“My name is Saverio Monina. In 1965, I set foot on a sailing boat for the first time. It was an Alpa S, a three and a half metre centreboard that was ready to race.
I took part in my first races in Ancona, Italy and then all along the Marche coastline, docking at ports including Civitanova Marche, Porto San Giorgio, and Pesaro.
The time I spent sailing at sea helped me to improve my abilities constantly. I started to sail further and further into new areas. I went beyond the Marche coastline and within a few years I had travelled around the whole of Italy and to the ports of Naples, Genoa, Livorno and many others.
I have had many adventures – and misadventures – at sea.
In 1970, a friend and I were stranded in the middle of the Adriatic Sea.
We were returning to Ancona from Croatia on an eight metre pilot boat. The engine started making strange noises, and then it stopped. We realised that fuel was no longer going into the engine. Meanwhile, the north wind was getting stronger. Our little boat started to drift. We were at the mercy of the marine currents. We started to get seriously worried. We could see some ships in the distance, and we launched flares to signal our emergency, but none of them came to our aid. Not even an oil tanker that passed just 200 metres away from us. The current started to take us south. We didn’t know where we were. We continued to drift all night. There was nothing we could do but wait until 7am when the Coast Guard came on duty and could send us help.
At 7am, we contacted the Coast Guards in Pescara and Rimini using our CB radio (in 1970 it was the only way to communicate – mobile phones didn’t exist and only a lucky few had a VHF radio). In order to determine the position of our boat, both Coast Guards asked me to count and talk continuously. They were trying to calculate our position based on the tone of my voice, and asked me to throw a weighted line into the sea to check the depth of the water. When they had a rough estimation of where we were, the Ancona Coast Guard sent boats to search for us. It was very foggy, and it was hard for them to find us. Their radars were of little use, as our wooden boat didn’t have metal parts or radar reflectors that they could pick up signals from. Finally, the fog lifted. They found us. But the story wasn’t over yet. The line they threw from their boat got tangled in their propeller. So now they too were stranded. They used their on-board transmitters to relay our position to the other boats who found us and towed us back to the port of Ancona. Luckily, the story did end well.
From that experience, I learned that boats needed to have a sail. If you have a sail on your boat, you can always get home. With a motor boat, you never know.
In 1982, I enjoyed racing with a Laser, a little three and a half metre boat that was pretty unstable but fast to race with. I used my Laser in almost all of the national Italian boat races.
As time went by, my desire to buy a larger boat grew stronger. So that same year, I went to Genoa, which was home to the largest boat show in the Mediterranean. I bought a Tecnocantieri Perversion, a 37 foot (11 and a half metre) boat which would need a crew to help sail it.
I used the Perversion in many different races, but I didn’t do as well as I wanted in any of them. It was a slow boat. So I decided to drastically modify it. At that time, in the 1980s, all the boats had steeply raked bows and short sterns. What did I do? I completely reconstructed the bow and stern. I made the bow vertical and straight, and lengthened the stern, making it more raked. These modifications made the boat much better.
The sea can make you feel so many different things. It can give you pure adrenaline. When you’re out there navigating the waters, you never know what will happen, like in 1988…
I was sailing my Perversion from Ancona to Greece with a friend. Everything was going smoothly, but then the sea began to get rough. We were about 20 miles off the coast of Bari, where the sea between Italy and Albania narrows, creating powerful waves, which we had right behind us. The boat only had a small front sail – the one that hangs between the bow and the front mast – and the mainsail was right down. Sailing was hard work and I kept looking at the stern to check the force of the waves. I had a flashback to a time when, during a race, a huge wave came over the stern and filled the boat with water. Returning to the present, I called out to my friend to close the hatch that leads into the boat. We continued to sail through increasingly powerful waves, until the noise of a huge wave coming towards us filled me with such alarm that I called out to my friend, “Hold tight! Hold tight!” The wave lifted our boat up by 12 metres and then turned us over. It was a dramatic scene. The damage to the boat was extensive, and the boat was now out of control. I realized that the rudder stock was bent, which was why we were no longer travelling in a straight line but going around in big circles. We carried on sailing this way all night. At 11am, we somehow managed to reach the port of Mola in Bari, Puglia. There is a shallow area on the way into the port, an area we knew well, but as we were unable to control the boat properly, we could not avoid it, and we ran aground. As it happened, just at that moment a friend of mine was entering the port on his way back from a race in Sicily. I called out to him and he towed us to shore. Three days later, having repaired the boat, we continued our journey towards Greece.
In the 1990s, I developed a passion for catamarans. My first purchase was an old model, and then I bought a new and light catamaran class A – which has just one sail and a maximum weight of approximately 70 kilos. When you’re racing, the weight of your boat is really important. I went racing with it every weekend.
I had some misadventures with my catamaran too. One day in particular I remember as if it were yesterday…
I was in the Adriatic, at Civitanova Marche. I was training for a race with my catamaran. I was at the trapeze when I heard a noise behind me. I turned around and saw an 11 metre cabin cruiser heading straight over my boat, slicing it into four pieces. The bow of the cabin cruiser brushed past my left ear. I fell into the sea and was dragged 50 metres through the water as I tried and failed to detach the safety harness that attached me to the catamaran. I finally managed to get to the surface. The owners of the other boat came over and casually asked, “Are you hurt?”, as though nothing had happened. Incredible! I had nearly died, my catamaran was in pieces, and all they could think of to ask was if I was hurt. I climbed onto their boat. There was a boat race going on nearby and several of my friends were competing. I waved my arms to attract their attention. They instantly realised the gravity of the situation and left the race to come and collect me. Then we called the Coast Guard to report the incident.
How does the story end? The people that ran me over went unpunished. They said they were inside counting fish at the time and the boat was on autopilot. The insurance payout didn’t even cover the cost of my catamaran. Theirs was inexpensive, and it was apparently inconsequential that mine was an expensive and sophisticated racing boat.
After that incident, I started to fall out of love with Italy, and I started to think about moving permanently overseas.
I bought another catamaran, but it didn’t ever give me the satisfaction my old one did when I raced it. I had won many regattas with my previous boat. I decided that I was through with catamarans.
In 1992, I bought a Bénéteau 51, a 15 and a half metre boat with five cabins and five bathrooms. It was the ideal boat to charter around the world. It became my home for many years, both in summer and in winter. I chartered it around the Mediterranean first, which is how I met my wife, Adriana. Then I took it across the Atlantic and chartered it around the Caribbean, including Martinique. Adriana wasn’t a big sea-goer, but I managed to convince her to stay on board with me and work as a hostess. She did start to like being at sea, but she also wanted a house, so in 2007 we returned to my hometown of Ancona, where I was able to carry on sailing.
In 2012, we decided to leave Ancona and travel to new places. We flew to Panama and spent two months exploring the country. We were looking for a place to set up a B&B. After much journeying around, we found an idyllic spot near San Blas. The garden of our B&B bordered the Atlantic Ocean, with an island full of monkeys just 500 metres away. Surrounded by wild nature, I was sure we would stay there forever. Unfortunately, Adriana was afraid of snakes, and there were many venomous species in the area. I had to convince myself to give up on this dream, and we returned to Italy.
We didn’t want to stay in Italy though. Some of my friends had spoken very well of Malta. So, in 2013, we directed our boat towards the island. We made a stop on the island of Gozo and fell in love with it. We stayed on Gozo and opened our B&B, the Vecchio Mulino (old mill), which we are still very happily running.
What you have seen is only a small part of the many beauties of Gozo.
This is the Vecchio Mulino, and this is my wife, Adriana – B&B manager and adventure companion”.