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On Saturday my normally quite calm and collected friend Franz Xaver from the Eleonore rang 4 times – I had my phone on silent because I had had the pleasure of listening to Hubert Maturana speak about perception, consciousness and suchlike – which is rather unusual. I finally rang him back and he told me that there was a fellow at the Eleonore with a sail similar to the Subak’s and that he was doing much better than we were with tacking and generally sailing around. I had planned on an action packed late afternoon but decided that if Xav says people need to be visited, they probably do. And I need to get down to the Subak often to bail her out as the sealing was less than perfect.

I arrived at the Winterhafen and saw a dark red sail, a lug of some sort, down near the Eleonore. I rode down, headed down and arrived just in time to help him moor to the sweet little Lisbeth, a strangely motorised vessel (one cylinder, two pistons). We chatted, found out what was going on, then he asked if I wanted to come out for a sail and see how this rig works. It was clear that I would not say no.

So began a couple of lovely hours with Giacomo, the Man on the River, who is traveling from near London to Istanbul for all sorts of reasons. Check out the site, I will not try to explain it. We hit it off immediately – there are so many thing we have in common, except that he is more vital and interested and doing these things! CoC aims to interview people and collect their impressions of the river – he is doing this. Right now.

Giacomo setting sail in the Handelshafen leaving Time's Up heading downstream.

But first – the boat. I first understood Claudia, but she is Clodia, named, I believe, after a village (near where) she was built. An Iain Oughtred design – old lines, new technologies. A large (12.4 square meter) lug sail with a small (2.5 square meter) triangular mizzen. Three rowing stations with long thin oars. No motor. A slight breeze and she “lifts her skirts” and dances away. We could not see any movement in the leaves yet made (slow) progress against the 1-2 kmh Danube current. Built from leftovers and donated wood, sails, gear in general. Wonderful!

Heavy sails cut simply. Two rows of reefing, to keep things under control. He often semi-reefs the leech of the sail to keep the boom above his head so he can “power sail,” that is, row and sail at the same time. The paddles replace the rudder for steering, the rowing is not as heavy as it could be. He has a tack line to adjust the distance of the tack of the sail from the mast, allowing adjustments depending upon what point of sail he is on. No pulleys for the halyard, raising it is child’s play.

Comparing this finely wrought vessel with the chaotic shamozzle that is Subak, one sees why people actually train as nautical engineers. This thing moves.

Giacomo nevertheless loved the messiness of the Subak. I am sure he has many reasons, but one he mentioned was that something like this shows that boating is not the bastion of the wealthy, something that can only be undertaken by some elite. We can all get out on the water (if we want) and need not feel like it is too hard. There is a common misinterpretation that boaters are wealthy; a uni friend said something to the effect that she need not worry about my security as I was a boat owner; obviously I am independently wealthy. The strange people at Attitudes and Latitudes go on about similar issues: boating for “the rest of us” because although the boating glossy magazines are filled with advertisements for expensive watches and more expensive boats, most boaties can just about pay their pen fees.

Giacomo planned this journey alone: thus the name is in the singular. But luckily for us all, a crew of supporters are with him on a second boat. Bruno the skipper who also sailed with Giacomo across the English Channel as safety. Fine the documentarist who has suspended her own project to be part of this one. And Paolo the camera man, a charming fellow with a perfect pork pie hat.

I look forward to seeing some more videos along the way. And hope that we all learn a bit more about ways to deal with being on the water, on this blue planet, with one another.