July 8, 2016
Vento di Venezia, Certosa Island
45 26'.12N : 12 22'.39E
Venice. Illustrious, historical, and magical. It's one of those destinations which Jim and I can't quite believe we've reached under our own power. Arriving here conjures up the same emotions as when we sailed to the head Milford Sound, dodged ferries in front of the Sydney Opera House, glided past the ancient walls of Dubrovnik, and parked Tenaya beneath a belching volcano in an anchorage on Tanna, Vanuatu which Captain Cook named after his own ship.
Last September we motored up the channel from the Adriatic Sea into the Venice Lagoon. A dinghy from Marina di Venezia met us outside Isola della Certosa and guided us up a canal to our berth.
Religious orders lived on the island from the 13th century until Napoleon took it for military purposes. Eventually it was abandoned and became a jumble of overgrown brush and decaying structures.
Today, most of the island has been cleared, trees and grass have been planted, and buildings have been built, rejuvenated, or left as roofless skeletons. Amid the park-like setting are a hotel, restaurant and bar, boatyard, and sailing school.
Wandering along the paths send bunnies hopping, goats scurrying, and wood pigeons flapping. Cormorants, egrets, herons, and waterfowl search for food in the tidal flats just beyond the marina. At night, a small owl hoots from the dense cluster of trees at the northern end of the island. It's a lovely reprise from the bustle of Venice, ten minutes away by vaporetto.
Although we were here twice for a month each, last September and this June, I'll combine our experiences into a single page because after 1200 years, Venice didn't change much over the winter.
We saw the usual sites...
And a few events....
The Venice International Film Festival. We didn't think much about it until I spotted the premier of the film Tanna while skimming through the program. Someone had made a movie about one of our favorite places on Earth! Jim contacted Bentley Dean, a producer, director, and cinematographer, and we scored a pair of tickets for September 8, 2015.
The main cast flew in for the screening. It was the first time any had left Vanuatu. I wondered if they would be overwhelmed by the buildings, people, and lack of nature here, half a world away from their village.
While the applause and standing ovation continued after the movie, the traditionally dressed cast filed onto the stage looking a bit like deer in the headlights. Feeling like a groupie, I held up a bandana of the Vanuatu flag so they'd know at least one person in the audience knew their homeland. The woman and girl saw it first. They pointed, giggled and smiled at me. I hope it helped them relax.
Tanna won Best Cinematographer and the audience award for the Best Feature Film of the International Film Critics' Week, a division of the film festival.
And on the other end of the what-we-need-to-be-happy spectrum, Paul Allen's yacht, Octopus, was tied to the wall of the Grand Canal during the extravaganza.
The Regata Storica (Historical Regatta) has been staged along the Grand Canal since the mid-thirteenth century, maybe longer. We were fortunate to be in town for the event on September 6, 2015.
What looked to our untrained eyes as slight variations of gondolas were actually eight different types of traditional rowing boats.
The regatta began with a parade including several highly decorated boats like floats. Wait, are these the predecessors of the elaborate floats we see at the Rose Macy's parades?
Anyway, races followed by categories: boat rowed by either youngsters, women, men, mixed or international university students.
La Biennale di Venezia is an organization that holds expeditions for visual art and architecture biennially - visual art during odd numbered years, architecture in even years.
Last September we inadvertently saw one visual art piece, this year we saw the entire architecture exhibit with entries from around the globe.
Wouldn't it be fun to take the dinghy through the canals, Jim and I wondered, but best check with the authorities first. Turns out there are five different types of police in Venice. We went to the only office we could find.
Because our outboard is only 8 hp, it's allowed, we simply needed to write Tender to Tenaya on each side of the dinghy. We weren't supposed to stop and tie up though. "But if you do," said one officer, "say you had to buy food."
I looked at maps, not charts, and planned a route across a big square area and up a narrow canal to reach the Grand Canal and the watery mazes on either side.
With the GoPro on a stabilizing stick, we dinghied across the channel and past the walls into the big square spot, the Arsenale, whatever that was.
