Log #22h Venice

September 25, 2001 in Log Series 20 - 29, Logs by Series, Series 22 Croatia, The Logs

En Route to Paxos in the Ionian Sea

Sept. 25, 2001

Hi Folks,

We are back in summer now down here in Corfu (39 37.7N, 019 55.1E), which we have just departed, 220 miles south of Dubrovnik, where we left the cold rainy weather. Corfu is the most northerly large Greek island in the Ionian Sea, just off the coast of Albania. While on the old town dock, we rafted off Odabella, with Sylvia and Herman, a Belgian couple whom we met in Sicily, and then Flavia, a Swedish boat we met in Dubrovnik rafted outside us. We had an enjoyable cocktail hour on Veleda with them, sampling our Croatian wine.

When we entered Greek waters, we mounted our SSR numbers from the UK, and hoisted the British Red Ensign, as we heard that EU flagged boats do not have as great an expense in cruising permits and transit logs. We did it by the book and hoisted our Quebec flag above the Greek courtesy flag when we went over to the customs dock. We went ashore with our SSR card, my British passport and Judy’s Canadian passport to check in. The gentleman in customs saw our documentation, knew we were coming from Croatia (outside the EU), was told we had nothing to declare. When I asked if we needed anything else to check in, he said no and waved us away. So, as far as I am concerned, we have checked into Greece, free of charge, and are free to sail the Greek waters. We noted the date time and location of this exchange in our log in case there are any questions at some later point. Incidentally, we are flying a Canadian flag on our port spreader above the SSCA (Seven Seas Cruising Association) and CA (Cruising Association {British}) pennants.

We are making our way down to Levkas where we hope our new Plastimo stove is awaiting us. I wanted to send this off before we left Corfu, but another boat rafted off outside us needed to go over town earlier, and would not be around later when we would be ready to leave. So, we were going to shift to the outside of the four boat raft so we could depart without inconveniencing any of the other three boats. However, I got lazy and didn’t feel like securing outside and then clambering over three boats just to walk into town to send E-mail, so we decided (I did) to just take off and send this later. Right now we are motoring across a calm sea down the coast of Corfu. I may not be able to send this Log #22h about Venice for another day or so.

All the best,

Log #22h Venice

Corfu, Greece
Sept. 23, 2001
Covers the period Aug. 25 to 28, 2001

The area around Venice, including Verona, Mantua, and Padua (the settings for Romeo and Juliet), of course was part of the Roman Empire. As such, however it became one of the most tormented areas as Rome declined and barbaric invaders thrust into the heartland of the empire. Many living in the area fled to the islands in the lagoon, especially during the invasion of the Lombards in 568. It is from that time that Venice dates its permanent habitations. By 584 it was reconquered and taken under the sovereignty of Byzantium.

In the mid 9th century, the body of St. Mark was brought to the city from Alexandria as their patron saint and to assert their independence from Byzantium, the Lion of St. Mark taken as their symbol. In the mercantile city state which developed, there were wars, intrigues, conquests and defeats, and competition with the other main city states of Pisa and Genoa. At one time the Republic of Venice controlled most of the Adriatic, including much of Croatia and the Dalmatian Islands, and into the Greek islands of the Ionian and Aegean Seas, including Crete. Its commercial success reached its peak by the 1500’s, but started to decline as the opening of the New World shifted the economic centre of gravity from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. There were conflicts and competition with Turkey, then after Napoleon’s conquest in 1797, Venice was given to Austria in exchange for Milan and the left bank of the Rhine. In 1866 Venice was finally incorporated into the newly formed Kingdom of Italy.

We were moored bows-to with stern lines provided by the yacht club Companie de la Vela at their San Giorgio harbour as advised by their member vessel Mozart when we were in Trieste. By 0930 we were hooked up to shore power, and had a couple of hours sleep to recuperate from our night crossing.

After lunch, we caught the “vaporetto” for a round about trip to Piazza San Marco. It was only a couple of hundred metres across the channel, but we took the water bus the opposite way so that we had a very economical excursion trip around the main canals of Venice.  It went from San Giorgio down the Canale Della Guidecca to the landward side of Venice, around the cruise ship docks, the massive parking area (remember, no cars allowed in Venice) and the train station vaporetto stop before coming up the full length of the Grand Canal, under the Ponte di Rialto and Ponte Dell’ Accademia, back to Piazza San Marco. The term Vaporetto for the water buses originate from the era where they were steam driven (vapour), but now they are all driven by powerful single engine diesels, and no bow thrusters.

