Each Black Scabbard fishing boat carries with it two long fishing lines called "aparelhos das espadas". These were made of multiple 40 metre long fishing lines tied onto each other, one after the other, to achieve an approximate 1,600 metres in total length. The lines are each discharged vertically off one side or either end of the boat as to allow any deep sea currents to pull the fishing lines diagonally away from the boat. Each line has to be pulled up for retrieval. It can take a good hour to complete all the manual labour!
A motion picture showing just how labour intensive the espada fishing can be
At about halfway down the full length of the "aparelho da espada", at approximately 800 metres, the fishing line is fitted laterally every two metres to the main line with short lines or fingers called "chambi§es". There are up to two hundred of these extensions on the line. Near the end of each lateral extension is fitted a hook where sliced Mackerel bait is inserted. To assist in the discharging and retrieval of the fishing line each extension is also fitted with a small stone at its extremity called a "pandulho". This remarkable tool requires mostly manual labour and genuine experienced skill since it is not uncommon for the lines to get caught in recesses and crevices along the very rocky submarine terrain that forms the steep volcanic outcrop of Madeira from its 4000 metre deep base off the ocean floor! The skill is especially important when deep ocean sea currents can sway the line away from its regular perpendicular position, making it very difficult to capture the Espada successfully and have the line to potentially roll around a rocky submarine protuberance - causing at some unfortunate occasions the total loss of the line.
Did you know?
It is not uncommon to find that the fish market runs out of fresh Espada stock. However, it is not always the sea currents that are responsible for denying the local population of one of its daily staples: it could be the case that the necessary fish such as Horse Mackerel, used for bait, is also not available.