281. I love the sea and I love adventures…
I can’t wait to be back onboard the Mega-Zodiac enjoying the pleasure of an adventure… navigation has always been one of my passions…
As in 1977… before GPS had been invented and using the ancient techniques of navigation I undertook a trip from Viareggio, on the Tuscan coast, to Tel Aviv…
But let’s start from the beginning…
I could not wait to hug my kids. On the 1st of August they were to be with me for a full month. Thirty days together! I had a boat, eleven meters long, with two small cabins, a tiny kitchen and a small deck. I love the sea and I love adventures. We started our holidays.
Departing from Viareggio. I pointed the bow toward the south, without any particular destination in mind. In Santo Domingo I saw my ex, Miss Universe, who was then departing to Israel with friends. Jokingly I told them: “I will try to reach you…”. Seemingly an impossible task, because my boat really wasn’t equipped for such a voyage. Nevertheless, I pointed the bow south.
I love to sail where impulse takes me, occasionally stopping in front of rocks which have risen above the water line presenting themselves as visions unreal in both their shape and the changing colours of the sea reflecting off them.
On board there was no real kitchen; only a small stove to heat something in case of need. I had become a great sandwich maker; we used to do our grocery shopping in the morning before leaving harbor. In moments of relaxation after a swim, I became a fast food chef! Our menu never varied much… sandwich, salad and lots of fruit.
We woke up early. I taught Tommaso how to use his line to catch some fish for lunch. For bait we used pieces of bread mixed with pecorino cheese. Maybe it was not the food most loved by the big fish, but the smaller ones occasionally deigned to honour us with their presence. I enjoyed them so much, fried with lemon, but my kids preferred the classic ham and cheese sandwiches.
Our bow continued to head south. The Tyrrhenian coast is wonderful. We spent a wonderful evening in Capri, Ischia and then made our way slowly down the Amalfi coast. it was the first time I had ever seen those places, and I was stunned by their charm! My kids were too young to experience my emotion.
We crossed the Straits of Messina between Sicily and Calabria which are separated only by a stream of salt water! I began contemplating the idea of pushing on farther and farther.
The hours spent at the helm increased. The sea was calm and the kids could sleep without too much turbulence. After crossing the Gulf of Taranto with a little adventure, I pointed the bow towards Greece!
One of the first islands we encountered was Ithaca. A new emotion! The journey of Odysseus had always fascinated me; I tried to tell my kids, but they could not appreciate the immensity of that story through my words alone. It was enough that I remembered the name of that island. One day, studying Homer, maybe they could say, ” I remember… I was there.”
The experience of the Corinth Canal was unforgettable! Walls of rock high and just wide enough for a passenger ship of medium size to pass through. You cannot exceed a certain speed and each boat must be kept at a certain distance from the other. I was fascinated, and even the kids felt the charm of the place. After about an hour we reached the other end of the canal, less wild than our point of entry. We had entered into Piraeus and the great gulf which is home to Athens, the heart of an ancient civilization.
I never imagined being able to get there. I stopped three days to show the children one of the most beautiful cities in the world. At school they were studying the history and art of ancient Greece and they were very interested.
I began to play with the idea of being able to really get to Israel. In a nautical shop I bought the maps needed to calculate distances and plot a route. Tel Aviv was too far away for a boat like mine. It would have been irresponsible to continue. I went to a travel agency and I inquired about flights to Israel, but it was mid-August and everything was booked.
When I get an idea in my head it is almost impossible to change my mind. I decided to continue, the sea was calm and that was the most important thing. But if I wanted to plan a route to Israel I had to be well aware of the fact that my boat could only go a certain distance from one island to another without refuelling. I arranged the purchase of thirty cans full of diesel to be used in case of need.
And we departed very early in the morning to give ourselves a better chance of a calm sea. The crossing to the coast of Turkey was very long, so I put in place the first offshore supply. I calculated the distances with maps, compass and ruler.
On board I was doing everything. I was the captain, mechanic, ship’s boy. I had to make do. When the coast of Turkey came in sight I regained heart.
Next stop , Cyprus! We arrived late at night. In Cyprus you could still hear the echoes of the war with Turkey and the harbour was full of warships. I pulled up next to one of those, just to rest the engines and let the children sleep. At sunrise the adventure began. It was August 15, 1977. It would be the last leg of the trip. I calculated distance and speed, I knew almost exactly what time I would arrive.
The port of Tel Aviv appeared on the horizon at four in the afternoon. We had done it. I felt proud of myself. I wanted to shout my joy and my delight to the four winds.
Viareggio -Tel Aviv with two children in an eleven meter boat. If it sounds irresponsible, it was a very well planned, well executed, thoroughly enjoyable irresponsible! None of us would have missed it for the world.
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