From Brittany to Sicily in a seven-meter “clunker”

_MG_4529S.Agata di Militello, north coast of Sicily, Sunday, July 17, 2016, about 6 p.m… The Bravo Papa 3, our Sun Odyssey 40, our floating home by the sea has been moored for a few minutes in the cozy Marina Porticciolo Sant’Agata masterfully managed by Giuseppe Dominici from Milazzo. In the previous two days it suffered from a mistral that touched a peak of 44.9 knots(real not apparent) between Vulcan and the coast. Fortunately for the wives, at the little garden, since, after stubbornly, for a few miles, attempting to sail upwind with three hands to the west, he decided (he, directly, not the skipper, i.e., me) to “turn his butt around” and head for Milazzo.

In the complete relaxation and tranquility of a real harbor, sprawled out on pillows reading a book, I see a girl on a racing bicycle arrive on the pier. He dismounts at the drop of a hat (he will be in his early 20s) and waves to a small boat that is entering the harbor. I can’t believe my eyes: a seven-meter shell, patched with fiberglass in several places, with a Suzuki 6 hp outboard, tangon (ergo, spinnaker), no lazy bag, just a miserable and shabby mainsail cover, tiller, of course, rudder, strangely clean hull, “dares” to come and moor next to “my” 12-meter pulled-together with all possible accessories, sheets and halyards perfectly rolled to a mat, and the “human skin” galaverne I personally made and sewed???

I rush off the boat to prevent any bumps from these Sunday sailors and immediately receive greetings from the crew, “Bonsoir, monsieur.” I look at the flag on the forestay: French; on the right rigging Italian, of course. On the left Canada and New Zealand. What is it ? A Costa Cruises in miniature? I throw in, out of politeness, a “Bonsoir à vous,” and the younger boy looking at my Belgian flag asks me if I am Walloon. Since my French is limited to greetings, I call Margherita for a translation and immediately Antoine excitedly comes out with an “ils sont italiennes!” After five minutes they are on board the Bravo Papa making six Nespresso coffees that we drink on their boat where the boys tell us about their adventure-incredible.

As you can see from the photos the boat is really little more than a drift boat. The boat is French, the owners (I have to laugh to call them that) are Antoine, 23, from Quebec, Canada, and Laura, 22, from New Zealand; the two guests on board, in their early 30s, with no sea experience are also Canadians. Alas, Margaret and I have a poor aptitude with languages but with a little French mixed with English, Spanish and Italian, we manage to converse for over an hour. They arrive, hear hear, with that boat from Saint Malo-Northern Brittany. Doing the whole French, Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic coast, Gibraltar and then to Sicily, then back to Tunisia to sell the boat… azz!!! These are real sailors, maybe with the recklessness of their twenties but… we congratulate them.

Antoine found the semi-abandoned boat on a Breton beach, bought it with €650, and with another €4,000 he refurbished it (when I think what just my navigator costs, or even just the cooker…), at the stern I see a little red bin (5 liters) for spraying verdigris to the plants… he explains that it is their shower. In the bow, however, tied to the drapes, the bike……their tender.

They have three days to see the Aeolian Islands and ask me for advice. We give them a map of the islands and give some tips, certainly not seafaring ones-they don’t need them-about what they can’t miss, where to moor, and where to spend little. I show them some photos of the islands and they are fascinated. We exchange e-mail addresses with promises to hear from each other again and, who knows, to see each other again. They will leave early in the morning. This summer was a vacation full of new acquaintances, all of them very special. Of course you have to engage with everyone a bit, not be biased, let go and be driven by curiosity to get to know not only places but also new people and faces. This, too, is NAVIGATING, and if this can help me make new friends, to paraphrase Leopardi, “il naufragar m’è dolce in questo mare….”

text and images by Adriano Gatta



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