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Oh Captain My Captain

As I rounded the bend, I was going full throttle, spinning the wheel recklessly left then throwing it back to the right, doing my best to steer into any intimidatingly large waves before they could knock into me... I couldn't help but feel unqualified.

At full speed I manoeuvred between a rocky outlet and the cape of the Sorrento peninsula, skidding past a marker buoy with the skill of a race car driver. The island of Capri was looming to my left and the ominous Mt Vesuvius ahead. A few concerned looks from the passengers on the deck were shot my way 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 a few 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 yanked the steering wheel in the 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 whenever things were running smoothly.

"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 to hold 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, although 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.


Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 12:52 Archived in Italy Tagged boat coast italy sailing amalfi sorrento the_tipsy_gipsy

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