The canal traffic was like any busy city main thoroughfare. We saw a half dozen large cruise liners over in their piers. Green garbage collecting scows with articulated small cranes to empty the skips into their holds were alongside a collection point, and we saw several operating in the canals collecting refuse. Everything goes by water. Small barges plied the waters with frozen cargo, others with flats of fresh vegetables, and many were waiting at truck parks to transfer cargo from the land-based trucks to the floating distribution barges ready to make their afternoon runs into the canals of Venice. These barges were long low craft with the forward three quarters of the vessel open for bulk stowage. We saw police boats, fire boats, ambulance boats, water taxis, water buses, private small boats, tour boats, some plastic kayaks, and the black lacquered gondolas with red carpeting, and gold or silver trim gracefully gliding swan-like, their symmetrically carved bow and stern ornamentation proudly aloof from the hurlyburly of the agitated canal traffic.

The architecture of the canal-side buildings was a classical dream scene. The detailing of the arches, Roman, Moorish, Turkish, Byzantine and Gothic, held me spellbound. The door and window styles, from the abandoned to the ornate, made every entrance and opening a work of art. The colours; faded, vibrant, ocher, pastels; mosaics enameled or dusty; paintings religious, classical, or abstract, wall or corner sculptures of religious, artistic, or philosophic greats; scrollwork in masonry, stone or iron; and roof tops, flat, arched, pointed, crenellated,  finished with slate or tiles; all blended in to a classical montage along the Grand Canal. As Judy says, this description may sound overblown, but so is Venice. The grandeur of the buildings fronting the Grand Canal, the palaces, piazzas, churches, mansions, monuments, towers, … and the masses of tourists, are breathtaking. So much to see! We didn’t go into any of the buildings, palaces or museums for two reasons. One was that I hate lineups. The other was that we were suffering from visual overload just enjoying the outsides of the buildings, and the atmosphere of the piazzas, canals, and narrow side streets.

The Piazza San Marco was overwhelming.

We went back to the train station to check details for our friends Judy and Barb from B.C., who were arriving next day. On our return to San Giorgio, we went up the bell tower of the church there and saw a beautiful panorama of all of Venice. No lineups for this tower. In the church a choir was rehearsing and we enjoyed the haunting chants and majestic voices as they echoed through the sanctuary.

Next day we went on a “busman’s holiday” by getting a day pass for the water buses to take us all over the Venice Lagoon. After going through the Grand Canal again, we got off at the Pont di Rialto, an arched bridge with a multitude of shops on it. From there we wended our way across the quarter called Cannaregio to bus stops on the north side of Venice going to the island of Murano, a 15 minute ride across the lagoon. Murano is noted for venetian glass. Several hundred years ago when the buildings of Venice were mainly made of wood, the threat of fire was so great that the Republic of Venice decreed that all glass factories and furnaces should be transferred to Murano, thus giving the island its symbol and source of wealth in the expanding mercantile empire of Venice. It is a quieter island, again no vehicles, not as crowded or hectic as Venice, laced with smaller canals, shops, houses, a glass museum and the interesting church and campanile (a combination of lookout tower, clock tower, and bell tower for the church) of Santa Maria and Donato. From there we went over to a further and smaller island of Burano, a pleasant, tranquil island with multicoloured houses lining the sidewalks along the canal banks, with small boats outside each home as we would have a car parked outside a house back home. This is a fishing and a bedroom community for those working in Venice.

On our return to Venice we went through the Jewish quarter on our way to pick up our friends at the train station. Judy Johnson had joined us last summer for a couple of weeks while we were going through the Great Glen and the Highlands of Scotland, but this was the first time for Barb to see Veleda. I took their bags back to Veleda via water bus while the ladies spent another hour or two wandering through Venice before coming over. As they were tired and wanting to clean up after their travels, the ladies took showers on the jetty from a garden hose, with the grandeur of the Piazza San Marco in the background. I hope the pictures I took of them soaping themselves down on the dock comes out.

Next day, after another trip up the Grand Canal and a market expedition around the Rialto Bridge, we returned to Veleda and set sail for an overnight trip to Pula across the Adriatic at the foot of the Istrian Peninsula in Croatia. The hospitality of this “yacht club” in Venice did not match the hospitality we had in Trieste. We were charged a marina fee of 120,000 lire ($88.00 Canadian) for two nights including electricity, the highest we have paid since England. Oh well, for Venice, I guess it was worth it. As we left late afternoon, we motored south through the lagoon just to try a different way out. We had to be very careful to follow the dolphins and pilings to keep in our proper channels, as there were few land reference points to depend on. The few islands we passed were low lying flat pieces of land dotted in this large featureless lagoon. Before exiting the southern entrance to open water, we tied up at Dolphin #9 a few hundred metres before the exit channel for an hour to have a leisurely supper while in calm waters. We finally exited Porto di Malamocco at 1858, at sunset.

Remember on our way north how we had to fight northerly winds, especially when they worked up in the afternoon and evening. Such would have been of great value to us now that we were heading southeast. No Way! We had south and southeast winds all the 80 miles across to Pula. Oh well, if you can’t take a joke…