On the anthropomorphic atlas there are always interesting things occurring at the meeting point of the sea and the land. It is something that in itself has elements both of a collision and an embrace, things that we do not ponder on except it being a beautiful picture, a picturesque sight, the indented coastline, the charms of the sea that, tired from the high seas, has approached the beaches, reefs, small ports, sandbanks… If both the sea and the land were not nouns of neuter gender, one would think that it all relates to virtual mutual gallantry.
When one speaks of coves, bays, gulfs, creeks, ports I have always wondered what is more proper to say: has the sea penetrated into the land or has the land benevolently retreated to give the sea a place to rest. Of course, the land in some other locations "charges“ this, especially in protruded places, with capes where it deeply and judging by the number of century-old shipwrecks dangerously penetrates into the sea. And was it not the sea that retreated from the attack of the land?
A port is any port, a quay, a shelter... and more than anything it reminds us of the disciplined sea, arranged and led to the purpose of putting to shore with concrete, paved and – what is most wanted – stone quays, piers, pawl bitts, columns, lighthouses, buoys for anchoring, arranged promenades and walks, taverns and cafés, floral decorations, port stations and taxes, monuments and memories relating to the sea and the sailors. A port is also a place, like every other place protected from the winds, where one can put ashore. These are therefore free, even wild coves, unburdened by the infrastructure with which man intervenes into the natural touch of the land and the sea and in that way services, often in an exaggerated scope, not only the vessels, but also the sea itself. A port is the sea of calmness, everything else is less important.
Three in one
A port (lat. portus), therefore, means a closed, protected space, but in syntagm with some other words, it gets other meanings, so porto franco is a sign
for a free port or for a coastal area that has the right to duty-free import and export of goods, whilst for example, porto morto means a dead port, i.e. one into which vessels can no longer sail in or sail out. However one looks at it, a port always has some connections with boats, it takes care of their safety, so it is very important to which side it is turned and to what winds is its mouth exposed to, the access to the open sea. Indeed I always consider it as an entrance and not an exit, as a place where one enters, stops, rests, relaxes, and stays up. There is always a flock of sea-gulls soaring over it like its protective sign and its smell is the smell of freshness that, with its harshness, tickles the nostrils.
Yes, a port really is closed sea and somewhere they even call it a lake although it is not (Velji and Mali lago on Lastovo). In any case somewhere lakes are called seas. A port is simultaneously the mouth of the sea, its confluence, entrance, continuation. And from this mouth, in Italian bocca, there is for example the name for Boka kotorska. Poorly and insufficiently protected coves can also be called "half a port“, for example Mezuporat on Bisevo. The Triporti cove on the south of Korcula signalises that in one cove there are three ports and this is not the only case on the Adriatic coast: almost every larger cove hides several smaller ports.
From tiny ports to states
A port is actually a place where the sea becomes narrow, so it is interesting to see how in front of the town of Cres the space of the sea is gradually "reduced” and turned into an ever smaller cove in order for it to come to the town port and the mole enclosed boat berth, the most protected part of the port, the "storage place” for small boats. Even marinas over-loaded with masts, lowered sails, turned-off engines and boaters are ports organised for a berth sunset in an existing port or outside, for example on the islands of Kornati. There are also larger ports, full of mysterious glittering; every more important city has its own old port, but also a travelling port and a commercial port where an exchange of goods and commodities occurs, a commotion of local travellers and an invasion of (adventurer) tourists. It is no coincidence that we find the term port in names of cities or smaller settlements, indeed in names of larger areas, even states (Portugal, Puerto Rico)...
Nothing does so exemplary and persistently contain in itself the idea of movement, travelling, moving from a place, as a port does. Regardless of how many ships are resting here, in ports there is an in-built dormant call to sail. Here the sails rhythmically swing according to a mutual beat of the billowing sea, like a dancer who by swinging performs rhythmic elements, in order not to sleep through the winter whilst waiting for the summer. And this is fantastic, like that old idea about flying in place. That is why I dislike commercial ports with massive ships that, like lazy rascals, do not know what to do with themselves: they darkened and they are static and have no eros in themselves. Luckily, the maritime poetry is very developed here, from "Good morning sea“ by Pupacic to Mihalic's walk around Zagreb ("I am passing Zrinjevac, the sea is touching me...“).
After sailing in, but before sailing out
A port is actually an embrace, a gesture of the land to preserve and hide the sea into its lap and make it warm. Here the idea of unity is very strong. It is both visible and invisible. For example, in Antofagasta in the Chilean Pacific, everyone gathers in the port: fishermen and salesmen, sea-gulls and pelicans and monk seals (the Adriatic has unfortunately banished them!), that peep out of the sea snorting, right besides the corner of the quay or in the shadows of the boats. Here you can see for yourself that everyone is living off the fish. Of course, the smaller ones. In this unity the living and the non-living world tolerate, the things of the present and the things of the past, fantastically, Some after sailing in, the others before sailing out.