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."

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