Sunday, April 28, 2013
"Tanta Passione e Tanti Soldi": To Boat or Not to Boat
In recent weeks I find myself coming perilously close to agreeing with my wife and son that we need a boat. In spite of the fact that need actually has nothing to do with it.
One doesn't need a boat to live in Venice as, for example, one needs a car to live in Los Angeles or many other towns in the United States. The places where we buy our groceries, where we buy our fruits and vegetables, meat and cheese, they're all within walking distance of where we live (or one stop away on the vaporetto). Even Sandro's school, located as far away from our apartment as you can get without leaving the city of Venice, is reachable by foot in 50 minutes--which is not much longer than it takes to get there on the vaporetto.
One cannot really be a Venetian--even a late-arriving non-Native Venetian--without spending a fair amount of time out on, and out in, the lagoon. The many English and American journalists who write about how "claustrophobic" Venice becomes after 24 or 48 hours inevitably have no experience of the lagoon, which remains as integral a part of life in the city as Piazza San Marco--if not more.
I thought that learning to row in the lagoon would be enough to give me a sense of Venetians' relationship with their watery world--and it certainly has gone a long way toward doing so, but it's not everything. The fact is that every native Venetian I've met without a motor boat of his or her own seems to feel the lack of it, even if--or perhaps especially if--they know they don't really need it.
If you have any doubts about the importance of a motor boat to Venetian identity, just sit on a fondamenta or riva some time and watch Venetians setting out or returning home in their motor boats on a holiday such as the recent Liberation Day. Do Venetians ever look quite so satisfied as when they're seated in a private boat, no matter how small or humble?
As one Venetian friend told me a year ago when the subject of buying a boat came up: "Ah, yes, with a boat you will really be free."
As another told me more recently in regards to a specific boat boat for sale: "It's a small boat, the perfect size to learn in. And with a motor of less than 10 horsepower you won't even need to register it. And without a registration number on the side of the boat, you don't need to worry about tickets." (On Venetians' anxiety about tickets and the one main way they try to avoid receiving them, please see http://veneziablog.blogspot.it/2012/12/faith-motorboats-and-t-shirts.html)
Of course, the impossibility of finding a place to moor your boat hasn't diminished a bit since I wrote about it over a year ago (http://veneziablog.blogspot.it/2012/02/adrift-in-venice.html). I've found out that you can rather easily apply for a place at any time--but, first, you must present proof that you already own a boat. You cannot apply in anticipation of the boat you plan to buy as soon as you are granted a place to put it.
Then, once you and your verified boat have put in your application, you must wait a couple of years to actually get a spot.
What do you do with your boat in the interim? You ask everyone you even vaguely know whether they have any leads on a spot: perhaps a friend of a friend's grandparent who's gotten too far along in age to use the mooring place that came with his or her canal-side house. Perhaps someone who's willing to rent you their empty spot on the sly. Or there are private marinas with spots available to rent, such as the one on Certosa. A mooring place there, I've heard, may run you at least 1,500 euro per year.
And yet... With a motor of less than 20 horsepower you need not even bother to get a license to operate a boat. The little boat that a friend of a friend is selling is a traditional Venetian style boat in fiberglass; only about 4 meters in length, and low-sided. It's perfect for tooling around the city; less so for wavy days or wake-y heavily-trafficked canals--though the current owner's wife and daughters regularly use the boat to go between Venice and Burano.
Some friends with boats tell me that a small used motor from a reliable repair shop--the one they take their boats to--won't cost much at all.
But what I keep coming back to is what another friend--who drives mototopi (large Venetian workboats) five days a week--recently told me. To own a boat, he said, whether of wood (with its annual maintenance requirements) or plastic, requires "Tanta passione e tanti soldi" [a lot of passion and a lot of money]."
The problem in my case is that while my amount of the former seems to be growing when it comes to boats, my amount of the latter remains quite constant.