The pain brings wisdom…

I’m in Ramsgate, the north sea looks magnificent today.

I feel very much down because of what’s happening, but happy to learn that even now, this voyage is a powerful generator of life.

Since leaving London I felt strange pains to my left lung and breathing was problematic.

In the last two weeks, in Faversham, this got worse and I often could not even walk without having to stop to recover my breath.

Sometimes I had to lay down.

When arrived in Ramsgate things worsened dramatically. After two nights of strong wind and much noise due to the Dynamo Day event, the pain became unbearable and breathing very hard indeed. My brain could not get enough oxygen and even simple actions like walking became an adventure.

Jacopo took me to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Margate: there I’ve been analysed, x-rayed, scanned and examined in record time, by lovely people displaying great professionalism, kindness and humanity.

At the beginning they feared a pulmonary embolism, then further exams disclosed a virus that has settled in my lungs and in my brain. Never mind the brain, but the lungs are far more simple and genuine, built to perform a simple but essential task.

I’m now under antibiotic and cortisone, trying to rest. My energy is low but I often get out to see the Channel waiting for me, and Clodia impatient to set sails again.

I hope to get better in about ten days, maybe less. Once the inflammation disappears I should be able to breath normally. Cortisone does some magic.

I must say that I usually never use medicines, opting for natural way of treatment. However this time I faced two alternatives:
A – try to transform into an anaerobic being
B – six month of natural therapy.

I’m sorry to feed my body with antibiotic and cortisone, even a slow-traveling project, but timing is now important. I hope you may understand that this slow down, appearing as an annoyance, became to me a great enrichment. As Aeschylus wrote in his extraordinary tragedy, the Agamemnon, “the pain of grief brings wisdom and experience”.

The anxiety, the people following this voyage, all those asking why we don’t keep going, Jacopo frustrated by this forced waiting: They all put lots of pressure on me.

The weather, the events, my health, the promises not kept by others, the slow downs: Everything plotted to take me to this point and learn that this was the only way.

I could have been in a very akward situation, would things have developed differently.

We’ll cross the Channel along with sombody that we’ll find here or in Dover, regardless of any support boat. Sailors already annoyed me: Often so arrogant and incapable of any solidarity. Conrad is turning over in his grave.

So weird: In so much water I missed air.

A big hug and a huge thank to everyone for your support.




Oare Creek to Ramsgate

After so many days of waiting and silence, at last we set off again! We are hailed by the brightest sun, that makes the sea look like a mirror.

Our destination for the day is Ramsgate, not a long distance overall. It seems too easy…

Just after coasting the city of Margate we are waited by an unwanted surprise: The wind suddenly turns from 10 to 20 knot speed, changing direction, and the stream draw us in open sea, toward Norway.

What I call the “English Heel” is a place feared even by the most experienced sailors. We are approaching a cape and pheraps it wants to remind us who is in charge here!

We see in the distance two-metres waves building a wall of water, we find shallows coming out of nowhere, seals sunbathing, whirlwinds and strong streams. Not a pleasant sailing indeed!

Though as blue as the Mediterranean, the North Sea is far more scary, so we decide to turn back, heading to Margate for the night.

Margate has been one of the favorite seasides of Londoners for over 250 years.

From the sixties on, the reduction of domestic tourism brought to Margate many people that felt outcast in London: Nowadays this town is a place both of troubles and rebirth, and home of so many artists.

The next morning our journey restarts.

We are just 7,6 miles away from Ramsgate and with a fantastic sailing we reach our destination in less than two hours.

Here we are greeted by the Royal Temple Yacht Club, founded in 1857, and by the kindness of its Commodore, Mr Mike Brand.

Ramsgate is both nordic light and mediterranean warmth: Hooked to the white cliffs, it resembles an extended Potala. The city is full of strange faces, bizarre people and seamen: A richness that will soon come back.

The North Sea is now out of our way, thank God.

We are about to leave both the UK and Kent, “The Garden of England”.

Next week, on Dynamo Day, we’ll get to France, unless the weather says “no” once again, of course…

Our photographer and friend Massimo Di Nonno has published on his website many beautiful and bizarre picture of us: Check out the gallery.


