Two Hearts and a Hallberg-Rassy (a nice story for Valentine’s Day)


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TOGETHERHappy Valentine’s Day, sailors. We decided to celebrate Lovers’ Day by publishing a beautiful story about sailing and love (and love for sailing). Pier Paolo and Anna Appiani’s, which came out in 2014 in the Journal of Sailing. Pier Paolo unfortunately passed away some time ago: we want to remember his adventures as a man of the sea and renew our “good wind” to him.

Before being a sea story, that of Pier Paolo and Anna Appiani, two 71-year-old gentlemen from Milan who have two round-the-world boat trips behind them, is a great love story. A love that blossomed at an early age, between two cousins (“my family was so poor that sometimes my mother would foster me with Pier Paolo’s,” Anna recounts) who decided to become companions for life and who still love each other like the first day. He owns an electroplating material business, she volunteers at the Milan Cancer Institute. They have always been in love with the sea (passionate scuba divers, they have dived all over the globe): their first contact with sailing took place thirty-five years ago at the VelaMare school in the Gulf of Poets, in front of La Spezia and Portovenere.

When Pier Paolo turned 50, he realized that the earnings from his business were worthless if they could not be enjoyed: together with his wife, he took off his fear of the great wide open sea by sailing the Azores-Italy route with the school of Vicenza skipper Carlo Venco, then bought his first boat, a Comet 8.50 “battle”. “We kept him for a year, to practice in the Tyrrhenian Sea, from Rapallo to Elba.” Complete with a lot of Fantozzi-like episodes: “I remember that our reverse gear didn’t work,” Anna says, “and that we had the tender way out of proportion, because it was the dinghy we used for diving: in short, mooring in the harbor was a real mess!

In 1996, Pier Paolo and Anna boarded a Hallberg-Rassy and a love affair with this type of boat was sparked: they bought an ‘old-fashioned’ HR 35, the long-hulled kind, and tackled the Gulf of Lion: “We hadn’t been well informed about the weather,” Anna remembers, “and we caught a freak mistral on our snouts. We were supposed to go to Barcelona, but instead we were almost ending up in the Balearics! Fortunately, after Capo delle Croci the wind eased slightly and we managed to arrive in the capital’s harbor. But if we are here to tell you about it, the credit is only due to the solidity of the boat!” Certain experiences put you before an aut-authority: either you suck it up and call it quits with sailing, or you decide to devote yourself to the sea life. The two made their choice, buying a Hallberg-Rassy 42 aboard which they put the ‘nose’ in the Atlantic on their own for the first time, sailing from Liguria to Madeira. “At the time I was doing ‘dress rehearsals’ for retirement,” explains Pier Paolo, “and we were taking very long vacations. In 1999 we took part in the ARC because we wanted to spend New Year’s Eve 2000 in the Caribbean: right after that we sailed up to Bermuda and from there we sailed to the Azores. We took the biggest ‘blowout’ of our cruising career, with winds of 47 knots and, alas, the autopilot broken. Our hands were bleeding. At one point we found ourselves in the eye of the storm: the sun above us, around us the storm, a rough sea but not a breath of wind. A surreal situation. From the Azores to Lisbon, then, the wind was always very strong, but fortunately we were sailing at carrying gaits.” “Do you remember, Mouse – Anna interrupts him affectionately – it was so windy that we only went with the awning!“.

blue water rallyTHE FIRST WORLD TOUR
The Atlantic is nice, but after a while it gets tiring: ‘Aboard a friends’ Grand Soleil we did the Atlantic again,’ Anna says, ‘then on another boat we ventured through the Panama Canal to the Pacific and reached the Galapagos. ‘‘It can be done,’ we said to ourselves: we sold the 42 and decided to buy a HR 45, with which we entered the 2003 Blue Water Rally (the non-competitive rally started in 1997 that, in six months, takes participants on a round-the-world trip from the Canary Islands to Crete, which no longer exists): a nice event, organized in the English way, but it left us unsatisfied. Too fast, there was no time to enjoy the sites.”

If you want to get to know peoples and places, you don’t have to be in a hurry: Pier Paolo and Anna are well off financially, they can arrange themselves so that they have plenty of free time, and they don’t let the opportunity pass them by: they embark on a world tour aboard the Hallberg-Rassy 48 Talisman, bought on the occasion of their 40th wedding anniversary. They were roaming the waters of the globe from 2006 to 2011, returning occasionally to Milan: “From Liguria we went to the Canary Islands,” explains Pier Paolo, “where we joined the Iles du Soleil rally: we stayed in Dakar, then crossed the Atlantic to Brazil, where we touched on Salvador de Bahia, the island of Fernando de Noronha, one of the most beautiful places in the world, not very touristy and wild. We also went up the Amazon River through tributaries and visited incredible places. Descending south to Trinidad, we separated from the rest of the fleet and crossed the Panama Strait: from there Galapagos, San Blas, Les Roques: one place more beautiful than the other. The Pacific crossing took us to the Marquesas (how beautiful Nuku Hiva!) and the Tuamotu: we saw everything there was to see. We went to Vanuatu, Tonga, New Zealand, went up to Fiji, and from New Caledonia we went to Sydney along the Australian coast. We then joined the 2011 edition of the Blue Water Rally: we would be safer on the stretch from the Mediterranean, which was the most dangerous.”

Instead, it went horribly wrong: “That was the edition when, off the coast of Oman, pirates kidnapped four Americans participating in the rally in their 58-footer, the Quest. U.S. rescuers arrived but, the dynamics of the events are still unclear, found the four dead bodies on board. Lucky for us, instead of circumnavigating the coast of India we aimed directly for Oman from the Maldives. Once in Salalah, we loaded our boat onto a freighter bound for Turkey. From there Marmaris, the Greek islands, Sicily and then the return to Lavagna.” Where Talisman, in perfect condition, awaits a new master.



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