Learning event: Sailing in Sardinia

Safety first

All crew members received instructions regarding the basic rules that guarantee the safety of the ship and its crew. One hand on the wooden bar when you walk from stern to bow. Explanation of the use of pulleys , how secure ropes and, in particular, where to place hands while getting or letting the rope. Watch your head when the boom comes over when we are tacking! Who is in command if we need to make a fast move: the Captain!


On the 23rd of September Captain David and his Mentorship Galia were ready to receive the members of the crew at Hotel Palumbalza Porto Rotondo. The first sailors Domenico and Andrea flew in from Bergamo and Milan and had their briefing before going out for taste of water, wind and hard work. The best way to understand the principles of sailing is by feeling how the wind picks up the sails and generates propulsion. Of course the bigger the total surface of the sails, the more wind will be catched and the faster you will go. The experience was built up in a progressive way, hoisting only one sail first; an action that requires some muscle power. Gloves on and: “Pull! Pull! Pull”, secure the rope and “Winch!”.

If you  want to change course with a sailing boat it necessary to perform an action called : tacking. The sail is moved from one side, port or starboard, to the opposite. This needs a moment with no wind in the sail and to obtain this the helmsman must be capable of reading the wind vane.

After a beautiful afternoon in open waters Captain David brought the Galia back to the harbour of the hotel where late in the evening also Josh and Avik arrived, ready to sail out with the others the following morning. In despite of striking airline employees also Jakob landed in Sardinia and took a taxi to Porto Rotondo where the Galia would pick him up. 

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The spot indicated by the harbour crew was so narrow that all hands were needed on deck to avoid a major collision with the boats already docked there. Slowly, slowly mooring proceeded, but a tiny little scratch on one of the neighbours was left and spotted by the harbour pilots. There really seemed to be no issues there and all agreed to have lunch first. Well fed and looking forward to sail out with a now complete crew the engine was started, ropes were cast off after checking out with the authorities. Surprise! Two zodiacs with shouting people that ordered to dock again and do some paper work. Sometimes it is strange how counterparts that communicate badly among themselves can create uncomfortable misunderstandings. When on top of that not everybody speaks the same language emotions risk to run up high. Luckily the complete crew kept its calm, we docked and explained, showed and filled in the requested documents and, with some strange looks on our backs, were set free again.

After this experience the wideness of the sea, the wind blowing through the hair of people having some on their head  felt like a liberation. Now that we were complete it was time to raise the challenge. The most experienced crew member Domenico at the wheel and the others pulling up both sails. 

And off we go! Fifteen knots of wind, seven to eight nautic miles (Nm) speed, the Mentorship Galia starts to tilt sidewards a bit. All set and secured. Relax!

Decision Cascade

When ready for aperitivo at Calagrano bay, where we booked rooms at the Grand Hotel for the night, a new surprise was waiting for us. As we approached the beach we discovered the engine was not starting. Admitted, there was some excitement, but no panic! David was completely in control, explained everybody what we were going to do and what the role of each of us was. One sail down, tidy up the ropes – keep an eye on the depth meter (30) – start lowering the other sail – keep an eye on the depth meter (20) – judge the speed and continue to slow down maintaining control of the ship. Every step was announced with loud voice and repeated by the others. Twelve meters depth, ten, eight, six, be ready to lower the anchor and completely pull down the sail. Gogogogo! Everybody knew his job and those were performed simultaneously following clear commands. Anchor down, give it some slack, enough! Depth: 3 meters. Perfect! The only thing we did not count in, was that the anchor at the bow would make the whole ship, driven by the wind and the waves, rotate leeward. We were pushed just beyond the line that marks the area for swimmers. Depth: 2,5 meters which is still very good.

