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Muelle de la Calzadilla

The Calzadilla Dock is a small pier built in 1892 to commemorate the IV Centenary of the Discovery of America. From this place, the historic expedition of the Plus Ultra seaplane took off on January 22, 1926, covering the route from Palos de la Frontera to Buenos Aires. Upon their return on April 5, 1926, the crew was received by King Alfonso XIII. This iconic dock was operational until the late 1960s, serving as a significant artery in the communication between Palos de la Frontera, Huelva, and Punta Umbria, both commercially and for passenger transport. It operated until the inauguration of the Siphon or Santa Eulalia Bridge, connecting Huelva with the town of Corrales, and the bridge linking La Rábida with La Punta del Sebo in 1969. The Palos jábegas (Phoenician-origin boats, propelled by a lateen sail, known for their speed due to their low draft and beam, crafted by shipwrights at the beach following a tradition passed down through generations) were the first protagonists of these communications. They alternated between fishing and transporting tiles and bricks manufactured in kilns near the dock for the initial constructions at Punta Umbria, reachable by boat and simultaneously distant by land. The boats descended down the Tinto River to the confluence with the Odiel, heading to Punta Umbria through the estuaries along the Saltés Island. They also transported bricks and other construction materials to Huelva and Cádiz from here. Over time, the jábegas were replaced by other types of larger, deeper-draft boats, also propelled by a lateen sail, used for the same purposes and the transport of fruits, vegetables, and vegetables to Huelva and Punta Umbria. Next to the dock, a small fish market was built to unload the fish and clams caught in the estuary, and a guardhouse housed the Carabinieri who controlled the commercial activity of the dock, as well as the transit of passengers in canoes from El Potaje and El Chino, making the Huelva-Palos route. The so-called “Barca del Sevilla,” operating as a taxi boat, also operated from this dock, responding to passenger requests to any point in Huelva via the estuaries. The most frequent boats at the dock were: La Balandra, Giralda, Hermanos Toscano, La Niña de los Peines, El Mundo, Isabelita, El Cachorro, El Leal, and an old coal boat called Lola, owned by the Tejero Canning Company, which usually made the route from Palos to Almería. The Lola anchored in front of the dock because it had a considerable draft, and there wasn’t enough depth to dock. Loading was done in small boats from the dock. Some of the names of these boats were nicknames by which the owners were known in the locality. For loading and unloading of boats, a small hand-operated trolley, called a “zorrilla,” was used. It rolled on rails from the entrance to the dock to the pontoon itself. However, the preferred area for most boats for loading and unloading was a water inlet in the marsh called La Gavilla, next to the west side of the dock that reached the land and was easily accessible. Carts, pulled by mules, arrived loaded with tiles, bricks, gravel, and sand extracted from the fields of Palos for the constructions of Huelva and Punta Umbria. La Gavilla had to be entered at high tide, and if there wasn’t enough time to load before it began to recede, you had to wait again for the water to fill the inlet and use a berlinga to lift the boat off the mud. Smuggling or the black market was a widespread practice for all Spaniards lacking economic resources, who were forced to cross the line of legality to survive. For the rest of the people, the figure of the smuggler was not repudiated but understood as something everyday and necessary; even the authorities turned a blind eye, allowing that practice. In Palos, they still have a very vivid memory of those smugglers who arrived at the Calzadilla Dock loaded with baskets of fish to sell to the residents of Palos or trade for peas or beans. The smugglers set up their stand at the corner of San José Street with Rivera and Plus Ultra streets, where people from Palos added as heralds in exchange for some tips. Another practice that targeted this pier was the smuggling of coffee from Portugal. This dock, inaccessible for several years due to the ravages of time, was restored in 2019 by the Town Hall of Palos de la Frontera, with the aim of enhancing one of the most important tourist attractions in the locality, given its historical significance. The new dock has a 111-meter-long and 2.5-meter-wide wooden walkway and a pier with two lateral stairs for docking.
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