Showing posts with label Fear. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fear. Show all posts

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Lunch is in the Sea

Travelling alone across Northern Italy by train and bus, armed with only 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 our home port 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 the french bread rolls up to the cockpit in a plastic 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 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 proving a distraction from the grim business of hanging on for our lives, one of the girls 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, 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, 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!

Monday, 19 July 2010

Just beam me up

The boat surfed the threshing waves bouncing like a cork then slid into a trough as I glanced behind to see the large, heavy wooden dinghy we were towing poised on the wave's crest and crashing down towards us.  I clung on for dear life and said my prayers as the boat heeled over, seawater rinsing the decks, blinding me with spray.
 
I could think of a million things I would rather be doing right now; planting out my oxeye daisies, painting my nails bright blue, drinking ink ...

We finally made it into the river entrance and sailed more sedately to join the other boats taking part in the rally, anchored deep in the river mud.  Later that evening we joined them for a barbecue on the beach in a remote spot, inaccessible other than by water, chatting, laughing, exchanging stories.  Someone started playing music by the firelight as we watched the most glorious sunset I have ever seen and the light gradually faded from the sky. Then we waded through the mud to the dinghy to join another boat for a nightcap, before making our way back up the quiet moonlit river to our own boat to snuggle in for the night.







"That's the difference between you and me," I said to my partner. "I can quite happily go to a party and enjoy myself without having to half kill myself first."

"It makes the beer taste better," he replied succinctly.