All you want to know about Torrevieja salt boats.
Torrevieja’s people has many emblems. Beaches (especially La Mata and the coves of Ferrís and La Zorra), the salt lakes, the Natural Park of La Mata – Torrevieja, Torre del Moro, the International Contest of Habanera and Polyphony (which includes other cultural events such as the Youth Contest of Habanera and Polyphony, International Contest of Habanera for soloists, Coral Meeting and the touching Habanera on the beach), etc.
One stands out against all. It is a priceless object with a high sentimental and emotional value for Torrevieja’s people. So much so that it has become the gift par excellence, a souvenir for all who visit the city and stay in love forever with its landscape, climate, cultural diversity, etc. We are referring to salt boat.
Its development is the result of tradition and meticulous work of our ancestors. Its technique has been passing from generation to generation until now. Quiero Playa wanted to learn the technique firsthand. And for that we have interviewed to Miguel Pérez Muñoz. If we refer to him as “the sparrow hawk” it will be easier to know who recognizing for people of Torrevieja. Doubtlessly, he is a craftsman known for the work done by spreading the craft of Torrevieja among the young, that remains a hallmark of this city called Torrevieja.
Miguel is an expert in the technique, not only in practice but also in the accumulated knowledge, especially the historical as he has also been a worker of the salt mines of Torrevieja. So much so that he is able to date the origins of building salt boats on mid-nineteenth century.
Miguel defines salt boats as simple models that maintain faithfully the most characteristic features of a sailing boat. These models include numerous threads that are part of the rigging (vegetable fibre objects symbolizing rigging and rope or string instruments and vessels). Woods, reeds, white cloth and white cotton thread are the materials used for making them handmade.
The construction process of the model is to select the wood for the keel and timber (the name is known to every one of the curved pieces whose bottom fits into the bottom of the boat and from that start right and left, two symmetrical branches, forming the ribs of the hull). The canes are cut into strips and all is bundled with the white cloth and intertwines to shape the hull. Sticks and yards are also bundled in cloth and are fit in the wooden hull. Finally the thread creates the rigging of the boat.
In this process, the most curious is the step of curdling boats because it is carried out within the salt lake of Torrevieja. There is where the models are immersed in salt water especially in summer season and allowed to dry. This facilitates the grip of salt on the fabrics and threads. When the structure and its materials are thoroughly dry, plunge back into the salt water, but this time they are left three or four days in the water until they are finished. That is, until the salt has been rightly and firmly wedded to the model.
The thickening is a process whose outcome depends primarily on weather conditions. So, Miguel tells us that calm weather is not good while “Lebeches” or “Maestrales” winds accelerate the process. Instead, with east or north winds, the thickening is slower but harder. It is very important, said Miguel, that the boat is dried before re-dipping. Ideally, days of easterly wind while boats are curdling. Once they are removed from the salt, are dried by the sun for a few days to lose the pink colour of the brine and acquire the white salt colour.
Finally, for the maintenance of salt boats, Miguel advises they have to be protected from air and dust with a glass urn, so lasting forever.