Friday, June 14, 2024

Towed Homeward Toward a New Life

Our friend's larger heavier sanpierota tows our new boat homeward yesterday evening, with our six-year-old son (barely visible behind the 9.9 hp engine) driving. (11 July 2014)

NOTE: I came upon the above image today and didn't remember if I'd ever posted it before. It turns out that I had, almost exactly a decade ago, and I re-post below the original text I put up with it back then.

Our neighbor, a native Venetian, saw me on the street last week and greeted me with a smile and a handshake and congratulations, saying "It will change your life." From his manner he could have been responding to the news that we were expecting a second child but, in fact, he'd heard that we'd agreed to buy a boat.

Jen and I had been thinking about it for at least two years, as I've written about here before, and almost exclusively in terms of what we'd been told was the most practical and inexpensive of boats to buy: a cofano. A cofano is usually about 5 meters long, usually made of fiberglass (which requires much less maintenance than wood), and there's no shortage of used ones around for sale at reasonable prices.

And yet after all those months of envisioning our practical fiberglass cofano, it is a wood sanpierota that we ended up buying yesterday and towing from a sailing club in Mestre, where its very kind owner had used it, to Venice proper. A sanpierota is also a traditional Venetian craft, but unlike the typical contemporary fiberglass cofano, it can be rowed or used with a sail--rather than just an outboard motor. Ours measures 5.8 meters in length, and is made of compensato marino (or plywood), which means it's very light. It came with a pair of forcole (oarlocks) and remi (oars), which we do know how to use, and a sail, which we do not (yet). A 6 horsepower engine will be arriving for it next week, which is plenty large for such a light boat.

Of course there is nothing very practical in general about living in Venice--not in the opinion of many visitors, at least a couple of whom have told me outright that it strikes them as simply the most impossible inconvenient place they've ever seen. Perhaps this was an argument in favor the more practical choice of a cofano, and yet it was the possibility of rowing and sailing the boat that made it impossible for Jen and I to resist, regardless of any other considerations. For the way we hope to use the boat, only a sanpierota would do.

But I'm afraid I don't even have the time to shape this post into any final form, there's still much to do with the boat--tonight--the details of which I'll spare you. Instead I'll close with something I jotted down in a notebook in April as I watched, as I like to do, boats returning from a day out on the lagoon, something I'm sure contributed largely to my sense that the sanpierota is what we wanted:

"... a group of no fewer than ten people, of all different ages, in a beautifully-painted (red and white) large old underpowered wooden sanpierota. Looks to be about a 6 horsepower engine on it, an ancient one that sounds like a mosquito, and the boat plows slowly, uncertainly among the waves--wavers its way through the waves, you might say, so unsteady and tentative and almost plaintive its lack of power renders it, as it leaves the calm of the Canale di San Pietro and turns into the deep busy waterway of vaporetti and car carriers and big ships leading toward Piazza San Marco.

A woman onboard looks a little sheepish at the quality of their progress and waves vaguely in my direction where I sit on the bench quayside watching, a gesture motivated it seems more by embarrassment than friendliness or recognition, as it's no one I know. As if the gesture will distract my attention from how the boat lopes and loops and sidles and almost waddles its way along. But she has nothing to be embarrassed about. I stare enviously at the beautiful boat, full of family and/or friends, with its four kids sprawled across its foredeck, blissfully at home in the late warm sun, the soft breeze, the amniotic movement."


Saturday, June 8, 2024

The Less Serene Side of "La Serenissima"

Five years ago today the police and carabinieri were out in full force (and riot gear) to keep a huge protest against cruise ships in the Venetian lagoon from taking place in Piazza San Marco. At some point after this it would be declared that cruise ships would no longer pass through the basin of San Marco (right past the Doge's Palace and Piazza San Marco). But, of course, this had been declared years earlier, to international acclaim, and yet the cruise ships had continued on the same route. As of spring 2023, however, it seems the largest ships have been forbidden from making this passage--but not from entering the lagoon. The damage that massive ships cause to the lagoon, both in themselves and because of the deep water channels which have been (and will be) dredged to allow their passage, is well-documented. But a real and complete ban of them has consistently been resisted, and protests against them subjected to sometimes perilous degrees of intimidation (as when police boats and helicopters intentionally menaced protesters rowing small traditional flat-bottomed Venetian boats, threatening to overturn them). (photos: 8 June 2019)


 

Thursday, June 6, 2024

A Small Place Apart

I no longer remember where in the historical center I came upon this little seat and table behind a wrought iron gate, but I remember it as being a scene that nothing in its surroundings had prepared me to find. (24 June 2013)

Monday, June 3, 2024

Upon the Second Bridge of Sighs

This is the time of year when the Ponte della Paglia--the bridge from which one views the Bridge of Sighs--is likely to provoke as many expressive exhalations of distress from those crossing it as the famous landmark bridge was said to have elicited from condemned prisoners crossing it. But in the case of the Ponte della Paglia, the sighs are of the frustrated rather than mournful variety, as one tries to find a path across the crowded span. But in the above image, taken on 16 June 2013, traffic is moving nicely and shutterbugs are only one deep along the balustrade.

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Reflections of Ca' Fornoni in 3 Crops

An old Murano vase in a color I haven't seen much of before: black (but with an almost purplish tinge in person). If I remember correctly I found it in the nice little shop Ambrus Antichità Venezia on Calle dei Cristi off of Campo San Cassian and paid, at most, 40 euro. But that shop also has, among other things, some very fine vintage pieces of Murano glass. It's worth stopping in.