Sailing the Italian Coast
07.07.2017 - 08.07.2017
As I rounded the bend, full throttle, spinning the wheel left then right, doing my best to avoid any major waves that may knock me without immediately steering into it, I couldn't help but feel unqualified.
At the same time, I manoeuvred between the rocky cape of the Sorrento peninsula, skidding past a buoy with the skills of a race car driver. The island of Capri was looming to my left with the ominous Mt Vesuvius ahead I go a few concerned looks from the passengers on the deck as I entered, rather bounced into the Bay of Naples.
Rightly so, I was captaining a boat and I've only owned a car for months and can't drive a manual transmission.
But it's Italy and these things matter not.
After leaving Positano, bound for Sorrento our young Italian skipper motioned for me to take the wheel. On board were six passengers and I had zero boating experience but it seemed like an opportunity not to pass up. Vincenzo controlled the throttle, and I drove the boat. I settled into my new position, full concentration and somewhat unwilling to return to passenger duties. I ended up driving for an hour or so back to the dock in Massa Lubranse near Sorrento. He brought it into the port as I wasn't sure I could reverse parallel a boat as I can't a car.
At times it was touch and go, and my mere minutes of experience didn't prepare me for all conditions. There were a few 45 degree tilts here and there, always a chance when you're trying to go full throttle on the windy cape towards open water with large waves. The passengers remained reasonably relaxed as they rolled about on the deck every now and then, when I casually said "oops" as we tipped sideways and I reefer the steering wheel to opposite direction. I told them when we got back to land safely I'd never driven a boat before.
The captain was happy with my apprenticeship, he casually stood nearby, took a few phone calls and occasionally bumped us up a gear.
"Which way?" I motioned as a large rocky outcrop appeared ahead with a 20m gap between it and the land.
"As you wish", he said nonchalantly.
You have got to love a bit of free reign sailing. Am I ready to try for a small gap with a volatile sea steering me and me cartoon steering, left, right, left, full left, right, wobble, more left...vision obstructed by the thick layer of salt on the visor in front of the wheel? Given it was already an insurance nightmare I opted to take the boat left and around the rock island, Vincenzo giving me a satisfied nod as I skimmed between it and a floating buoy with a black flag.
Whoosh! Nailed it!
With Vincenzo's limited English and me trying to safely steer a commercial motor boat with no experience, I did manage a few discussions, he told me that driving a boat is much harder than any other vehicle. I agreed because in my experience, learned experience sailing, there is only one thing in charge and it is Poseidon. The water takes you where it wishes and you do your best to straighten up.
He also told me I was a natural at driving boats so I am now considering a career in the Italian navy. Though the white slacks and shirt with the amount of pomodoro sauce I consume here is perhaps not an ideal combination. However I do fancy myself on my boat, scooting over the blue water, the wind in my sea wench hair and the Italian sun warming my golden skin.
Sail a boatload of passengers in the Mediterranean with no license, prior experience or any maritime skills to speak of... check.