching land.

    • Though I was “taking the mickey”, I can only be silent in prayer for all those who are lost at sea, particularly sailors of the military and merchant navies of the world and fishermen, people doing their job. Then my heart goes out to exploited immigrants who are robbed of any money they had and / or pledged into slavery, only to be transported on boats smaller than my sailing dinghy. I remember the Vietnamese Boat People. People-trafficking is a vile way of criminals making a living.

      If this is a boat or part of a boat involved in such a tragedy, then I understand its being a part of a church’s furnishing in memory of those people. In France, and here particularly in Normandy, our churches have ex-votos and models of ships put in place in thanksgiving for a person’s life being saved apparently by miracle. Many churches are built with ceilings that look like inverted ships.

      Using a boat as an altar, I don’t know, unless those exploited “boat people” were in some way considered as martyrs and the boat as a relic.

      • Stephen says:

        I’ll agree that the theology seems a bit unfocussed, but I am unlearned in the propriety of these things.

      • Stephen K says:

        Father, just a point – I believe we can be more forensic on the subject of ‘people-trafficking’. In our country, ‘people-smugglers’ have borne the brunt of moral outrage connected with the global refugee problem, which at its root is a problem of moral outrages in countries of origin and moral challenges and dilemmas in countries of destination. No-one appears to have totally ‘clean hands’ in this. So who and exactly what should we be condemning? At one end of the spectrum we have airlines, trains and buses in the business of moving masses of people for money – and at the other end we have small boats in the business of moving people across the high seas for money.

        People who overload their boats with other people are greedy, reckless and callous – just like building contractors who get their workers to mount faulty or inadequate scaffolding or mining executives who sent men and women and children down toxic unsafe tunnels and ultimately not much more negligent than owners who failed to equip trans-Atlantic liners with sufficient life-boats. Their exploitation of the desperate is only one species of life-threatening commercial exploitation endemic in our world.

        If we compare only boat overload exploitation, the internet informs us of numerous ‘white-collar’ examples: 1,800 people died when the overloaded La Joola sank in 2002; 800 people died when the overloaded Bukoba sank in 1996; more horribly, 650 slaves died when the crew locked them into the compartments when the Leusden sank in 1738; the Salem Express was overloaded when it sank with more than 470 people in 1991; 283 people died when the Evening Star sank in 1866 with only lifeboats for 60 people and few life-vests; and in the case of the more than 350 people who died following the sinking of the SIEV X in 2001 – ‘people-smuggler vessel’ – there was criticism about intentional political delays of up to three days to the rescue of the survivors.

        People-traffickers are considered in the same terms as white-slavers and drug-dealers etc. But is it because they risk lives, demand high prices, or fail to deliver safe destinations and lose lives in transit, or all three? It can’t be surely because they move – traffick – people. How would we describe a boat owner who charged a reasonable price to transport a safe load of asylum seekers in a fully-equipped vessel and had a perfect safety and delivery record? [I believe airlines transport the majority of people who migrate unofficially]. And I wonder to what extent they are worse than those from whom their passengers are often trying to flee.

        This is a difficult issue, and no-one seems to have devised a policy that has attracted moral consensus, but I think our language about it is also very important to get right.

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