In Viana do Castelo, a lovely city in Portugal, there is an extremely interesting boat-museum, the Hospital Ship Gil Eannes. I happened to stumble upon it with a friend, while visiting Viana do Castelo for other reasons. Fortunately, I was carrying Zoe.
The ship was a hospital and support ship for the Portuguese White Fleet. Built in 1955, it provided a wide range of services such as a hospital, tug, icebreaker, mail ship and supply ship. Between 1963 and 1973, it also started to operate as a passenger and reefer ship during the periods between the codfish fishing seasons.
After its last trip in 1973, the ship lost its functions, staying abandoned for many years and intended to be demolished for scrap. In 1997, a campaign to save the historical ship from demolition was launched and, in 1998, Gil Eannes was restored with the support of several institutions, private companies and citizens. Part of the ship was turned into a youth hostel, while the rest was restored according to the original features and became the museum.
This was a very lucky find for us. We were in Viana for a concert and spent the night there. The next morning, we went sightseeing before going home and saw this big ship with a sign saying “Museum” and went inside just to check it out. It ended up being one of the most interesting museums I’ve visited in a while. The entrance fee is cheap, and we spent 2 hours there just looking at everything. There’s a specific path you are taken through (by following arrows) to see the engines, the captain’s quarters, the helm, the operating rooms, the sick bay, the cafeteria, and everything else. There were also a few exhibitions: photographs of the time when the ship was in function; science exhibit about sea pollution; examples of many different sailor knots; and others. It was quite a find and we left exuberantly happy with our visit.