Monday, July 17, 2017

Navigating the Festa del Redentore 2017

When the unregulated crowds of the city become all too much there's still some relief to be found on the water. Even, or especially, during the Festa del Redentore.

We didn't eat dinner on our boat, as many people do for the Festa, but puttered up and down the Grand Canal and a rii or two, taking in the sights, our son blasting (in a very small way) his favorite dance tunes from a little battery-powered wi-fi speaker, smaller than a soda can. It wasn't the booming stereophonic splash he fantasizes about making in his teen years--no more than our boat was the fast, stylish, red cofano he imagines piloting during that glorious period of life--but it was the closest he'd ever yet come to realizing such things and he was thrilled. We idled all around the mass of larger boats--pretty much every boat is larger than ours--anchored in the basin of San Marco. As I was driving our boat I took no photos.

To get the best vantage point in the bacino for the fireworks we should have settled ourselves into a spot there at least an hour before the 11:30 pm start time. But after heading back down the Grand Canal for a while we returned at 11 to find a lot of other boats jostling in the dark to find places within the designated zone delimited by police boats, their blue lights flashing, their officers filling the air with referee's whistles and shouts, directing traffic.

You'd have been excused for expecting chaos at this point, this being Italy, but it all went surprisingly smoothly. Next year I'll know to motor into the first open spot we see and ask to tie ourselves up to a boat already anchored there--or, as the case may be, itself tethered side-by-side to a series of boats roped together in place. But I dillied, then I dallied, and by the time I worked up the nerve to venture indecisively into a smallish open space it had become smaller still and I found myself on the verge of nosing or backing into any number of already anchored boats--each of whose occupants, fortunately, responded to the imminent prospect of my broadsiding their own craft with quick hands and good-natured forbearance.

I retreated back into the mouth of the Grand Canal in the screech-filled darkness. We saw a broad opening in the water alongside three boats tied together neat the Punta della Dogana. We approached--they said they were waiting for another friend's boat to arrive. We retreated.

Well, why even bother to tie ourselves to another boat, when we could simply drop anchor where we were?

This we did. Then we set about taking down the tall poles and festoons with which we'd decorated our boat, as they'd block our view of the fireworks. Then we settled in to wait excitedly for the first explosion of light.

But, wait a minute, were we moving? The wind was blowing hard out of the east, the current was strong, but maybe it was just an illusion created by the movement of another boat nearby motoring to a new spot.

No, we were definitely moving.

We were no longer near the tip of the Punta della Dogana as we had been. Those anchored boats that had once been our near neighbors were growing distant as memories. Our anchor, not exactly massive, must have been dragging, if not skipping, over the bottom of the Grand Canal. At this rate we'd end up foundered on the dock of Ca' Barbaro by the time the 45-minute firework extravaganza was done.

I tugged our engine to life again and we motored alongside a boat solidly in place near the spot from which we'd just drifted. We asked its occupants to tie up to them, they kindly agreed.

We settled ourselves in again inside our boat, finally secure in our spot amid a little flotilla. Another boat arrived and asked to tie itself to ours, to which we of course agreed. A short stone's throw away, from the fondamenta of the Punta della Dogana, a couple of guys shouted out the offer of a jug of sangria to anyone who'd motor over and take them on board for the pyrotechnics, but it was too late for that, and no one really had room anyway (or if they did it was "solo per le donne," as one boatload of young men replied), and in a minute the fireworks began.

Our view was partially obscured by the Punta della Dogana, but it didn't matter. At that point there was no place else we'd rather have been.


For an account of what it's like to watch the fireworks explode directly above your head from a friend's boat in the center of the bacino di San Marco see this post: Festa del Redentore 2014: Seeing, Feeling, Breathing Fireworks. 

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