Winds and tides

We’re still in Faversham, but now we moved to the Oare Creek, a muddy channel where our life is regulated by the five-metres tide coming to visit every six hours.
In these last days we kept meeting very interesting people, as Bob and Lena. He’s English and she’s Swedish: they live by trading in boat’s spare parts coming from all over the world.

Their home is in Faversham Shipyard, surrounded by some of the oldest English boats.
In this wonderful location they’re restoring “Cambria”, a Thames Barge built in 1906, by using founds coming from the National Lotteries. Here the money are very well spent, financing projects that revive historical traditions and in the meantime create new working places.

It’s a great example to look at for all the territories where there is water (such as rivers, lakes or seas) and there are boats.

It allows to keep traditions alive, handing them down and improving the quality of life.

The weather has been very bad, with plenty of rain and strong winds: now the clouds have gone and we can appreciate beautiful starry nights, although the temperature drops as low as 1°C.

We really hope for the wind to calm down, even if the constant low pressure on the Mediterranean does not help, attracting winds from Norway.
We can’t wait to cross the Channel. See you soon.



The Art of Waiting

We’re still in Withstable: The weather is slowly getting better after four days of strong wind and heavy sea.

We tried to make good use of our time: Waiting may bring important gifts and help building relationships.

Not by chance, our boat was built inside the Lago Art Waiting Room, where Clodia shifted our point of view about many aspects of living.

The slowness of our travelling means waiting too, teaching how to be patient and how to listen. Less talking and more rest: That’s what happens in Withstable. We wait and listen to others.

During the days at Johnny Green’s place we have been charged with energy and entertained by amazing tales about The Clash: We discovered that they were closer to us than we thought, telling “you can do it too!” to the fans that were asking for autographs.

Johnny lives happy with his family, writing books about cycling.

His son Earl rides every day to Canterbury and back to teach English for foreigners. He’s a nice, clean and generous person, as well as Ginette, Ruby and Polly.

A very enriching family: all my thanks!

In the last days we’ve been treated like kings by the Withstable Yacht Club, who gave us a warm room to protect from the freezing cold wind (reaching 48 knot speed!). It’s a lot.

Whitstable has been our home for the last week: It seems a long but time just flew. Sometimes Johnny comes to visit, telling us new punk stories.

Then come along other friends that used to build boats for oyster fishing: They’re strong old men, a little ruby in their face and cheerful, but their noses look sad.

They show us wonderful pictures of the Withstable bay, full with hundreds of Oysters Smacks. What a boat, and what a magnificent art of building sailboats.

Joseph Conrad used to say that there are two kinds of men: those of sea and those of land (suggesting that the latter are lowlife at the most).
Today we’ve been in Faversham, along with Bob, a friend brought to us through Phyllis Poltock and her friend Caroline. In Bob’s shipyard we found lots of equipment for our boat that we couldn’t afford to buy elsewere, including two life vests for 20 pounds only and the radar reflector.

The shipyard is extraordinary: it houses hundreds of wooden boats, built from 1800 onwards.

Thames Barges, Oysters Smacks, strong ships built with an iron that “did not know rust yet”, as said by the great naval architect Carlo Sciarrelli.

It’s a boat lover paradise!

Tomorrow I’ll take my time to appreciate all of this: Jacopo will have to do his best to prevent me falling in love to some old yawl.

Faversham is a wonderful town, with many medieval and sixteen century houses. It was the first Roman city in England and it’s crossed by the Creek, a small canal, that is dried for six hours a day. The harbour is small but very important: Sometimes Henry VIII used to dock his fleet in the Creek. Here, as in Withstable, we meet many people that seem to come out from a Dickens’ tale.

Or maybe it’s just me seeing Dickens everywhere…

A public square, at last! In this corner of the earth the world “public square” doesn’t seem to exist. The streets have been built for fast walking through the chill wind.

There are pubs though, and there is beer. In Faversham you can see the oldest British brewery, Sheperd Neame, built in 1698. The smell of beer, hop and roasted malt pervades all the town. At first it seems bizarre, reminding one of chemicals, then you get used to it realising it’s a natural flavour.

We visited a pub run by a very interesting man: If you don’t drink his beer (and what a beer!) in the right way and showing appreciation, he just kicks you out… They say that if you order expensive beers and don’t behave, the next day he comes in front of your door (he seems to know where everyone lives…) leaving a note: “Don’t dare come back in my pub, you devil!”

