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Only on the Mediterranean can some people be whole. Something about it is like music. Tell me the comparison is impossible, and I agree. Occasional bursts of song and random guitar chords from arbored garden and waterfront trattor�a cannot swell into a vast celestial symphonic background, sensed rather than heard. Yet, for me, it is so. Music creates mood, a receptiveness to beauty, and along the borders of this enchanted sea there are always vistas which affect me the same way: colors flowing down mountainsides to spill into the water, play of dawn and sunset, mist over valleys, breakers against granite, birds crossing a sky bluer than Dufy's palette, a distant headland coming closer and the village waiting beyond. Call it mood, call it awareness, call it inner peace or beatitude or joy in being alive, but there it is, that feeling for the Mediterranean and the shores it washes.
There was no wind at all as Oliana V crept out of the harbor of Portofino on a brilliant Sunday morning. It was early. I lounged against the mizzen rigging watching the town recede, guarded by the absurd ramparts of Castello Brown, perched on the crest of the hill above. At this hour the cobbled waterfront piazza was empty. The daily hordes of August trippers had not begun to swarm.
As I looked back, there were the empty tables of II Pitosforo, home of cappelli da prete and scampi ai ferri beyond compare; and the other tables of the other restaurants rimming the piazza, beyond fishing boats drawn up on rollers as they had been for generations. There was my favorite spot to sip a Negroni while engaged in the difficult evening task of wondering what to have for dinner, when everything was so good; and there, over the crosstrees of a voyaging British cutter, was the very window of my room at the Hotel Nazionale, so recently abandoned that the little maid who always bobbed and murmured grazie to anything said in my halting Italian probably had not even arrived to make the bed.
It was hard to leave, hard to leave. The moored fleet of yachts along the quay was doubled in the mirror of the harbor; each boat met a phantom counterpart at the waterline, inverted, masts poking down as far as up. I walked forward to look into the cove of Piaggia, and the entire Gulf of Tigullio lay over the bow: Santa Margherita and Rapallo and Chiavari, towns and isolated villas rising from the shore to the heights, tier on tier of man's colors in a vast natural amphitheater, surely one of the most breathtaking unions of land and sea on our planet. In the vastness, Oliana moved like a windup toy boat. Rhythmically the engine pushed us across the liquid mirror, the bubbles in the wake tiny bits of shattered glass breaking the otherwise perfect reflection.
For all its virtues, the Mediterranean cannot be called ideal for yachting. "It is always here the same," Lippo Riva, Oliana's owner, had said a few days before. "Either the wind blows too hard or there is no wind at all." He had Oliana V designed and built as a compromise for these conditions by the firm of Sangermani at nearby Lavagna, amply powered for the calms but with sail enough in her ketch rig to be smart in a breeze, a fine Italian representative of the modern breed known as motor sailers. Only four days previously she had entered the water after being blessed by a barefoot monk from a monastery in the hills above, to swim away like a newly hatched duck, fully found. Masts were stepped and rigging complete, sails shackled to halyards at hand for hoisting. The engine was ready to run, linens were in the lockers, the galley was stocked. There could be no nonsense about gradual commissioning: built on an open beach, Oliana was skidded directly into the sea, and departure had to be immediate.
Without pause we had taken Oliana to her mooring in Portofino, and there had spent two days stowing personal gear and checking installations. Now on this morning of bright promise we were off to the southward, with Capri as a final destination. "Come il dolce alla fine d'un pranzo," as Olli Riva, for whom her husband's boat was named, put it. "Like the dessert to end the dinner."
The antipasto was destined to be the island of Capraia, some 85 miles to the southward. But first there had to be a pause off the Rivas' waterfront villa in Rapallo to say goodby to their children and take aboard a few last-minute delicacies. Right here it is necessary to make a distinction about Mediterranean cruising, which, like all cruising, is not only a way of life but reflects the philosophy along the shores. For an Italian the ma�ana of Spain becomes pi� tardi—not tomorrow, just later. Translated into practice, it means never hurry to do something else so long as you are enjoying what you are doing at the moment. Meals are timed by the flow of wine and conversation, not the hands of a watch. So, after the Riva children paddled out in a rubber raft, we swam. An awning was rigged over the cockpit. Friends abandoned water skiing to come alongside and see the new Oliana. Champagne appeared. More friends arrived. Cheese and grapes were added to the deckhouse table. Clearly, it was to be a pi� tardi cruise, so I happily turned off for the duration the time clock built into the Anglo-Saxon brain and filled a glass.
Eventually, children and friends went ashore and, anchor up, Oliana's bow swung toward the open sea. Soon we left astern the crisscrossing wakes of skiers, and the water stretched ahead like moir� silk, incredibly blue, but only a few shades darker than the sky. Sunlight shafted into the depths alongside like a gigantic star sapphire. Gradually my eyes closed, and I dozed, to awaken to lunch set on the folding cockpit table. A tall bottle of Rhine wine in the center, sides dewy. Chilled glasses. A bowl of dark Spanish tuna overlaid by thinly sliced onions, a salad of tomatoes and diced green peppers, a cold roast of veal, a Danish ham, a basket of fruit and a platter of cheese. We dined, and somehow the entire afternoon had vanished astern, along with the land and recent memories, and faint on the horizon ahead was a new island, full of promise.
It was dark when Oliana crept behind an unseen breakwater. Above, silhouetted against the stars, I had the impression of a cliff crowned by battlements, a somber fortress still on guard against invading fleets long vanished. For a sailor, it is difficult to say which landfalls are most intriguing. It is exciting to watch by day an unfamiliar shore rise from the sea, taking on detail; and there is an especial feeling about making port at dawn or sunset. Yet somehow there is the fascination of mystery in closing the land in utter darkness, steering toward a winking pinpoint of light that gradually becomes brighter, finally to drop anchor without knowing what day will reveal.
With morning, it was plain that Capraia still drowses in the past. Only the first wave of the new discoverers has arrived, sun-seekers living in tents along the beach. A few skin-divers basking on inflated rubber boats explored offshore rocks, while girls in bikinis watched from ledges. The town on the hill above was almost empty. Lippo explained: "The young people go to find work in Torino or Milano or elsewhere in the north. Here there is ho cinema, no TV, no football." Houses of squared stones built to last through the centuries lined deserted streets, narrow in the medieval fashion, yet each with a glimpse of blue water at the end. Climbing toward the battlements dimly seen on entering, I remembered a prediction made by a friend in London two years before: "There is no place on earth combining good climate with seashore which will long remain remote."