The Story of Alexandre Fortes,
Captain of Schooner Ernestina
  By Elsie and Elise Fortes The Fortes Family

My grandfather’s name was Alexandre Fortes, he was born in February 6, 1931 – November 3,1997, he died of a heart attack at the Brooklyn Hospital in Brooklyn. He had a wife and three children, his wife’s name and date of birth is Idilia V. Fortes, and was born on December 27, 1937. His children’s names and date of birth from oldest to youngest is Alexandre Fortes, Jr. and was born on March of 1959, Maria Fortes and was born on December of 1961, and last but not least Egerio Fortes, and was born on April of 1966.

My grandfather’s salary when he worked as a captain on the Ernestina was 5000 escudos/month that’s equal to $50/month, back then that was a lot of money. He started working on the Ernestina at the age of 30 and stopped at the age of 37, only because he had bought a boat called Santa Margarida from his uncle. In that boat my grandfather studied how to be a captain and also because of the help of his uncle that trained him, this made my grandfather the youngest captain of Cape Verde at that time. My grandfather was a captain at the age of 24 but not in the Ernestina, in other boats such as Maria Sony, Ildut, Maria Fernande, San Tiago, and Santa Margarida, etc. He started studying to be a captain at the age of 17. The places that he went as captain on the Ernestina that weren’t too far away from Cape Verde were Dakar and Guinea Bissau. He went to all the countries in Cape Verde, he went to Sao Vicente, Praia, San Filipe, Sal, Santo Antao, San Nicolau, Boa Viste, Maio, Brava and Fogo.

My grandfather came to America two times, once in September of 1960 [1964] – January of 1961 [1965] and the next time was in August of 1961 [1965] – December of 1961 [1965]. On the way back from America to Cape Verde on January of 1961 [1965] the Ernestina was caught in a cyclone, of really bad weather and raging seas and my grandfather as the captain of the boat had to lean over to try to fix the sail that fell down and a big wave just came out of no where and knocked him out of the boat. He was hanging on one arm to survive and started screaming for help until someone was his worker came and helped him back into the boat. With him in the Ernestina he had 14 people that worked for him he had a second captain, a pilot, 8 sailors, 2 motorists, 1 cook, and 1 cleaner. After they drove out of that cyclone when they were close to the seashore they had to drag the Ernestina to the shore so it wouldn’t sink because it was so badly damaged and they had to fix it. It is supposed to take 15 days to drive the Ernestina from America to Cape Verde or from Cape Verde to America but this day of January took 31 days, that’s a whole month at sea. This day was never forgotten by my grandfather because he almost lost his life on this January of 1961 [1965].

Today the Ernestina is about 150 [107] years old. It is a very old boat but is also very famous and very well respected. My grandfather left behind six grandchildren, one of which he doesn’t know because he died before he was born. The names of his grandchildren in order from biggest to smallest along with their ages are Elsie Fortes, 14, Elise Fortes, 14, Joneice Fortes, 9, Michelle Fortes, 9, Michael Fortes, 7, Alexandre Fortes III, 1. We all miss my grandfather and I’m sure Ernestina does too. z

This story was written as a class project for extra credit in Geography class.