We were glad to have Cllr. Charles Ferris on board throughout the coastal trade adventure. His inputs concerning naval history and the Newport Ship were always very rewarding. He was looking for clues regarding the origins of the Newport Ship and its possible links with the Basque Country. A journalist from the local newspaper, the South Wales Argus, came along to cover the story.
These are interesting links to the articles from the South Wales Argus, the BBC, and to the website of the Friends of the Newport Ship.
The last stop of the voyage was the village of Urdax-Urdazubi in Navarra. To get there, the iron mineral was carried first by boat from St Jean de Luz (Donibane Lohitzun), across the La Nivelle river all the way to Askain, and from there to Urdax with an ox cart.
Once they reached Urdax, they exchanged the mineral to the Monks for royal coins… but first the monks would check the quality of the iron before making any payment. Once they agreed to a price, they would shake hands and dine together. This has taken place for centuries in the Basque Country and the mission of the voyage is to conmemorate the whole event, from the Somorrostro mines in Bizkaia, all the way to the monastery of Urdax, across the sea, the sea inlets, and pathways. The Ciboure based association, Itsas Begia has been commemorating it for over a decade now and I hope they continue doing so for many more. It has been a great experience and it is all because of the altruism of Itsas Begia and their passion for the Basque Naval History.
Ramuntcho shaking hands with the Abbot
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We left Mundaka and sailed along the coast to Hondarribia. But before that we atended a conference in Gernika regarding the history of the harbour of Gernika, and the 15th century ship “Urbieta” found in the area in 1998. They found it while doing repair works in the canal of the Gernika sea inlet… another coincidence with the Medieval Ship found in Newport. “Holes in the ground can contain surprises; but few as significant as the discovery of the Newport Medieval Ship. The hole in question (where they found the shipwreck) was excavated to accommodate the orchestra pit of the new Riverfront Theatre built on the Usk river bank in Newport, Wales.”
Our visitor and founder of the Friends of the Newport Ship Association, Charles Ferris, explained to the audience his search for clues regarding the Newport ship, its links with the Basque Country, and his reasons for joining us in the navigation. I had the privilege to transtale his words to the audience.
Sailing along the coast we passed by idilic places like Lekeitio, Zumaia, Getaria… and of course San Sebastian.
San Sebastian – Donostia
Pasajes San Pedro
Fuenterrabía – Hondarribia
On the 27th of july I had the privilege to join the Itsas Begia crew on their conmemoration of the iron coastal trade that has taken place in the Basque Country since the 12th century. We sailed in the “Brokoa”, a replica of a 19th century ship that used to carry the iron from Somorrostro (Bizkaia), sailing along the coast and rowing up the rivers, providing the foundries with the mineral. We started our adventure in Portugalete and sailed to Mundaka and Hondarribia where we participated in conferences and visited foundries.
Mundaka is strategically located in the stuary of the Gernika river. It is famous for its waves and it is frequently visited by surfers from all over the world. It is the starting point of the waterway that leads to Gernika, the famous town that in 1366 was a harbour where ships carrying iron from Somorrostro, docked. The harbour no longer exists in Gernika despite many attemps to mantain it. It became an strategic harbour not only because of the iron, but also because of the many goods traded from Castilla.
Waterway to Gernika
In 1860 a pirate from the village of Mundaka hid himself in Isla Mujeres (Mexico), near what is today Cancun. He had an encounter with my ancestor Captain Simon de Izaurieta from Plentzia. Apparently, when the fight begun they heard each other speaking basque and ceased the fire immediately. I had a chance to visit the remains of the Hacienda de Pirata Mundaka when I was in Isla Mujeres (long ago). Not a bad choice.
Remains of the Hacienda del Pirata Mundaca (Mexico)