Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lunch is in the Sea

Travelling alone across Northern Italy by train and bus, armed only with a toothbrush and a dozen words of Italian, was not on the agenda when we agreed to join friends for a sailing trip to Venice and the Venetian Lagoon on a charter boat.  I had jumped ship!


Fishing boat - Chioggia
The previous day had started pleasantly enough with a wander round the old fishing town of Chioggia, investigating the street market and drinking delicious Italian coffee, watching the street life.  There was a strong wind blowing though and we both wondered if sailing back to Venice was viable in such rough conditions. However when we arrived back at the boat and started preparing lunch, we found ourselves underway! Without consulting anyone and anxious to get the boat back in time, the skipper had simply set off.  

Surprised and apprehensive, we took our french bread rolls up to the cockpit in a bowl and 
started to eat lunch, anxiously watching the harbour mouth to see what conditions were like at sea. With layer on layer of white water ahead, I voted to turn back now, before we left safe waters, but in a group the consensus rules and only one of the others was particularly concerned as apparently it is not uncommon for conditions to be at their worst at the harbour mouth, but to settle down once out at sea.  We donned the flotation jackets but with no safety straps provided to hook onto the boat, we had simply to hang onto any fixed bit of the boat we could find!  I wrapped my arm firmly around a winch as a huge wave, over 7 feet high, lifted us over the sandbank and tossed us down into the churning, boiling sea - the heaviest I have ever seen, or wish to see again at such close quarters.  

With the bowl of sandwiches sliding around and proving a distraction from the grim business of hanging on for our lives, one of the others took the executive decision to dump our lunch, bowl as well, into the sea. She crouched beside me, silent and pale, an accomplished sailor unlike me, and way out of her depth. Trembling with fear, teeth chattering, I clung to my winch.  The skipper refused to turn back. The huge wave at the harbour mouth would, he insisted, turn the boat over if we tried to return and there was no way back.  He handed the wheel to my partner, the only other man on board and luckily an experienced sailor able to manage the boat in such rough conditions, and disappeared down below to sort out the navigation.  By the time he returned we had mutinied, and to a man and woman had decided to go back, whatever it took, rather than face many hours in such dire and dangerous conditions with an uncertain outcome.  


My partner took charge and somehow managed to find a tiny window of slightly flatter water to turn the boat swiftly, avoiding capsizing it which could have flung any or all of us into the sea - a huge wave hitting a small boat sideways-on is the biggest danger.  He then skillfully surfed the waves back into safe waters to the enormous relief of all on board.  Later, when we had recovered from our ordeal, we took the safe route back through the canals to Venice, a route which had previously been discounted on the grounds of depth, but which turned out to be perfectly negotiable.  We never did get lunch that day but we really bonded over supper that night!


I rose early the next morning and set out alone for Grado where we had joined the boat, unwilling to expose myself to such potential danger again and looking forward to a trip overland under my own steam. My partner felt he should stay with the boat and see everyone safely back as the sea was still very unsettled after the recent storm. 



St Marks from St Elena
I thoroughly enjoyed my early morning Vaporetto trip across to St Marks Square where I found myself a front row seat on a trip up the Grand Canal to the railway station, negotiated the pitfalls of the Italian ticketing system, took a train across Northern Italy, nearly missed my stop, somehow managed to communicate with a fellow traveller who spoke no English at all, but helped me find my way by bus to Grado and back to the market square where we began our adventure a week before. 

Sitting with coffee and a croissant, I decided enough was enough and booked myself into a hotel for our last night in the Venetian Lagoon, a small cosy room with my own loo and shower and a bed that I could stretch out in and get out of without hitting my head!  Utter bliss.  The others arrived later that evening after a long but relatively uneventful trip, cold, tired and wet.  We shared a final celebratory meal together and, relieved, went back to our everyday lives.  




The holiday from hell or the holiday of a lifetime?  A bit of both perhaps but two firm decisions have been made.  One is that we will only sail alone, on our own very sea-worthy boat, make our own decisions; and the other?  To learn Italian!

22 comments:

  1. A dream holiday turned into a nightmare. So glad that your partner managed to get you all back to safety. Hot footing it back to the hotel even on your own was by far the best course of action. What a story you'll have to recount for your little granddaughter when she's older.

