A voyage in Time: sailing on “Kybele”

A voyage in time: sailing on a 6th century BCE ship

A voyage in time: sailing on a 6th century BCE ship

A sea voyage present challenges that are unchanged in time.
Yet, to sail as ancient mariners did 2600 years ago is a very different experience.

Of course, unlike them, that could only trust their pilot’s knowledge and the gods, we all have maps, compass, cellular phones, and have a rather exact idea of where we are and where are we going to. Coast Guard and rescue services are at hand in case of emergency, and even if we can’t control weather, we can plan our journey according to scientific forecasts, and do not need to resort to sacrifices to appease hostile deities (though sometimes we can be tempted to try…).

But modern people, used to live on modern yachts at sea with little difference from their daily life, can hardly imagine how such an experience can be .

It was probably very similar on the celebrated tall ships of the “Golden Age of Sailing”, now decorating posh living rooms, hanging on walls in prints or drawings showing them on full sail.

On full sail, but from afar, lest life conditions of crews be smelled from leeward.

Our voyage on “Kybele”, a bireme replica built and sailed by Professor Osman Erkurt, of “360° Research Group” of Urla (Izmir) in Turkey, was part of an Experimental Archaeology program.

Sailing in an open ship, crossing the Marmara sea from Istanbul to Foça, the ancient Phocea, is not like a cruise on a yacht. Even a mildly rough sea can be dangerous, fresh water is a luxurious good, no shower or toilet, hard work just to stay afloat and going, and living for days, not to say months, in a crowded environment, with no privacy, can be a tough, though exciting experience.
But it’s also a unique chance for a photographer, in spite of the stress for the equipment.

The whole Experimental Archaeology concept is based on such experiences, and “Kybele”‘s story, as told here, will go on, with or without photographers aboard.


From Coast to Coast with “Slow Food”

Slow Food - Coast to Coast

Slow Food - Coast to Coast

“Slow Food” is a non-profit international organization which aims to recover the value of typical food and to make fine eating popular beyond the gourmet circles.

Obviously, food products are produced by land or sea, and to reach the tables they need to go through long paths. “Slow Food” makes sure that these paths are not weird or winding, for the quality is really protected only through the safeguard of profitability of traditional process.

Traditional processing of typical food include the whole supply chain, as short as possible, concurring to the production.
The fishing boats were the backbone of traditional coastal fishing, the one that should be revitalized for a sustainable exploitation of the oceans. The small wooden boat yards of traditional boat wrights, in some countries like France, are carefully treasured, but in Italy they are agonizing, reduced to a handful, surviving making restoration and repairs.

The “Boat’s History” has been the tale of the way two boat wrights, refusing to disappear, to yield to bureaucracy, to regulations considering wood shavings as “special waste”, to the market favouring boats looking like marine cars, that held their heads up again and rebuild “a boat like the old times’ ones”.

The “Slow Food” convivium of the Sorrentine Peninsula could not ignore this story, and to celebrate the organization’s 25th anniversary has organized a sea crossing, with a boat rally headed by the “Santa Maria del Lauro”, sailing from a coast to the other of its area, ending at the Restaurant “La Torre”, in Massa Lubrense, where the King of Naples Joachim-Napoleon looked at his troops recapturing Capri and defeating the British army, headed by Hudson Lowe, which would have been sent, disgraced, to command a garrison on another island: St. Helena.

It has been a nice day of celebration, honoring the boat wrights and their art, and the traditional products of their land.

“Back to the Future!”


"Back to the Future" at Marevivo, in Rome

"Back to the Future" at Marevivo, in Rome

The Sea is often cited as immutable, in spite of its volubility. Sea is eternal, and Civilization, risen on the sea, has always been based on skills and resources as immutable as the sea itself..

Thousands of generations have strenuously grabbed the secrets of fishing, of boatbuilding, of navigation. And thousands of generations have jealously saved and passed each other through hard training the secrets to make a living by the sea.

But at Sea, like on earth, industrial models for mass production have been imposed, and through the XXth century have upturned the world of fishing, a world used to survive, unprepared to manage resources ever considered unlimited.

The result has been devastating. Fleets of industrial fishing boats have swept away the tiny family owned coastal fishing boats, turning fishermen into salaried crew members, and then depleted the fishing stock to the pint that fishing is now a losing enterprise, unprofitable without the heavy government incentives it keeps getting.

The cultural “genocide” of coastal communities, effectively fulfilled by property speculation and tourism “development”, could be irreversible, as well as the loss of a source of food that until the ’70’s was talked about as the solution to the worldwide problem of famine.

Now we have learnt from our mistakes, and the development model that has proved wrong and disastrous for us and for the planet that sustain our lives, must be discarded. Fish farming and sustainable, selective fishing are the new ways to bring Sea and fishing back as resources. But it is easy to see that they are long known ways, and to realize that the most effective way to enter the future is to learn from the ways of the past. The small coastal fishing, that has always been a mere subsistence economy, is now a model of environmentally sustainable development, a possible source of financial and occupational growth for myriads of family level micro enterprises. Fish farming, tightly ruled and managed, can provide great quantities of fish for food and trade, as required by the modern market, giving relief to the oceanic fish stock while developing a new fishing model that could exploit them more rationally than the one who ravaged the oceans for a century.

The “Settimana Europea della Pesca”, from June 4 to 12, 2011, has involved more than 100 environmentalist groups in a series of events, to make the public aware and call European Union to a new fishing management policy.

In Italy, beside the press coverage of the topic, the association Marevivo has organized a photographic exhibition and an evening of music and cuisine on a barge moored on the Tiber river, in the heart of Rome. I took part to it with pride, meeting a constructive and enthusiastic atmosphere, with wonderful and tireless people, fully aware that they can build the future.