Driving (a car) and Steering (a Snipe)

When I think of the (little) time we spend racing, compared to the (much) time spent traveling, loading boats, rigging boats, waiting for the wind or waiting until the wind decreases–in a busy life with not a minute to spare, sailing is the “sport of waitings.” The waitings, however, are amply compensated by the fun at sea.

In terms of time and effort, we spend a lot of time on the roads and, in rare cases by plane. How much time is spent traveling? I think it is difficult to calculate the hours that each of us has spent driving a car or van towing a trailer with a boat. I am often inclined to think that those who race dinghies, more than being sailors, are professional car or truck drivers!

by Pietro Fantoni

When I think of the (little) time we spend racing, compared to the (much) time spent traveling, loading boats, rigging boats, waiting for the wind or waiting until the wind decreases–in a busy life with not a minute to spare, sailing is the “sport of waitings.” The waitings, however, are amply compensated by the fun at sea.

In terms of time and effort, we spend a lot of time on the roads and, in rare cases by plane. How much time is spent traveling? I think it is difficult to calculate the hours that each of us has spent driving a car or van towing a trailer with a boat. I am often inclined to think that those who race dinghies, more than being sailors, are professional car or truck drivers!

The outward journey is always less tiring and sometimes even enjoyable. Full of joy and anticipation, we face the journey. Of course, we are looking forward to a few days of sailing.

The return, however, is sometimes a martyrdom. Tired from a day hiking on the boat, after loading the boat on the trailer, many hours of driving await us, before arriving home late at night … and then heading off to work early the next morning! On Monday our colleagues do not understand our propensity to masochism.

Here are a few of my observations about driving with a Snipe on a trailer:

Europe is not small, even Italy

For an American or a non-European, Europe seems small, but in reality it is not. To drive across Europe takes days. So even Italy for a non-Italian seems small, but in reality it is not: for example, if you have to go from Trieste on the Adriatic Sea to the Tyrrhenian Sea, you have to cross the mountains in between the two coasts. Also, in summer there are often queues and traffic jams on the way to nearby sailing venues. From my home in the northeast of Italy, you need 6 hours to reach Talamone on the west coast; 7 to Bracciano, a lake near Rome; 7 to Sanremo, close to the French border; 4 to Cervia on the Adriatic. If all goes well!

Watch system

Europeans 2006 in Finland. Stefano Longhi and I have to trailer four boats to Pori (city far to the north of Helsinki). Three boats are on a trailer and one on the roof of the van. One boat is new but the boatyard delays the delivery, so we are running late. We have booked the ferry at 19:00 (the next day) from Stockholm to Turku, Finland. We start from Trieste at 15 with a lot of people betting (as we discovered later) that we will not make the ferry. There are more than 2,100 km between Trieste and Stockholm. Stefano and I arrive at 17:00 in the Swedish capital. Just in time for the check in.

The trick was to load a mattress in the back of a van, so we could keep watches “two on, two off”: two hours driving and two hours sleep. Stop only to pee and refuel. Often we’d check with each other: “Everything OK?” “OK!” Sometimes it seems as though who was asleep went at the wheel and who drove went on the mattress. The watches 2h +2h are a good way to drive during the day and night … endlessly, over and over.

Grand Tour

Going around Europe, with the boats, has advantages. We can not pause to visit the city as new Goethes of twenty-first century, but something can be done.

Tour Eiffel

In 2004, the Europeans were in Brittany. At 02:00 we were near Paris. While everyone is asleep, Paolo Tomsic I decided to take a detour. We didn’t have a map of Paris, or a GPS, but we headed towards the center of the town, and the Eiffel Tower guided us. We parked the van with two Snipes and a rubber boat close to the tower, under the horrified gaze of the Gendarmerie. The next stop was the Arc de Triomphe … then we wandered for hours in Paris in search of the motorway for Brittany. But it was worth it.

Monteriggioni di torri si corona

Monteriggioni is a small, fortified medieval town, perched on a hill, a jewel described in Dante’s Inferno. If you chance to come at 23:00 on a winter night, you will not find tourists and you can park safely the car and the trailer, as there is no guidance. Going inside the walls, the city appears deserted, without people. But be careful, a guard may appear suddenly with a crossbow, ordering you to stop and asking the password for entering. It happened to me when I went to Tuscany for a winter regatta with a foreign crew … Of course, the password was for the crew.

Back to home

Wake up! Do not sleep! The road is straight, always the same, monotonous, time and mileage do not run fast, but proceed slowly. How to stay awake in the still of the night when you drive through the Everglades or the Po Valley? Coffee and Red Bull do not appeal to me. I have some additional tricks. You have to imagine that the steering wheel is a drum, listen to some piece of music rhythmically intricate and complex, and imitate the evolutions of the drummer. Who passes me and see through the windows my arms flapping on the steering wheel takes me for a madman. However, after all these years at the wheel, I have become as good as Max Roach or Jack DeJohnette.

Then, sometimes I stop at a gas station, and I run around the car and boat. The coolness of the night wakes me up! Then, under the gaze of some sleepy truck driver, I get in the car again and go …

When I arrive at home, it is not over: I have to unhook the trailer, unload the car, possibly put all the putrid wetsuits in the washing machine. What effort! I would like to have a shore team! Then comes Monday and already I look forward to the next regatta and the next trip. Like many of you, I bet.

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