He might be slightly mad, but in his pub we feel at home and the price is fair: apparently even Prince Charles comes here to enjoy a beer every now and then, taking care over how he behaves of course…

Tomorrow a BBC team will come to listen to our plans. An old fishermen told one of their reporters the story of two crazy men who are travelling toward Instanbul to talk about water protection. That’s the message that got through and the BBC found it interesting: It happens here. Fantastic, don’t you think?

Right now we are rested and happy. To all of you asking about when we’ll cross the Channel we have to answer: When the sea and the wind will say “yes”.

We still have to wait, for the weather and to find a skipper willing to sail the boat bought for the film crew by Paolo Muran, the documentary producer. We’ll soon mount an electric engine powered by SOLON solar panels, so we still need a bit of patience.

In our time schedule I planned that we could have waited up to the 15th of May before crossing the Channel: Hopefully we’ll meet this timing. We have to apologise to Michele and Francesca who are waiting for us in Calais: We’re sorry, on the sea it’s a different story.

Tomorrow we’ll go to Faversham. We’ve been Whitstable Yacht Club’s guests for far too long and we’re embarassed by their generosity.

See you soon. Viva il Kent!


Sheerness to Withstable

11 nautical miles – about 20 km

We set off soon in the morning. A very good westerly wind is blowing, and we are able to set the mainsail with a double reef. Earlier, our friends from the Isle of Sheppey Sailing Club have been very helpful once again, giving us a lift to Clodia aboard their life raft.

We have to cope with a painful separation: Our hearts are broken when we decide to leave behind our stove. Clodia is overloaded already and we have to make sure it’s reliable and light enough for Channel crossing.

It’s a goodbye, not a farewell, though:
Sooner or later a friend will bring the stove back to us. See you soon, warm travel companion!

Sailing is fantastic: we have to cover 11 miles only, helped by a strong tailwind, and in about two and a half hours we reach the channel that separates the gorgeous Isle of Sheppey from Withstable.

Sticking to the spell that seems to have been cast over us lately, in the last two miles before destination the wind is our enemy: either it drops or it gets far too strong.

This time it just vanishes and we have to get the oars out and start rowing. In a few minutes we reach Withstable beach.

There’s low tide so we decide to leave Clodia over this beautiful carpet of sand, stones and oyster shells. Quite soon, We meet the people from the Withstable Yacht Club: They kindly invite us to get inside of their building.

It’s here that we get in touch with an extraordinary man: Johnny Green, brother in law of Roland Poltock, our master shipbuilder. What we don’t know yet is that he once was the manager of one of the gratest British bands: The Clash.

What a surprise!
In the following video you can see his interview:

Johnny invites us in his marvellous house, where he lives with some of his children, full of maps, books and memories. Now his true passion is cycling, and he writes fantastic books about it.

We share some very pleasant days with Johnny, that offers us more than one dinner too. One day, very early in the morning, we visit an innovative Oyster farm, run by John Bayez.

He is trying to reintroduce to Withstable the native Oyster breed, that over the time have been fished off. His farm is fascinating and Massimo Di Nonno, our photographer, takes some nice shots.

John also gives us a bag of super-fresh Oysters, that we have for lunch with extreme satisfaction.

Our days pass by working on Clodia and meeting lots of nice people.

The coast guard, and officer Colin in particular, advises us about the extra equipment we would need for Channel crossing, such as stronger life vests, radar reflector and safety rocket.

Crossing the Channel is no joke
, so we are trying to prepare the boat to set out safely, by using these days of forced waiting caused by bad weather. In the meantime we also take a rest, getting ready for the months to come.

We have a very small boat, so we need to look after every detail.

Whitstable is a beautiful city, lived by kind people. It has seen the world’s first railway line, in 1830, the “Canterbury and Whitstable Railway”. What a place to stop for a project about sustainable travelling!

Finally we wish to mention Richard Green, a friend that has helped us a lot. His company, the Whistable Oyster Fishery Company, is very committed about water protection. Richard also owns a delightful restaurant where the main course is, obviously, based on Oysters from his farm. Learn the story of Withstable Oysters straight from his mouth:

See you soon.





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