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    1. Dreams always contain the seeds of nightmare I think, and this one certainly did! I enjoy a bit of adventure but this was way too much for me, but a great story.

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  2. You certainly got quite a story out of that adventure. Thank God you lived to tell it.

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    1. Several stories - it was an 'interesting' trip, and so glad to be safe home now.

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  3. I think I could live without that sort of excitement! Thank goodness for the solace of a little hotel room all to yourself...

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    1. In retrospect, we had one hell of a time but not to be repeated, I hope!

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  4. Dear Marianne,

    It sounds like quite and adventure. I am glad you arrived in the harbour safely! What a skilful partner you have!
    Thank you for your kind comment on my blog too. It made me smile. I visited Veere, Zoutelande and Domburg, which are absolutely lovely!

    Madelief x

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    1. Dear Madelief, thank you for dropping by and glad I brought a smile to your face. Enjoy Zeeland.

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  5. Oh dear! I would have been terrified! So glad your group re-formed its consensus and that you got safely back into harbour. The rest of your trip looks magical. I am determined we'll get back to Italy and get to see a bit of the North -- and like you, I'm also determined that I will speak some Italian on that visit!

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    1. I have had some scary moments on the water before now, but nothing like this I was absolutely terrified! Thank goodness everyone else came to see it was an impossible situation and my partner could get us back to safety. He was brilliant! I hope you get back to Italy and that we both get to grips with the language.

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  6. Hi Marianne,

    Thank goodness for your gorgeous photos of Venice, as your sea story was making me very nervous! You see, in the summer of 2012, my mother, my sister, my daughter, and I were on vacation in western Crete, when, on our very first day in the sea, my mother, my sister and myself, (along with two very courageous Australian sisters who dashed to our rescue), almost drowned when we were trapped in an undercurrent. It was one of the scariest moments of my life, and I thank God that we survived, but my relationship with the sea was forever changed after that incident.

    I am glad you are okay and I cannot agree with you more with regards to your decisions after such a frightening experience. You are blessed to have such a talented and sensible partner.

    Poppy

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    1. Hello Poppy. I love the sea, I'm sure we all do, but being in it, or on it, can turn out to be very dangerous indeed as you and I have found out and we are both very lucky to have survived a brush with dangerous conditions! Thank God.

      As one of the others said to me later, she dreaded to think what the outcome would have been if he had not been on the boat that day, as they would certainly have been in that place at that time - and we were close to pulling out of the trip too. Could have been a distressing headline in the news I guess. It certainly puts things into perspective.

      Sorry to have brought up some difficult memories though and glad you all made it!

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  7. I have a healthy respect for (fear of) the sea. Your story gave me the shivers. Only recently, on a beach I thought I knew well, we were caught out by an incoming tide which swirled in around each side of us and filled small channels which were only a short distance from the main beach. We had to wade...

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    1. Hello Lucille - it gave me the shivers too! I only sail on condition that we don't go out in foul weather (although occasionally we have been caught out) so this was way beyond my experience or expectations. The sea is beautiful but treacherous as you have also found out - so glad it all turned out well for you too.

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  8. Wow, what an adventure ... I would have loved the time to myself in Venice but you would not have got me on that boat for love nor money!

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  9. Very good advice,"A bit of both perhaps but two firm decisions have been made. One is that we will only sail alone, on our own very sea-worthy boat, make our own decisions; and the other? To learn Italian!"
    You are much braver than me. I don't really like any body of water especially the ocean. Now mountains and crystal clear streams are more like it. I admire your adventurous spirit.

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    1. Thank you Pam, but it certainly got me into deep water this time! The sea is definitely an alien and sometimes inhospitable environment and needs to be treated with great respect. As for mountains and streams, yes please! Maybe I shall get to choose the next holiday...

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  10. Wise decision indeed.
    Perhaps one holiday of a lifetime/hell is enough for anyone.

    Still, you proved yourself equal to the task of negotiating the pitfalls of Italy on your own. Kudos!

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    1. I do hope so Friko - not to be repeated! And it was fun to do my own thing instead of having to conform to a group.

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  11. Wow.. what a harrowing experience but what a grand adventure at the same time. I'm glad everyone was okay and that you are here to tell the tale. And I love the notion of a modern day mutiny. Not to mention your partner coming to the rescue. :)

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    1. It was very very frightening Hilary and quite a story.

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