We soon found out, but not before tying up and having a look at an elaborate flying creature made of recycled bits suspended in a hanger. The Arsenale is a military harbor. Private boats are forbidden. Furthermore, we had entered the Biennale Exhibition of Visual Art through the back door without paying. Whoops. How do you say dumbshit tourists in Italian?
Having been duly scolded, we dinghied up and down narrow canals until we eventually emerged at the San Marco Canal, about 200 meters before the Bridge of Sighs.
We had a blast exploring the canals by dinghy, splashing through the water in St. Mark's Square during a high tide, running errands by vaporetto, and having the luxury of time while we were here.
Information for Yachties:
45 26'.12N : 12 22'.39E
Vento di Venezia, on Isola della Certosa, is a relaxing place to visit and safe place to leave your boat or have work done in the yard. It's a short Alilaguna boat ride to the airport, or a single vaporetto ride on the 4.2 to reach the train station. Vaporettos are simple to use. There are schedules at every stop and in the marina office where you can buy tickets.
For a fee, the marina office will handle check-in with the authorities if you've come from Croatia. Otherwise, Customs and Immigration are by the cruise ship dock near the bus and train stations. You can't miss it - just look up for a massive white ship or two at the far end of Venice. Get off the vaporetto at Pl. Roma and find their red building in the trees.
In addition to the boat yard, there is a boutique hotel, a good restaurant, and an inexpensive bar. The restaurant serves a buffet breakfast as well as lunch and dinner from the same menu. The salmon and Angus beef meals were our favorites, and the tiramisu is to die for! Most mornings I woke up with a cappuccino and chocolate croissant from the bar. Often Jim and I nibbled grilled veggie or prosciutto and cheese sandwiches for lunch, also from the bar.
There are two toilet and shower blocks with a washer and dryer in the one closest to the restaurant. Washer takes 4 x 1 euro coins, dryer takes 50 cent coins.
Sabrina, Guilia, and Francesco in the office are super helpful and friendly, as are all the staff on the island. If you have a question, just ask.
Boats can be left in fingered berths or on the hard. Last September Fabio, the boatyard manager, started to haul Tenaya out with their crane. When he saw she was too heavy, he lowered her back down and we tied her to the wall until he could get stronger straps. Once she was on the hard he sent us a photo.
When we returned after eight months Tenaya was standing safely between the yard's buildings.
After her hull was painted with antifouling, Fabio put her back in the water. Riccardo made sure her decks were washed, our washboard door varnished, and a broken section of our steering wheel welded.
If you'll spend any length of time here, order a Venezia Unica City Pass online and pick it up at the vaporetto station on Lido. It's good for five years and allows deeply discounted vaporetto and Alilaguna rides, and entry into several museums and sites. With it, you can register for free wifi which is available throughout the city.
The most convenient place to buy groceries is on Lido. Take the 4.2 vaporetto to the first stop, St. Elena, then transfer to any going to Lido. Walk up the street perpendicular to the water. The Conad grocery store is inside a larger two-story store on a corner a few blocks up on the left.
To return to Certosa, take any vaporetto going to St. Elena, then the 4.1 to Certosa. After 8:00 PM take the 5.1 (Direction F. ta Nove). Be sure to tell the driver you want to get off at Certosa.
The outdoor market by the Rialto Bridge is open every morning and has the best selection of fresh produce. Take the 4.1 to any stop before or including San Marco. Then transfer to the 1 and get off at Rialto Mercado.
The easiest route to the train station is to take the 4.2 and stay on until you reach the Ferrovia. It's much faster to catch the 4.2 and get off at St. Elena, then take the 6 to the Ferrovia as there are far fewer stops and you are guaranteed to get a seat.
The hotel offers wifi for their guests and sells time to yachties for use in the bar and outside tables. It doesn't work out in the marina though. Neither does the free city wifi unless you've got a strong wifi antenna. An Italian SIM card with data and using our phones as hotspots worked very well. We used TIM (near the Rialto Mercado) but Vodofone (on Lido) has service on Certosa as well.
Certosa is ideally situated to reach Murano and Burano. Just hop on the 4.1 and hop off at your destination. I'll write more about those colorful islands on the next page.