The Pinheiro Compasses: remembering a seafaring family tradition

Compasses roses from the Pinheiro Compasses - made by the grandfather and great-grandfather of the owner of Springtide Sailing Charters, Evelyn Pepler (born Da Mata)

Compass roses from the Pinheiro Compasses – made by the grandfather and great-grandfather of the owner of Springtide Sailing Charters, Evelyn Pepler (born Da Mata)

The seafaring force runs deep in the family of the owner of Ocean Odyssey and Springtide Sailing Charters – and the hospitality force does, too.


Evelyn Pepler (born da Mata) is the great-grandchild of Francisco Pinheiro, and the grandchild of Manuel Pinheiro – both of whom were renowned compass-makers in their home town of Póvoa de Varzim in Porto, in Northern Portugal.


“They made compasses for the local fishing fleet, and they crafted the beautiful compass roses – the illustrations on the compass’s faces – out of seashells.


“The earliest known record of the industry in Póvoa de Varzim dates back to 1904,” said Evelyn.


Family crests


The Compasses were mounted on gimbals in sturdy wooden boxes that were designed to withstand the rigors of life at sea. Scratches on the lid of the grey box in the pic of the compass on this page (credit: José Rui Caldas)  indicate ownership.


Symbols like these acted as brands or family crests, and were instantly recognisable to the Povieros (citizens of Póvoa de Varzim).


compass. Póvoa de Varzim

Compass case from Póvoa de Varzim in Porto, Portugal,. The lid is etched with a family mark.

The individual elements of each brand represented articles and activities from the lives of their families: the tiller of a boat, a rudder, a keel, a harpoon, a knife. (For more about these brands, please see Although the Pinhero family mark isn’t there, Evelyn’s maternal grandparents’ is: see ‘Da Mata’ – fifth from the left in the second lowest row.)




Fishing boats


The Poveiros celebrate St. Peter, the patron saint of fishermen, during Póvoa de Varzim’s Festival of the Assumption (usually in mid-August), with events like the grand procession of Our Lady of the Assumption, and the annual blessing of the fleet.


The video below shows a replica of a typical local fishing vessel: the Fé em Deus (Faith in God) was built in the 1990s.


Tourism industry


“Our family used to live in houses that had huge attics, and they used to pack up and move up into the attic and let the houses out to visitors for the summer as a way of earning extra income.


“And Francisco Pinheiro went on to develop the Balneario Povoense, which he opened in June, 1915. It had a hot shower room and fourteen spa rooms with bubble baths, and the water was pumped in from the sea and filtered before going through the boilers and into the baths.


“It’s quite an honour to be carrying the family tradition of hospitality here in Knysna,” said Evelyn.


  • Join Spring Tide Sailing Charters for a 90-minute, 2-hour-30-minute, or 4-hour sailing experience of the Knysna estuary and the Indian Ocean beyond the Knysna Heads; or come whale-watching or enjoy a marine eco-tour with Ocean Odyssey.


The fishing vessel Fé em Deus (Faith in God)


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