Italy Voyage 2021 – From Poros to ReggioNovember 11, 2021
Italy Voyage 2021 – From Arenzano to RomeDecember 2, 2021
4th to 19th of November, La Spezia to Arenzano, Italy
The train slowly makes its way through the little towns of Cinque Terre. It is already dark, and at each stop we try to get a glimpse of the town, the little harbors and maybe even the sea, until we finally reach La Spezia where we will join Captain Loucas and Kay on board. Once there, Kay picks us up and together we walk through the little streets of La Spezia with its old and tall buildings on each side. We climb over the guard rail and step onboard of FLORA, a Jeannaeu Sun Odyssey 42, which will become our home for the upcoming weeks. The floor of the boat is packed with cartons of 1.3 tons of olive oil, as well as one cabin full of wine and herbs for delivery. On our first evening we enjoy a lovely supper at the “Origami” vegan restaurant, and later on we join Captain Loucas who is dining with the members of Slow Food La Spezia and Slow Food Lugano and we get a warm welcoming. Whilst Loucas is getting up and holding a speech about the Aegean Sail Cargo project, different products such as olive oils, marmalade, and juices are being tasted, and Loucas shares their individual stories. It’s hard to overlook how passionate he is about what he is doing and it’s lovely to see the people around him captivated and moved by the idea of transporting by sail.
The next day we start by unloading the first bit of olive oil, herbs, and wine for the community of Slow Food La Spezia and Lugano. We pass one carton after another overboard where it is put in wheelbarrows and taken out of the harbour. It’s amazing to have everybody lending a helping hand. The products pass through the hands of us all, transporters as well as buyers, and it’s very clear that these goods do have a special story behind them. Once everything is unloaded, and set, we prepare the next load to be picked up by Betina and Björn, a lovely couple who have joined last summer for a trip through the Aegean Sea. It’s a heart-warming reunion, which we celebrate in a small seafood restaurant.
With the fist big step of the unloading done, we get the boat ready for our trip the next days, such as putting the repaired sail mail up and provisioning. Our next stop: Arenzano close to Genoa, where we will deliver the main part of the olive oil cargo. As we have three whole days for the 50 miles ahead of us, we decide to take it slow and explore a bit the beautiful Italian coast. So we leave La Spezia behind with good winds and a bit of rain, finding ourselves a calm spot to anchor just between Manarola and Corniglia. The two little villages lie in the green steep coast. It almost seems as the houses are glued together, there is no street to be spotted, only the train which comes by every now and then. It is a surrealistic picture. The smallness of the buildings, their color, and the formation of the open rocks leading straight down to the sea, look like we landed right inside a cartoon. Whilst eating, we enjoy the last bits of light before getting rocked into a deep sleep.
We make our way towards Vernazza, another tiny town lying just by the sea. It seems that life is very quiet here at this time of year, and our adventurous docking causes quite some attention, becoming almost attraction for the tourists close by. Many little steep stairs lead up the hill between the houses. The streets are so narrow, that one could give his neighbor across the street side a handshake through the window. The paint on the walls is worn down giving them a rusty and authentic look. We walk past some small restaurants and stores, and we hear people talking from a bar to the next-door neighbor on his roof terrace. As we leave the small harbor again, we end up having a problem with our mainsail. Being an in-mast furling, it is tangled and it’s impossible to hoist it. So we continue slow sailing with only the Genoa sail, blessed by a group of dolphins playing by our bow. Whilst the sun sets, the smell of the freshly cooked “Briam” creeps up the boat’s companionway. We drop anchor in a bay close by as the night is already settling, so soon we go for an early sleep.
We start in the morning, before the sun has made its way over the hills into our bay, with the mission of fixing the mainsail again. While Kay is up the mast, we follow his instructions to set the lines and pull him up. Once we’ve freed the sail we start our passage of 40 nm. The wind is kind to us, and with just enough we quickly start our journey. Throughout the night, the wind drops almost completely so we end up drifting for a while with the lights of the coast by our side. It is only within the last 15 nm where the wind picks up, and we fly through the water until we reach our anchor spot for the night.
We use the next morning for small repairs, and while I let the past days float through my mind, Kay and Loucas prepare the Crane for lifting the olive oil out off the boat. It is around midday when we park in the harbor. Everything is getting prepared and we start to unload the boxes. Soon we get the attention of the Guardia who are puzzled by what we are doing, obviously never having seen something like this before. It’s a big welcome when Wolfgang and his helpers arrive to pick up the goods. Hands are shaken, a lot of pictures are taken, and you can feel the joy and excitement for this very moment. It’s fascinating to know that, box-by-box, one ton of olive oil has passed through your hands, and to imagine the journey it has made and still has to make. “This is the future” I can hear Captain Loucas say, and I can’t help but agree.
Notes by Hannah Gruner, volunteer crew at Aegean Cargo Sailing – Italy Voyage 2021