A great Italian reporter’s rules for the perfect cruise: what are yours instead?


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cruise-perfectWho said that on a boat one must suffer, giving up the pleasures of life? A great Italian reporter, Giovanni Porzio, who has sailed all over the Mediterranean, explains his ten rules for experiencing a great cruise. Read, and then let us know what your rules are for a perfect cruise!

The golden rule is to have the right crew. On a boat you live in close physical contact: sharing spaces, meals, bunks, decisions (except those of the skipper), toothpaste and sunscreen, hated by the owner. I am not looking for experienced sailors but for fellow sailors: friends who love the sea, the wind, and sailing; who can adapt to the inevitable contingencies of a cruise; and who have read at least once, preferably in the original language, Moby Dick and The Shadow Line.

Galley and cellar should be impeccable, well stocked with excellent wines and fresh food. The cruise is not a survival test, and there is no reason to inflict depressing dinners of canned meat and freeze-dried food on yourself. A cold beer after an upwind edge is priceless. And every corner of the Mediterranean is a treasure trove of flavors, typical products, herbs, freshly caught fish and shellfish.

I placed speakers in all cabins, dinette, and cockpit. Having good music on board helps dilute tense moments and is a comfort on night watches. Although inevitable arguments arise with the children, especially when I pull them out of bed at dawn with the warbles of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, a prestigious interpreter of the Pakistani Sufi tradition.

Don’t be stubborn about routes. It is the wind and the sea that show the path to follow. One must plan an outline schedule, but be prepared to change it at any time based on weather conditions. With 20 and even 30 knots of wind upwind or crosswind, you sail away great; if upwind, it’s a different story….

Away from the crazy crowd. In summer, especially in August, the mare nostrum suddenly becomes populated with all sorts of motorized vessels: dinghies, speedboats, goiters, jet skis, mega yachts. But effective countermeasures can be taken. How to stay away from busy areas and sail against the tide: going out to sea when almost everyone, punctually, returns to port.

Have-in addition to the portolans-a well-stocked shipboard library. In the boat there is finally time to read, or reread, the books that have been stacked on the nightstand during the winter. On my boat I stowed everything Conrad, Melville, London, Stevenson; but also Borges, Montale, sea tales, shipwreck stories, Cape Horn…On a boat you can, you have to dream.

Avoid ports and marinas whenever possible. I only go there if I need to refuel or there is bad weather. Spending the night at anchor in a deserted bay-which is unfortunately becoming increasingly rare-is the ultimate joy. I know some discrete coves on certain islands…but I won’t tell you where they are!

Don’t get obsessed with the weather. One needs, of course, to know the general evolution of the weather. But in summer, in our latitudes, staying glued to the Vhf or computer to monitor hour by hour changes in atmospheric pressure, wind direction and wave patterns is a futile exercise. Downpours and sudden gusts are often unavoidable-not everything, fortunately, can be predicted.

To go swimming and return in time for the aperitif, an inflatable boat is more convenient. I like to hoist sails to sail, preferably far from the coast: the longer the course the more I feel in the sea. Night crossings with a full moon are unforgettable: even (especially…) when the wind turns in the bow, you have to take three hands of reefing and the crew, forced to mount the foresail, threatens to mutiny.

One sails to reach a destination, to drop anchor in an island, in an unknown harbor. It is time to go ashore and explore. And the Mediterranean is full of secrets: a market, a museum, a fortress, the painting in a church, a network of medieval streets, an archaeological site, a mosque, an ancient tuna fishery. Thus, it seems to me, the sea voyage regains the primal Homeric meaning of discovery.



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