Fernando Dols looks at his jábega shortly after they were reunited. / DANIEL PEINADO

Don Fernando, reunited with his boat

A group of enthusiasts rowed the 50 kilometres from Malaga to Nerja so the elderly owner of a 'jábega' rowing boat could see it again for the first time since the pandemic began


Fernando Dols, who is 88, adores his jábega. So much so, that he says, laughing, "I have two daughters: the boat, and the one I have at home."

Not only that, but it is called Rosario y Ana, the names of his grandmother, mother and daughter (he also has a son). Fernando lives in Nerja, but the traditional boat is kept at the Nereo boatyard in Pedregalejo, Malaga, so with the lockdown, the mobility restrictions and his delicate health, he hadn't seen her for two years.

That was something that could be fixed, decided a group of rowers who, with his permission, keep her afloat and take her out to sea once a week. The 'jabegotes' as they are known, skippered by Malaga businessman Javier Lumbreras, have spent several months organising themselves to row the 50 kilometres (27.7 nautical miles) that separate the two places.

"I'm feeling very emotional. I can't believe they have done this for me. I can't thank them enough," said Fernando.

"One day during the pandemic I went to see Alfonso Sánchez-Guitard, at the Nereo boatyard, and I saw a jábega at the entrance. It had hardly been used. I asked about it, and he said if I could get together a team of volunteers, we could use it. In less than a week there were ten or us, and we started taking her out," said Lumbreras.

"At Easter last year we decided to carry out some repairs and spent three weeks working on it." Everything they do to the jábega is under the supervision of the boatyard and with the permission of the owner.

Although they often send him photos and videos, Don Fernando, as they affectionately call him, had not seen his boat for two years and was missing it.

"He is frail and elderly and with the pandemic he never goes to Malaga now, although his boat is like a second daughter to him, it's his life," said Javier Lumbreras and that is why he suggested the challenge. "This year, Don Fernando is going to see his boat out again. Let's row it to him in Nerja," he said.

Anyone who has rowed will understand the effort needed to move a boat of this type. In April they started to study the viability of the plan and decided September would be the best time to do it, although it would still depend on the sea conditions.

Everything came together for the weekend of 18 and 19 September. "We had 24 jabegotes and did it in two stages with a support team on land and a zodiac provided by the Torre del Mar sailing club," said Lumbreras. They did the first stage in two shifts: Malaga-Chilches and Chilches-Torre del Mar. The jábega had left the Nereo slipway at dawn to travel the 33 kilometres to Torre del Mar.

They spent the night there and the next morning the last ten rowers set off to do the stretch to the Playazo in Nerja in one go. When they arrived, the whole Dols family were on the beach waiting, together with relatives and friends of the oarsmen.

"As soon as the beach was in sight we stopped the jábega and lifted the oars in honour of its owner. He was on the beach, and was completely lost for words. He just couldn't believe it," said Lumbreras.

Then, the owner of the boat asked if he could skipper her once again and, thanks to this group of jabegotes from Malaga, Don Fernando was once again able to sail on board his second daughter.