Saturday, January 12, 2013

La Barca Più Bassa, Not Acqua Alta, in Cannaregio

You've probably seen the recent pics of the highest tides in years, here's a pic of the lowest boat
A couple of months ago I posted a photo of a boat moored along the side of a canal in Dorsoduro that was half-sunk ( It was not a pretty sight.

Yesterday morning, after dropping Sandro off at school, I happened upon a boat in much worse shape.

But though I had a small camera with me, you pretty much have to take my word for it--as it's not so easy to get a photograph of a boat sunk beneath 4 or 5 feet of cloudy canal water.

In the photo above you see can that the boat's cover--attached to a post on the fondamenta--has not gone entirely under with the boat itself. And you can see what appears to be a broomstick that someone has inserted into some part of the boat and adorned with an empty plastic bottle to mark the boat's location--lest some other boat owner become so thrilled at the extremely rare sight of an open mooring spot that he or she tear up the bottom of their own boat, or at least the prop of their motor, on the sunken boat below.

In the photo at right you can just make out, through the reflections of palazzo and sky on the water, the white side of the boat, the chrome bar that typically extends above the driver toward the back of certain types of boats, and one of those large white floats used to protect the sides of boats from scratches when they are pulling up to a dock or have been moored.  

Back in November a bystander assured me that the half-sunken boat in Dorsoduro had not been abandoned, merely neglected during days of heavy rainfall. But we've had very little rain of late, not nearly enough to sink a boat like this, even if the owner had forgotten to bail his bark.

What we have had, instead, are extremely extremely low tides. The lowest tides I've seen in the 2 1/4 years we've lived here. I've seen patches of land exposed in the lagoon that I've never seen before, both along the north side of the city, off Fondamente Nove, and the south, in the area between the the Canale San Marco (that runs along the Riva) and the Canale Orfanello (that runs from San Giorgio Maggiore to San Servolo).

Flat-bottomed Venetian boats such as the mascareta are of course designed for such shallow water, but I abandoned my plans to go out for a row in my usual place not far from the cemetery island one afternoon last week when it looked as if I'd be lucky to have 6 inches of water beneath me--and all of it clotted with seaweed.

In the case of the sunken boat of Canareggio I wonder if there was a problem with the way the boat was tied to its bricola (or canal post). Did the boat's knotted rope slip down the bricola as usual as the tide went down and the boat went down with it, only to somehow get snagged at the tide's lowest point and prevent the boat from rising on the incoming tide?

I've recently been warned myself about lashing a boat so tightly to a bricola as to prevent it from freely sinking or rising in its mooring as the tides sink or rise. As John Keahey notes in his excellent book Venice Against the Sea, the tidal range of the Adriatic is the highest of the entire Mediterranean: the difference between the high tide and the low tide averages 3 feet. Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, he writes, the range is less than a foot.  

After seeing--or kind of seeing--the sunken boat yesterday morning, I have a new appreciation of such facts.


  1. one of my 'friends' posted your boat blog on FB and i just found you. am delighted to hear from someone living in Venice.....

    1. How nice of your friend, Lee, to post this blog entry on FB and I'm happy that you chose to follow the link! Thanks for your comment & I hope you'll like future posts or the rest of the blog.

  2. Has the boat been rescued yet? That would be quite an undertaking, water is so darn heavy.

    Yvonne (28)

    1. I hate to think of the crane that would have to be involved in the whole operation, Yvonne, then everything that would have to be dried out and repaired or replaced... We were in the area Friday and I thought of going past to check, but--I didn't do it. Just wanted to get home.