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Teamwork: use strengths

The more technical trained people tried to figure out if the engine could be fixed. Anyhow soon it was concluded that the battery was charged and that the starting motor didn’t seem to get an impulse. Electric problem. We need a meccanic, that will never arrive this evening. Luggage on the Galia, beach 200 meters away. Luckily we have a dinghy. Lower it, use the crane to slide its engine in place. David reveals to be an acrobat in that tiny vessel that rocks on the waves. Pull the cord of the engine: power! It runs. Then falls down and doesn’t start anymore. We have peddles, though really small ones. It is going to be a hell of a job to bring all people and the luggage to the beach. No sweat! Avik and Jakob offer to swim, while David transports the first suitcases, that they pick up and land on the beach. The water is beautiful. Nice swim. Jakob swims back to the boat where the tech guys are still trying to fix the engine and call specialists for assistance. Too long. Jakob advises he and Avik are going to check in. They collect the baggage from the beach and walk up to the hotel, passing by the marvellous swimming pool. The astonished bartender asks: “what are you doing, sir?” seeing two wet guys in bath costume with 4 suitcases. “Just checking in for the rooms we reserved for the night.” He decides to come with us and watch that special entry. “Documents please.” –“Are you kidding? I am in a bathing suit here.” Luckily Jakob had his ID in one of the bags, so we could proceed with the weirdest check in ever. Later on the others arrived. Shower, put on clothes, taxi and ready for dinner in Porto Cervo. Nice food, excellent Vermentino in moderate quantity and a beautiful walk back to the hotel. Captain David is going to spend the night on the Galia. It is 01.30 in the morning and the winds blows heavily, pushing up the waves. Andrea, Jakob and Avik stroll down to the beach with David, who gets into the dinghy. Pants off, Avik and Jakob push the dinghy beyond the first waves and David grabs the peddles. The guys is so strong, on of the peddles breaks off! Questions not even asked, Avik and Jakob take off the shirts too and push dinghy plus David home. A wonderful nightly swim , followed by another drizzling entry in the hotel saying to the night guard: “don’t even ask”. Andrea took profit from the time needed for this exercise to shoot some wonderful pictures of this astonising night.

Accept help when you really need it

By the end of the next morning the meccanics arrived. The engine of the dinghy was working again, so they got on board of the Galia, be it with wet shoes and socks. They by-passed the electric circuit and got the engine running while people on the beach watched and photographed the hilarious bringing back of luggage.

Be a leader

Engine is running but we still need to get back beyond the rope with buoys that outlines the protected swimming area. We proceed a few meters, stop the enging and then David dives in, goggles on, grabs the rope, dives under and drags the whole thing beyond the keel and the screw of the engine. Well done! Another tricky obstacle left behind.

Back to sailing. Everybody is now more acquainted with the different tasks of sailing and we rotate roles. What first seemed a complicated exercise, tacking, is now done routinely and whoever is at the steering wheel is also able to give the commands: Ready! Give slack! Pull, pull, pull! Secure! Both main sail and Genoa change side as an example of smooth and coordinated team work. Well done guys. Enjoy, relax, tack, relax, have a sip of beer. Sun wind and sea. Nature. Gorgeous!

Be with your leader

Time to wrap it up. We think we have seen it all and confidently approach the harbour of Canniggione where Josh will run off to the airport. Strong wind. The space at the dock indicated by the pilot seems wide enough, but the wind plays dirty tricks while reversing. The people in the harbour start getting on deck, worried about their boats. The pilot pushes with the dinghy to help. There is some confusion, different languages again and misunderstandings. A second pilot comes to help. Different commands and finally: “Engine! Reverse!”  And what happens when more than one command is given by people that do not have the same view on the situation, literally? Something goes wrong. The engine catches the rope of another boat. Engine off. David, who is at the steering wheel wants to jump in, but that seems to be too dangerous in that situation. Being wise also means having control over your impulses and luckily the crew manages to keep everybody calm. Stay put, wait a minute. A harbour assistant dives in and cuts the rope. We are pushed in place, no damage done. Italian and german neighbours can sit down again and continue their dinner. Josh runs to his taxi and by miracle catches his plane. David will sleep on the Galia and the rest checks in another hotel. Dinner, where else?………on a boat. Wonderful. Again the food and wine are good, but tonight we have yet other stories to tell.

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Be grateful for what you can learn. Be grateful for the people willing to teach you something. Be grateful for the people willing to be on the same team. Be grateful for the outsiders that are coming to rescue when you need them. Be grateful for the luck you have to be able to take part of adventures like this.