Venice hosts the 4 Maritime Republics’ Regatta

venice-wins2015There is no substitute for being in a boat for these events. I’m sorry — but that’s just the way it is. Maybe you have seen or heard about the Palio in Siena — the famous horse race run in a square in the town centre every year. There is a tremendous build up of tension and suspense before the race proper begins. More often than not they have false start after false start until at long last, the horses are teased to breaking point and the tension in the crowded square is almost tangible. It’s exactly the same with this boat race, but only if you are right up there at the starting line with them.

But let’s leave the horses, (but hang on to the tension) and get back in the boat and on track to today’s special event. I don’t intend to give you a lecture in history — suffice to say that since 1955 each year in a four year cycle, a regatta takes place to decide the modern-day supremacy between the four ancient maritime republics (that were) of Pisa, Genoa, Amalfi and Venice.

Each of the four ‘republics’ takes it in turn to host the event, and this year it was the turn of Venice. The location has changed since the last time I saw it here — and luckily the weather was glorious this year as opposed to the torrential rain for the race last time, four years ago. This year the whole caboodle was moved from the Giudecca Canal over to St.Mark’s Basin and the very wide canal leading over to the Venice Lido in front of the island of Sant’Elena. Not popular with everyone, but the new route allowed for small boats to follow the race at close quarters — so certainly a popular move with hard core ‘water borne’ fans of the event.

Thanks to a good dose of confusion, and a smidgen of misinformation, we reached the starting buoys far too early . We were told to move on by the Carabinieri, the local police and the Coast Guard, who all kept up the same gesticulating, whistling, shouting performance with every boat (and there were lots of them) that came within yelling distance. A boat isn’t like a car — you can’t slam on the brakes, and the water doesn’t help. It was churning and making it nigh on impossible to stay put — and so the Carabinieri, the local police and the Coast Guard started all over again, and we all got a cyclical earful.

Meanwhile, the four eight-oared galleons, Venice with its green livery — Pisa in red — Genoa white and Amalfi in blue — sneaked out from somewhere and began to warm up in front of Sant’Elena in the midst of the protective forces who continued their arm flailing and shouting whilst the tension built up amongst the players, all champing at the bit to get the race under way. We spectators in our light boats kept going around in circles in an effort to maintain our position, ready for the starting gun and the ensuing rush to keep pace with the galleons as they launched themselves into battle.

And at last it happened — they were off and a roar of support went up from all quarters — the police continued to shout their curt orders at all the ‘floating’ supporters until the regatta had pushed ahead of our position and we were free to race behind them ourselves. Together we created a ‘tidal’ wave of gigantic proportions and risked life and limb riding the lip of the wave in order to keep abreast of our green heroes. They heaved and pushed and pulled their oars, their galleon skimming the water in a surge towards the finishing line in front of St.Mark’s Square. And their efforts paid off — our green Venetian men won!

I can’t begin to describe the euphoric reception they were given — immediately surrounded by all the police forces — and by an ambulance to take care of one of our team who had collapsed at the end of the race (from the heat and probably too much tension and emotion) — and by some one hundred small boats which rushed in to voice their congratulations (well, their pilots did), waving the distinctive Venetian flag of San Marco (bright red and yellow) in sign of approval.

I assume there was some kind of prize giving once the team set foot on dry land, but for me, all the best had happened there on the water amidst the affection and enthusiasm of the locals. It was time to go home and leave the rest of the party to the ‘landlubbers’

Off the shelf

cantiereContrary to popular opinion, it is not true that every Venetian owns a boat, much as many of them would like to.

Just use your imagination a bit and think how many two and three storey buildings you will probably have seen around Venice. Then calculate that every storey probably has at least one, but more often two, three or four apartments per floor… and then think of the nearest water to the building. Is there a canal near by? And how much horizontal space is there in that canal, relative to the building you had in mind?
You needn’t pull out the calculator to do the sums really. It just doesn’t all add up to one mooring per Venetian household does it?

When we moved into our current home, we were delighted to find that there was a canal outside the window, and even taking into consideration that those on the ground floor of our building had their own boat space assured, it still looked — by our calculations — as if there was a little space to cram our small boat into. I say ‘our small boat’, but we didn’t even have one, but having made application to the local authorities sending them a photo of a boat, and our details etc., we rushed out and bought a little second hand ‘patanella’, a typical lagoon boat, and began to enjoy the great pleasure of having the boat close to hand. You may have noticed that I said that we sent them a photo of ‘a’ boat, and not of ‘our’ boat — mainly because, however irrational, we are supposed to have a boat to take a picture of even before we have anywhere to keep the darn thing!

The next four years saw us going to do our shopping — going out to far-flung pizzerias for an evening out and all those usual things that most people would do with a car.

So perhaps you can imagine our stunned horror when finally the reply came back after four long years, that our request for the mooring had been refused!!! Our pockets and lounge just aren’t big enough to keep a 5 meter boat inside!

But to cut a very long story short, all I really wanted to do with this post was to give you an idea of the kind of alternatives which are available, at great cost — to those who, like us, are unable to get a canal mooring. As you can see in the picture, we have a couple of places where the very fortunate, when all else fails, manage to get a shelf space in this great big boat ‘warehouse’ or depository. These spaces are only for smallish pleasure boats up to about 5 or 6 meters in length. They are raised up by a kind of fork-lift truck thing which moves around on rails. For the larger boats there are some spaces out on the yard or in the waters of the marina. If my memory serves me well, this size boat would pay about €1650 per annum and that cost includes one lift in and out of water per day, but there are limits on the times of day the owners can use this service. That changes slightly with the various periods of the year.

