Nearly five centuries after the Basque first visited Placentia, the town welcomed the Captain and crew of the Pakea Bizkaia from the Basque Country of Spain to the community from August 4 to 7, 2011.
The Pakea Bizkaia, a Challenge 67 Class sailing boat was built in 1996 and is twenty meters in length. It carries out sailing expeditions around the world. The captain and crew of six left their home port of Bizkaia, Basque Country of Spain on May 29 and sailed westward to Greenland and Newfoundland.
The trip pays tribute to all the Basque sailors who sailed from ports in Bizkaia to the West, before the 16th century, reaching the coast of Newfoundland to hunt the whale and devote themselves to the cod fishery.
During the official municipal reception Captain Unai Basurko and his crew were warmly welcomed to the community and there was an exchange of gifts between the Town of Placentia, Newfoundland and Plentzia, in the Province of Bizkaia whose capital is Bilbao, Basque Country of Spain. Bizkaia is surrounded by the Bay of Biscay which makes it an important naval transit zone.
Sabino Laucirica, Historical Advisor to the City of Plentzia was delighted with word that the crew had arrived in Placentia. In an e-mail to the Town of Placentia he said “nearly five centuries later a group of Basques aboard a sailboat arrive in Newfoundland with a message of friendship and union among the peoples so distant.”
Placentia Mayor Bill Hogan hopes the visit will help build the ties that exist between the two communities.
“By sharing our history, culture and hospitality with the Basque visitors we hope to strengthen the historic connection between our community and Plentzia in the Basque Country of Spain,” Hogan said in a press release.
During their stay the crew visited the Town Hall, the Placentia Bay Cultural Arts Centre, O’Reilly House Museum and Castle Hill National Historic Site of Canada. They enjoyed a presentation of “Faces of Fort Royal” by Placentia Area Theatre d’Heritage and observed the old Basque Headstones at the Anglican Cemetery. Evidence of the long time connection with the Basque was communicated and viewed throughout their visit.
The crew also enjoyed leisure time in the community including a visit to the Three Sisters Pub where they were made Honourary Newfoundlanders during a “Screech-In” ceremony.
On Sunday morning with a promise of continued communication and exchanges to strengthen the relationship between the towns, the crew bid farewell to their Tour Guide and Hostess, Placentia’s Heritage and Tourism Director Margie Hatfield, with promises to return some day.
Following the Placentia visit the crew planned visits to Trepassey and St. John’s before setting sail for the Azores. For more information on the voyage of the Pakea Bizkaia visit www.pakeabizkaia.com.