It’s July 17th when I, along with five other friends, decide to escape land on a catamaran for a few days. Summer of 2020, the lockdown has recently been lifted, although temporarily we later learn, and there is an unanimous desire for lightness in the air.
Two months of quarantine, we were closed at home, we nearly ran out of air; but the following months, where we could go out under various restrictions, fundamentally made us appreciate everything we previously took for granted. Every ray of light at sunset, every light breeze on a hot day, every boundless landscape. In July 2020 we needed to experience a new, more conscious freedom. We were ready not to miss anything for any reason, we needed to change, look, discover; to inhabit the world with more gratitude.
We embarked at the port of Riva di Traiano, near Rome, for ten long and wonderful days in the middle of the sea.
We sailed off down the coast, towards Naples around 8pm and spent the night progressing. The farther we get from the city, the more light leaves room for pitch darkness; a little scary, a little electrifying. During a nocturnal crossing you perceive the passing of time and hours: first the evening which becomes increasingly dark, then the day, which arrives slow and delicate, like a thread of growing light. Seeing the sunrise while standing in the middle of the sea, is there a better start?
We made our first stop in Ponza, pause for a swim, refresh ourselves, eat and get some sun before moving to Formia, where we are more sheltered from the wind.
Then Ischia, for two nights to enjoy the mozzafiato (breathtaking) view of the Aragonese Castle.
After further south to Capri: no words can describe.
Followed by little Nerano, exactly in front of the Marina del Cantone beach, and finally Naples.
We returned to take a bath in Sant’Angelo (Ischia), a final night again in Ponza and, resigned, headed back to reality, Rome.
A DAY AT SEA
Sometimes lost, sometimes whole, time expands, it becomes a distant concept, it goes by slowly until it has fully disappeared, it’s never boring: everything is lived fully, even when doing absolutely nothing.
Our day at sea begins around nine; we show up ready to enjoy the precious morning silence. Waking up on a boat is perhaps the sweetest of all: no noise except the gentle roar of the sea caressing the hull, the salty air that seems to recharge the lungs and all around the still blue, that merges with the sky at the horizon, or what may seem the end of the world.
Little by little the rest of the crew wakes up, climbing the stairs to the deck with their bathing suits on. Clothes and shoes are left behind the moment you step foot on a boat. There are those who, with their eyes still closed, sit at the table and pour themselves coffee; those who cannot resist and plunge into the water, dry themselves in the sun and in the meantime drown some biscuits in coffee. What a privilege to start the day like this.
After breakfast, the first swims and the sunscreen ritual take hold. Everyone enjoys the indulgence in their own way: there is no place to reach or dress to wear; no traffic, no plans, no reception, our plan is to simply be and enjoy our surroundings.
Seclusion, a stillness that at first, I’m not going to lie, gave us all a bit of anxiety: what are we going to do with ourselves, with all this time, with all this quiet…
The idea of being disconnected from the chaos of our daily lives created this initial fear, or better yet a discomfort towards the unknown. This fear quickly faded and turned into a state of serenity.
We were finally stripped of commitments and duties, fully present here and now.
As many will agree, one of the most loved and heartfelt activities on a boat is playing cards; something that in our city life seems to be a waste of precious time. “The time you like to waste is not wasted” said John Lennon, and here, in the middle of the sea, playing cards is a serious matter. An agglomeration of emotions, laughter and entertainment that can create allegiance or real battles.
The undisputed protagonist of this type of activity, for us, is UNO: whole days sitting at the table declaring war to the sound of “plus four” and “change turns”, engaging in non-belligerent agreements with a glance and laughing like crazy about simple things, stupid jokes.
We should play more often.
It is late in the morning and we are all dozing off, some of us more tired than others. Those who fell asleep in the water on a mat, those who sunbathe on the bow and those who prefer to hide in the shade to read a book: there it is again… silence. At around 1pm, however, someone begins to have stomach languors and without attracting too much attention, goes to steal something in the pantry. Whether it’s a pack of chips, focaccia or a piece of cheese, the noise of food is inevitable. In a moment we are all there – it’s lunch time.
