News > Voyage to Venice

Voyage to Venice

By James Wharram

Steve Goodman, Webmaster, has been urging me to write of the ‘Spirit of Gaia’ summer voyage, 1200 nm from Corfu into the Adriatic Sea, northwards to Venice, then across to Croatia, South and back to Corfu.

The idea is to encourage the Wharram sailors on this website or write privately more of their journeys for the delights of others. After several attempts to please Steve Goodman I realise why so few sailors do write of their voyages. A voyage with a mighty storm is easy to describe, but the day-in-day-out sailing, a rhythm that is part of the joy of sailing, seems boring when described to others.

Sea port with high walls
Corfu Fortifications, a beautiful example of a Venetian port in the Eastern Mediterranean.
Man spoon feeding an infant
Andre Viljoen, ex owner of Pahi 26 'Anna Blume', ex editor of Seapeople Magazine and long time friend joined us with his family in Corfu at the beginning of August when the heat can be unbearable.

Yet the rhythm and simple pleasures of sailing, the indescribable part, is what draws me always back to the sea. The year 2001 has been such a tumultuous striving year that without my Venice voyage, life would have lost its purpose.

People who go racing or record breaking have but a simple goal: To Win. As a cruising sailor this year, I had many interests. A main one was the historic content. As I sail on my many voyages, I am aware of history. Of the sailors who crossed these waters before me, usually in boats the size of mine, 20 m - 25m. This gives my sailing a deeper dimension. This year, I was following my interest in the past Venetian sailors who had established a Mediterranean Sea trading empire.

Ruth looking out to a marina from Gaia
Ruth looking out at San Giorgio Maggiore. There is a small yacht marina here, but no room for a large boat like Gaia.
Spirit of Gaia on mooring
The only suitable mooring for a large boat like Gaia, which doesn't fit into the two small yacht basins used by local yachts, is to tie up to the wooden mooring posts off the quayside at San Salute just past the entrance to the Grand Canal.

Since arriving in the Eastern Med via the Suez Canal in 1998, I had noticed the dominating Venetian castles on the trade routes, particularly in Greece. I had wanted to see the mother city, Venice, of this past sailing culture.

Friends, this is another aspect of cruising sailing, you meet old friends, make new friends, and travel with friends. The work and rhythm of sailing is ideal to open oneself to others. Though I must warn you, you do not always find the niceness that you expected on opening up. Some cynics say, never sail with your shore friends.

Bridge over a canal
All traffic in Venice is by boat (or on foot down the narrow alleyways). We took to using our dinghy for shopping and really enjoyed the narrow secondary canals, from which one gets another more private view of Venice.
View of the Croatian coast from Gaia
Sailing in the Croatian Islands was scenically very beautiful. It is however quite expensive to cruise in Croatia. There is the Cruising Permit (which lasts for one year) and is charged by the meter.

Because I am interested in history, I am interested in races and culture. This year, I met for the first time the Croats, on my first opinion, a dour, closed-faced people, but when you study their history over the last 60 years, you end up with understanding, respect and sympathy for them. Whereas the Italians who live 80 miles away on the other side of the Adriatic!!

Up to two years ago, I would have said, culturally I am half German, with the German women in my life, who have done so much for me, a half-German son, and so many wise, helpful friends. Another object of the 2001 voyage, besides the historic Venetian one, was to meet Italian builders, to meet my Italian publisher in Bologna for the official book launch of Two Girls Two Catamarans, sail with my Italian friends, Monica, Dominico and their son Tomasso. The Italians overwhelm me, with their cities, shops, style, their spontaneity, their conversation. It is not that I like my German half less, it is that I have expanded to absorb my Italian self.

James with Tiki 21 builders
We left Corfu for Italy and the Book launch of Two Girls Two Catamarans. On the way, near Ancona we met these builders of a Tiki 21. Italy is a country of lovely dinners.
James and Gabriela
James was very pleased to meet Gabriela D'Ali, the author of a beautiful book (in Italian) on multihulls 'Multiscafi' (published 1993 by Mursia).

All this thinking, this growth, comes from the sailing of the 'Spirit of Gaia', our 63' Pahi launched almost 10 years ago. She has sailed us around the world in these last 10 years. For the technical minded, the question is: How is she? Structurally, she is in magnificent condition. Her hull paintwork, ten years old, is now better looking than any GRP boat of the same age. Her initially very expensive two pot polyurethane paints have proved cheaper over a period of time. Her WEST epoxy finish and fillet construction has also stood the test of time. No fillet has cracked under sea pounding and wall pounding, as for example being cast adrift in a surging Panama lock. Many of her beam lashings are still the original ones.