Anyone interested in taking a look, this yard can be found on the island of Giudecca. I do not know of any others quite like this around town, though I could be wrong. This area makes quite an interesting visit even for non-boaters as there are a number of boat builders and boat related traders in the Consortium, including a gondola builder who will occasionally let you get a peek in through his doors.

Cantiere Navale
Consorzio Cantieristica Minore
212/C Giudecca
Venice, Italy

ps – The Consortium is on the lagoon side of the island of Giudecca, situated half way between the Palanca and Redentore public transport boat stops. Almost at the level of the ‘Ponte Longo’ coming from Redentore, you will see a large open gateway leading towards the lagoon. Walk through until you come to the open area on the lagoon side of all the warehouses. Just check with one of the ‘keepers’ or artisans before going inside any of the buildings though as there are certain risks involved such as paint spray or falling boats!

Bigger downscaling

It is just so long since we had any news for our boat blog, I have just had to content myself with reading the adventures and misadventures of others – so I want to thank those with problems with their boat bottoms and hatches and so on who have kept my interest alive in these recent weeks.

But there has been a step forward of sorts, in so much as the 3 permits have at last come through to build the big marina where we are hoping to have our space. We submitted our request for the mooring some time back, but until these 3 permits are officially collated and the plans back in the main authority offices, they cannot begin to process our request.

I have continued to throw out stuff accumulated over the years, but only yesterday we at last decided to make a big move and sell the car. For those who live on the mainland this may seem pure folly, but we have to take a boat trip to get to our car which costs us about €2000 a year to keep in a multi-storey garage. That is the folly from our point of view! So we have put the word around and are now looking at motorbikes.

We used to have a motorbike some years ago – nothing very big, and I seem to recall that we passed more time pushing it to the garage than riding it – but it sure was fun. If nothing else, we might even be able to load a motorbike onto a barge which would give us more autonomy during our trips out and about. As for the car – there are a couple of car sharing places nearby if we think we need a car for the odd day out, so not having our own shouldn’t bother us really.

So yet again I suppose I must end on the usual note — ‘watch this space!’

Anaerobic reading

homecomingI just cannot imagine quite where the day has gone to…

But I digress … the image I have posted is a rather whimsical edit I did some time back of a photograph I took of a local fisherman who silently glides out of the little harbour area behind the new residential area of ex-Junghans here on the island of Giudecca. He is away in the wee small hours, and silently glides back when the hours are still pretty small and pretty wee, occasionally bringing with him a small catch of whatever local fish happens to be in season.

If nothing else, the internet headaches of the last few days have meant that I have had a bit more time away from the keyboard than usual, which has forced me to seek ‘amusement’ elsewhere and allowed me to wallow in the luxury of a book — a real book that actually uses real words instead of a load of gobbledygook such as HTML, CSS and similar. And what better book to read and stay on theme than Terry Darlington’s ‘Narrow Dog to Carcassonne’ I might ask?

Comments? I think the best way I can describe it — in a word — is — anaerobic! Neither he nor I ever seemed to come up for air, and he well achieved his mission — I dropped other things to keep on reading. A right giggle from beginning to end. Anyone else read it?

But anyway, must rush as I have dived straight into ‘Narrow Dog to Indian River’ since I still had my diving equipment on, it seemed a good idea to keep going. Hang on whilst I take a deep breath and go under…

Boaty Words


Words of watery wisdom…

So excited as the post person brought me some good reading material yesterday!

When we first got our teeth into the barge idea a few months ago, I discovered the DBA, the UK based barge association which seemed to offer all sorts of useful advice on all that a barge owner (or potential barge owner such as myself) might need to know. I joined, and even though my participation in forums etc. has so far been non-existent, I find their web site and bi-monthly publication, ‘Blue Flag’ very interesting and informative. Not only that, there are always a fair number of ads for brokers, marine equipment etc. which help my rather vivid imagination to run riot, dreaming of the day when I too will be able to use a ‘portaloo’ aboard, or scrape rust off my gunwales.

Through the web site I also bought a couple of little handbooks which have enlightened me on a few of the finer details of hull inspections. epoxy application and black water tanks — all matters which will be requiring a great deal of mental energy and financial resources it seems.

And last, but not boaty least, in my ramblings the other day I discovered Terry Darlington’s books, ‘Narrow Dog to Carcassonne’ and ‘Narrow Dog to Indian River’, both of which I promptly purchased (and the darn postage from the UK cost me more than the books) and will add them to my boaty book list. Started reading the first of the two — maniacal as the Italians would say, but it certainly held my attention for the short span of time that my eyes remained open in the small wee hours. Looks like it’s going to be fun …

January 14th, 2010
ps. If I disappear for a while, it will be because I forgot to pay my phone bill … just found it hidden under my pile of desk papers … aiaiaiaiiiiiii! Not only that, but I still have taxis and web sites to deal with. And before the telephone company realises that they should shut me off, I hope to make some musical additions to my friend Chump’s violin school site … hmmmmmmm. Better get my head down so have a good day everyone.