Rice or cold pasta with tuna and tomatoes, friselle, octopus and potatoes or whatever is in the fridge.
Lunch on the boat means simplicity.
Usually the table is filled with ham, cheeses, cold dishes and bread: a large buffet designed to “nibble on something” but where you always end up way more full then expected (it’s a well known fact that the sea air makes you hungry). Most of the time, during the meal, no one utters a word. Silenced by the rocking of the boat, you can enjoy the silence, the shade and good food.
After eating we take a moment for the post lunch break. Between those who go to the cabin and those in the cockpit in the shade, the next two hours are hours alone. The boat seems uninhabited and nobody, absolutely nobody, emits any kind of noise. The important thing is to close your eyes, empty your mind and relax your body. Blissfully lazing around.
The afternoon passes like this: a little lying down, a bit in the water; a swim or a couple of UNO matches, listening to music and humming songs.
A fundamental point of this journey is in fact the music. Perhaps the smartest thing we did was lugging around massive speakers to take with us. Music accompanied us at all times, from morning until night, passing from Mozart’s classical to Peggy Gou’s electronic symphonies.
It is 6 pm, the sun is no longer so strong and the sea has become slightly darker. A new atmosphere begins to seep into the air, and this is where the most beautiful moment of the day arrives. It makes you want to do something: to dance. So we take out a few beers, turn up the music and let the whole catamaran flow undisturbed: Nicolas Jaar, Fritz and Paul Kalkbrenner, Nicola Cruz, Pablo Boliver, Nu, and so on. The atmosphere is fresh and relaxed, the sun gradually sinks and the sky begins to change colors. We are there, standing on the boat. In front of us the sea is an infinite expanse of many reflections. We dance with a lost gaze towards the horizon; we don’t care what time it is or what happens on the coast. There is nothing around us that can distract us from our lightheartedness. We don’t need to talk, to tell each other how incredible that moment is: we are already irremediably filled by it.
Darkness arrives and an empty stomach, combined with a few beers, has become a chasm. We place the small barbecue on one side of the catamaran, turn it on and start preparing dinner. One day we cook squid, another kebabs. Every now and then the chef of the group cooks a first course, such as a risotto or pasta with monkfish. We did this every day, except for one evening in Naples when we couldn’t resist the pizza! That night we made an appointment with the delivery guy at the dock of the port, we took the loot and on our dinghy we went back to the boat to eat it.
The darkness of the evening is shyly lit by the position lights of some boats, the moon and the stars, many stars. In the distance you can find the cities on the coast and everything seems so small and far from us, from our thoughts, from our lives. It is a feeling that is good for the soul, to get away from things for a while.
Describing those ten days on the boat is not easy: we did trivial things, which perhaps do not stir up any interest in the reader. But to us, those who have lived through those little things, our eyes become a little shiny in remembering that unconditional freedom.
Find us all sitting around a guitar (and even a sax), with some songs to sing, while we slowly sail on the Tyrrhenian Sea. Waking up alarmless to just wear a bathing suit. Sharing the silence of rest and spending time with ourselves, letting our thoughts flow fluidly; think, reflect, observe. Dancing in the middle of the sea without asking the question of how you look, what music you listen to or how you move.
“Un pezzo di specchio così da potersi guardare. Com’è profondo il mare”
“A piece of mirror so you can look at yourself. How deep is the sea.”
Lucio Dalla sang these words, giving us a timeless image with the gift of words. Feeling helpless and safe, looking at the sea to the farthest point and looking inside at the same time. Recalibrate the metrics with which we dissect and analyze life, break down all the patterns and rebuild anew, aerate the thought.
If anyone ever asks me for an example of freedom, I would certainly talk about those days spent indulging the movements of the waves. I would talk about my five travel companions, each with their own personal talent, essential for making perfect balance and coexistence. There, away from the frenzy and duties, close to the naturalness of living, I met the present moment. I was able to value the most important thing I own, my time.