Once, there were essentially two types of vessel on our lakes: the cargo boat (known as the barcón, pòrt or cumbàl on Lake Lugano) and the fishing boat. The latter, which lives on in the memory today under the generic appellation barca a arción, had distinct names and build types.
On Lake Lugano it was known as a navétt or barchétt, while on Lake Maggiore it was a triass, with higher sides and squatter forms. On Lake Como the nàav (or navètt), the batèll and the more recent canòtt da pèsca were used for fishing. With the exception of the latter type of vessel, these were all equipped with wooden arches which sustained a protective canvas. These arches were called arcion on Lake Lugano and mantáula on Lake Como.
The name “lucia”, which is widely used today to describe boats with this kind of cover, is a recently coined misnomer.
Fishing boats shared several common features. One of these was their broad, flat bottom, which made it easier for the fishermen to move around and allowed them to spend whole nights on board, watching over the nets while waiting to haul them in. This shape also made these vessels highly manoeuvrable, enabling them to spin around upon themselves, as well as making it easy to take on people, animals and materials.
All of these boats were normally equipped with a single pair of oars, which could nevertheless be positioned in four or as many as six rowlocks, which in their earliest form consisted of pairs of pins set alongside each other (tremión). The boats were rowed in a standing position, facing the bow: more towards the front if the boat was empty, and more towards the back if it was carrying a load.
Today, oars have been superseded by engines. For fishing, a type of aluminium boat known as a pilotina is used: a small boat with a cabin built specially to enable certain fishing techniques to be practised.
However, the boat most commonly used by our lake fishermen, amateur and professional alike, is the Gandria. Two quite distinct models exist: one weighing around 330 kilograms, and another, lighter type.
This boat is built using a synthetic, glass-fibre material, and as such requires little maintenance.