If, as they say, "the dream of every traveller is to wander through Venice canals with its own boat," then we should feel very lucky.
I do not know if this is right, but certainly the best way to get to know the "Queen of the Adriatic" is by sea.
We stayed for the night in a large bay of Pula, on the peninsula of Istria, and early in the morning our bow was heading Venice· 70 nm road course at 297 degrees. It was a heavy cloudy day, disappointing for going a trip. The weather forecast was about storms in the eastern Adriatic, with a chance these storms to become very strong in Istria and northern Dalmatia. The bad weather was going down from the north and would pass over us.
We wore our sea jackets, tied up the ropes that were holding the bow-tent and got on plane against the grey waves. Our speed reached 22 knots and we were travelling quite well while the weather was not exceeding 4 Beaufort.
When we went in the open sea the waves grew and it started raining. The black horizon was not giving us optimism. But we continued without changing our course. The waves were exceeding two meters height. In front of our bow the first lightnings appeared and were ripping the heaven. I changed my course to west trying to avoid the centre of the storm and find a smooth ride insisting on keeping the speed of the rib steady. The weather continued to worsen, while the rain was strong enough. I increased the speed trying to get away from the storm that was coming from our right band. The rain was intense and made difficult for us to have the eyes open not being able to calculate the breaks of the top of waves. The deck was permanently filled with water, as pumps couldn’t throw away it.
The storm, which we managed to get away, troubled us for about two hours. Eventually we left the storm at our east side and all of a sudden a bright sunny day came after the black dense clouds. The sun was heating us very pleasant and our psychology got really high. We made a stop, took of the waters and tided the rib.
We returned to our initial course and our bow headed the wonderful Venice.
We covered the remaining miles quite soon and early at noon we were entering the northern entrance of the big lagoon.
A series of green and red floating lights on the right and left of us were delimiting the space in which we had to move and lead us to the channel of San Marco. We were moving slowly through the muddy waters of the central channel, the depth of which was not over10 meters. But this is not happening all the time, since in many places the depth can be reduced hazardous by mud carried by underwater currents. This is why huge diggers and cranes remove daily tons of mud to maintain the required depth in the central channels.
After 4.5 miles course within the central channel, we reached San Marco canal which led us ahead in the homonymous square, which is certainly one of the most famous and historic squares in the world. We were stunned by the incredible architecture and the magnificence of the buildings that were confessing the rich and long history of Venice.
For many centuries this town was a dominant naval and trading power across the Adriatic, Ionian and Aegean Sea, leaving its mark on beautiful buildings, palaces and imposing castles. The architectonic influence is obvious in cities and islands in many parts of Greece and Croatia.
We were in front of the square of St. Mark and we were cruising among the famous gondolas greeting their elegant gondoliers who were standing up on the stern. It took us some time to realize where we were. This was really an extremely unmemorable experience.
Meanwhile, the traffic of floating bus and taxi was incredible, creating a permanent wave in the channel.
A few meters in front of us the famous Punta Dogana was from where the famous Grand Canal starts. Within this canal the entrance of any boat is prohibited except taxis, buses and of course the gondolas.
We continued our wandering in small and large channels, until we reached the island of San Giorgio located just across Piazza San Marco. At the northern side there is a very beautiful small marina but all the berths were occupied. We were unable to tie up somewhere and so the bow marked on Santa Elena Island, east of Venice, on the northeast side of which there is a large marina. We tied up on large wooden pegs ‘nailed’ in the seabed and we went for a short walk in the streets of Venice.
We walked on several small bridges connecting small channels and crossed many deserted streets. Rarely did we meet a man and all we could see was the washing clothes hanging on the ropes that were attached to opposite houses. After half an hour of walking we reached the famous Piazza San Marco. Of course the first thing we did was to sit to a corner table at one of the cafes in the square and leave ourselves in the sounds of "live" music. It was the best that could happen to us after the long and tiring trip. It was like we were living in a fairy tale set amid the magnificent church of San Marco and the imposing bell tower, while crowds of every nationality passed among us.
We admired the Basilica of San Marco, which was built in 829 to host the remains of Saint Mark, who is also the patron of the city. It is an architectural masterpiece in which famous artists put their signature. The ornate gold mosaics and the four bronze horses above the main entrance -Greek masterpieces transferred from Constantinople- are just some of the wonderful works that adorn the church.
In front of the church is the famous bell tower that reaches 100 meters high and is the oldest in Venice. In the morning of July 14, 1902 it collapsed, fortunately without victims and without causing substantial damage to the surrounding monuments. It was reconstructed just as it was before, and in 1912 its inauguration took place. Its entrance is adorned by four extremely statues of Athena, Apollo, Mercury and Peace.
Next to the church of St. Mark is the Palace of the Doges, the supreme of the leaders of the state. It may be the most imposing building in Venice in which there are countless works of art. On the second floor of the palace there were the courts and at the back side of it there were the famous "Bridge of Sighs" that led to prison.
In order to realise what makes Venice unique, we just have to imagine that we see a city from above, and instead the streets and cars we see canals and gondolas. It is mainly a city emerging from the sea. Rich and majestic, proud of its culture and civilization, vibrant as few cities in the world, it welcomes thousands of visitors daily.
The central and largest channel is the Grande Canal, with a length of three thousand eight hundred meters. Its shape is like an inverted S, with width ranging from 30 to 70 meters while the depth is no more than 5.5 meters. It divides Venice in two parts connected by three major bridges.
The most important and most impressive of these is the Rialto Bridge located at the centre of the large channel. It is the oldest bridge with beautiful view of the Grande Canal and one of the busiest places in Venice. On the bridge there are 24 picturesque shops, 12 on each side. The whole town consists of six districts, known as sestieri, three on each side of the Grand Canal. In these neighbourhoods, interconnecting with 400 small bridges scattered in numerous small channels, live about 100,000 people. Venice is connected to the mainland by two bridges, a road length of 4,070 meters and a rail length 3,601 meters.
The return: 563 miles in two days
In the next day we woke up early in the morning in a wonderful mood. Fascinated by the magical Venice, we were ending our trip with the best possible way. We had to make the long trip of return. We hoped to cover the 563 miles that separated us from Sivota, in just two days.
With our minds still thinking of the canals of Venice, we were coming out slowly from the main channel of the lagoon. First we set our course directly to Ancona· 132 nm course at 151 degrees. The sea was calm and we were travelling with 28 knots. The hours were passing by pleasantly and late in the afternoon we were entering the large port of Ancona.
While we waited to open the gas station, I took the map and was trying to choose a suitable port for the night, at which we should arrive before getting dark. Termoli was the most suitable one and was 121 miles from Ancona.
The sea was still calm and allowed us to maintain an average speed of 28-30 knots. Finally we managed to reach the fishing port of Termoli.
We woke up with great difficulty and even before the rise of the sun we were drinking our hot cup of coffee on board. There was an incredible tranquillity, fact that was giving us many possibilities to cover the rest 310nm.
Our first stop was the harbour at Vieste, 55 nm ahead, where we refuelled for the last time. In about an hour we were passing south of the Tremiti islands from where we set course to Othoni Island. We were travelling at high speed in calm sea, passing beside the many oil rigs that were in the open sea along the eastern coast of Italy.
We passed along Bari and quite close to Brindisi, entering at last the Strait of Otranto. At night, we were passing by the west coastline of Corfu and finally at 10:00 pm we reached the marina at Sivota from where we were starting our trip a month ago...