Her one major refit (mast down, beams lifted for inspection) was in Brisbane, Australia in 1997. This is why the home of the Wharram website is in Australia. The refit, organised by two Australian soldiers, conducted with military style (Australian) organisation and efficiency. So it was natural I should entrust other of my life interests like this website to them. Next year, 'Spirit of Gaia' will have another major refit.

Cruising is not a glory sport. It is a life pattern. For those who feel this way: we are always interested to hear from you.

Arrival in Venice

Amazing views of fantastic, famous buildings as we motored into Venice early in the morning. Very stressful for the skipper, trying to avoid the busy water traffic that charged about everywhere.

Mooring in Venice

The only suitable mooring for a large boat like Gaia, which doesn't fit into the two small yacht basins used by local yachts, is to tie up to the wooden mooring posts off the quayside at San Salute just past the entrance to the Grand Canal. These moorings are free! This is a beautiful central location, but extremely 'bouncy' due to the vast numbers of passing vessels. The worst chop is in fact created by the small workboats and water taxis, not the big ferries and cruise liners that pass every day.

Life in Venice

All traffic in Venice is by boat (or on foot down the narrow alleyways). We took to using our dinghy for shopping and really enjoyed the narrow secondary canals, from which one gets another more private view of Venice.

Stocking up in Venice was good. We found a fantastic vegetable barge along one of the canals with beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables, ideal for loading up by dinghy.

We always store our fresh food in trays, which can be stacked in one of the cabins for easy checking (we do this daily especially in the heat).

Cruising to Croatia

Sailing in the Croatian Islands was scenically very beautiful. It is however quite expensive to cruise in Croatia. There is the Cruising Permit (which lasts for one year) and is charged by the meter. We ended up paying £120, quite a lot when one stays just one month. Also in many anchorages one is asked to pay a mooring fee, usually charged per crewmember.

Chartering

This year we unfortunately only had charter guests for one week. This week the weather was cold and it rained at times, but we had an interesting voyage with a mixture of quiet anchorages, beautiful old towns and music played on board. We gained some more friends in the process. In fact Michael will help us next year to organise our chartering so more people will get a chance to sail on Gaia.

The charter crew had brought their own Didgeridoo, flute and drums, plus a collection plastic 'didgeridoos' for us all to have a try. Music played at sea on a quiet day can be very beautiful.

Boat Work

When cruising there is always work to do on board. This year Hanneke spent a lot of her time taking the outboard motors to bits; blocked cooling system; a slipping starter motor; gunged up carburettor etc. Whenever you think you have got everything ship-shape, something unexpectedly goes wrong.

The Adriatic weather after the heat of August became very changeable. There were many thunderstorms with some of the most amazing lightning. The overnight voyage from Venice even gave us an enormous waterspout. It then fluctuated from warm and pleasant to very cold with rain. On the passage from Trogir (near Split) to Vis we encountered a quickly worsening rainsquall with winds reaching force 9 within about 10 minutes. Not a nice situation when one is trying to enter a harbour to windward at the time. We had to cope with a broken reef line followed by a broken jib sheet and one engine we could not start, all within half an hour. It was a great relief to drop anchor after something like that.

On arrival back in Corfu, Gaia had to be got ready for the winter, a week's work of cleaning, washing, stowing and this year getting her lifted out for next spring's major refit.

Friends

This year we again met many new and old friends. In Corfu marina several Wharram catamarans sailed in with wonderful people on board. This Narai Mk IV is owned by an Austrian couple.

Just before leaving Corfu we met this German couple, who are paddling by Klepper canoe around Europe. They have in the last year come down the Danube through the Black Sea and circled Greece. Next year it is on to Italy and Spain and up to Northern Europe. They were thrilled to hear James actually knew Hannes Lindemann, and was there when he left to cross the Atlantic on a Klepper folding canoe in 1957. (See Two Girls Two Catamarans).

We left Corfu for Italy and the Book launch of Two Girls Two Catamarans. On the way, near Ancona we met these builders of a Tiki 21. Italy is a country of lovely dinners.

The Book launch and dinner after, where we met many old and new friends. We re-met after 7 years Antonio and Paula, who bought the first Tiki 36 built by 'Wharram Built' in Devoran in 1989.

- James Wharram