One of the charms of visiting different cultures is exploring the hidden nooks and crannies and discovering areas of well used and tarnished, but living, cultural landscapes. One of those areas could once be found in the old harbour area of Tangiers, a centuries old sanctuary of buccaneering. The harbour once contained a boat repair yard which was a veritable graveyard for unrepairable boats and a busy, noise filled area for boats actually being repaired. All boats would be monolithic chunks of sculpted wood designed to survive the uncompromising seas, tides and weathers around the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean sea.
All the boats contained veritable scars and welts from their travails; battered and split wooden hulls, scratched and striated coats of paint demonstrating different levels of decay. The repair process was arduous and time-consuming, though boat owners, chandlers and carpenters never seemed in a hurry. There was a timelessness and the yard seemed exactly the same irrespective of the number of times visited or the months between each visit.
My last visit there was several years ago where I met a friend Liesbeth and we ate mackerel from one of the small cafes that lined its walls. As we ate, the bite from the sea salt on the breeze merged with the smell of wood and tarps, and the the heavy smell of diesel. What sprang out from this semi-industrial landscape was the adornment of colours and writings on the hulls of many of the boats. It was like a picture gallery.
The boatyard and picture gallery is no more – as part of the harbour restoration the old harbour was torn down and replaced by a modern ferry terminal. The repair yard has been moved about a mile along the coast and is enclosed and protected by shining white concrete structures.
After our meal I wandered around the boatyard and took the following photographs.
ps if anyone wants to see the repair boatyard in all of its former glory, it can be seen in the 2013 Jim Jarmusch movie Only Lovers Left Alive, starring Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston. Vampires in Tangiers? Undoubtedly.