Marco Demontis, the sailor who couldn’t sail

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marco-demontisIn recent months, abetted by the great ocean races, we have talked so much about the established sailors, those who have made sailing a profession, who sail ultratechnology boats at an average of twenty knots. And sometimes even those of us who write about sailing every day are in danger of forgetting that there is another world, that of the sometimes wacky enthusiasts who not only follow their dreams but actually live them.

Like Marco Demontis, 47, who for years has lived aboard a Waarschip 725 with which he travels around the world. Tells our reader Vincenzo, “I met Marco in Martinique in 2015 he was at anchor in St. Pierre, waiting to treat a bad skin infection and looking for a job so he could continue his journey. He was back from Brazil where he had had countless adventures that were not always pleasant. In 2016 in April I saw him again in St. Martin, he was waiting for May to cross to the East, the whole tribou of mariners stationed at the Caribe tried to help him and followed him through the crossing via SSB even though Marco’s like all the other equipment he has on board was not working very well. All the way to Bermuda we could hear it, then darkness, so much so that we alerted the various authorities and the boats that were crossing. After two months of silence a friend who lives in Horta (Azores) and who had been alerted by me about it informs me that Marco arrived after about seventy days, clearly without a passport ID card and a euro. Boat seized because he could not pay anything, Horta’s friend informed me these days that Marco managed to get the “vehicle” released and left and I think he is in Santa Maria these days, his wish was to get to Med to reach San Remo.”

We then went to film the interview that our own Eugenio Ruocco conducted with Marco a few years ago during one of his stops in Genoa. Read it, it is really worth it.

cs_28_that-casinoThere are stories that the sea carries with it, destined to remain secret. Marco Demontis’, if he had not landed in Genoa, we would not have been able to tell it. A strange boat moors at the docks of the Mandraccio Nautical Club: the hull is a Waarschip 725, but how on earth is it armed? Coming up from the deckhouse is a guy as strange as the boat, who is very eager to talk.

He has 3 euros in his pocket, which he immediately spends on a pack of tobacco. Marco was born in Germany, in Wolfsburg, in 1968, to a Sardinian father. His language would puzzle even Umberto Eco: a little Italian, a little German, intermixed with words from Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French. His passport is tricolor. And that’s how it feels: “italienisch.”

At age 12, due to problems he prefers to keep quiet, he is already out of the house. He supports himself by doing small jobs, but things are not going well. Shortly before he turns 20, he is in Monaco: he happens to pass by a sailing school, and it is love at first sight. He decides to register, paying the fee through handouts: on the form, he fills in the “Wöhnung” (residence, ed.) box with “Munich Station.” Is the truth, he sleeps there. Marco gets hooked, and in the meantime he works here and there, mainly as an electrician.

 

marco demontisHe manages to rent an apartment, but his dream is something else. He realized this in 2004, buying a 9-meter (Orion) in Holland: to afford it, he sold all his possessions. The Netherlands, Belgium, England, Ireland and Spain: the Ocean is not scary, and Marco finally feels free. “I’m not meant to be in society, a slave to bureaucracy and justice that doesn’t give a…rega about the poor guy“.

marco demontisHis activities as a maritime “wanderer” came to an abrupt end on Oct. 12, 2006, when a “storm surge,” as he calls it, surprised him 70 miles off the coast of Leixoes, Portugal. At the marina he asks via VHF for hospitality, which he is denied as he lacks money to pay for a place. The mast breaks, the engine fails, the batteries get wet, and goodbye to the VHF as well. For 10 days Orion drifts until a merchant ship catches it off the coast of Portimao.

Marco is saved; the boat is unrecoverable and still lies on the ocean floor. He feels he is the victim of a conspiracy: the Leixoes navy was guilty of hit-and-run, and the Italian consul, according to him, did not intervene to enforce his rights. The merchant ship took him to Genoa, where he stayed as a guest of the Mandraccio (this went totally unnoticed), who offered him room and board. As much as he feels betrayed, Marco wants to return to the sea as quickly as possible. Returning first to Portugal (again to Leixoes in whose harbor he would sleep for a year in a semi-sunken 18-meter boat), then to northern Europe, he managed to save a nest egg to buy the Saturn, his current boat. Seven meters twenty-five: his new home.

He goes to collect it in April 2008 in Purmerend, among the canals of the Netherlands: from there his sailing adventure in inland waters, through Germany to the Czech border. “What I remember is only the cold, although it was spring, and that I got stranded in a lake (of instruments, on Saturn, not even a shadow, ed.)”. He jumped back into the sea at Ijmuiden, also in the Netherlands, around June 4.

marco demontis

I took a Ukranian (not a relative of Spock, but his version of “Ukrainian,” ed.) on board with me, who told me he was a math professor eager to travel the world by boat. A strange professor and a bad sailor: he knew nothing about either sailing or charting. I should have been suspicious. We get out of the harbor, and he starts freaking out, getting violent. I decide to go back in to disembark him, but once we are docked, he grabs me violently and tries to choke me on that thing there (he points to the draglia: Marco does not know the nomenclature in Italian, but one wonders if it is different in other languages). I lose consciousness: when I wake up I immediately realize that he has stolen everything from me. Laptop, tools-everything! I have his name, I have his information, but I can’t sue him; I haven’t found any lawyers willing to work for free!“.

marco demontisAfter this nasty misadventure, Marco goes to “blow off” in front of the Danish coast, then turns back and goes down to the Iberian Peninsula. In front of Oostende, Belgium, a sudden increase in wind destroys the old wooden mast. Marco manages to set course in the small fishermen’s port, where he makes up a makeshift repair. In the following days he reaches Le Havre, France, where someone gives him a metal profile that, at first glance, he realizes belonged to a boat of at least 12 meters. “I sawed about 4 meters of pole. Not having metal crosses, I kept my old wooden ones. I like living on a boat because you always have some problem to solve, some work waiting to be done“, says Demontis.

In between vicissitudes, Marco circumnavigated the Iberian Peninsula, made his way up the French coast and then moored at the Mandraccio, which had already hosted him three years earlier. Mark’s journey, although it may raise doubts, is verified. He keeps in his boat a long series of articles about him, both Portuguese, Spanish and French. Yet it seems unbelievable: his Saturn is a tangle of ropes, shrouds and sails. Each steel cable is modified, multi-repaired and hyper-welded, and engages the shaft improbably.

Two mainsails, four jibs, two spinnakers, two tangons, all mounted and ready to use. A 5-horsepower outboard motor, a gift from a kind soul, an autopilot built from two inner tubes of bicycle wheels. Marco also has the unbelievable: at the charting, he shows up with a ruler and a square, he prefers reading Uncle Scrooge to biographies of the great navigators, he doesn’t know sailing nomenclature (I had to remind him that the headsail is called a “jib”).

cs_28_attachment-tree

A sea anarchist, whom many wrongly consider a clochard. Mark, unlike the wanderers, has a definite purpose: “My dream is to reach some remote island in the Pacific, perhaps inhabited by some indigenous tribe, and there to grow old and die. I am not cut out to live by conventional standards (he never tires of repeating this). I hope in the future to be able to save up some money to be able to afford a bigger boat that will allow me ocean crossing….

The Mandraccio Sailing Club took up a collection, filled it with food, hygiene accessories and clothing. Marco has left and, since he has no cell phone, he is nowhere to be found. He showed up with an ungrammatical e-mail from Olbia; his goal is to reach Venice. Let’s think of it this way: on his little Waarschip 725, cigarette in his mouth, slicing through the seas of “Waterworld.”

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