Choose a boat for a happy life, the editorial by Franco Michienzi

A family boat is the ideal way to tackle the complex issues we are all facing at the moment, exacerbated by unexpected external factors

by Francesco Michienzi

The family yacht is something that has always intrigued me, and offered me plenty of pause for thought. A boat’s story is often intertwined with that of a couple, who begin their nautical life with a small vessel and, as time progresses, trade it in for more substantial craft.

I have had the pleasure of witnessing numerous situations where a boat occupied an important role in a family’s dynamics. Rino and Anna are a wonderful example of happy boat owners with a deep love of both the sea and boating. «Our first trip to Sardinia on an Az 29, with two Volvo Penta 170 hp engines, was incredibly exciting. It felt like we were sailing towards the unknown, because in 1980 there were none of today’s electronic instruments, and we were very worried about running out of diesel. I felt like Ulysses, responsible for getting his crew to the destination».

Rino’s statement summarises his relationship with the sea perfectly, mixing the pleasure of sailing, fear for his family’s wellbeing and the awareness of being a good captain. His story is an excellent example for the many boatbuilders that fail to realise that owners start young – Rino had his first dinghy at the age of 27, a Lomac 320 with one 20 hp engine, which he began sailing all over the Mediterranean with his two young daughters in 1977. He then bought a wooden fishing boat, made by a master carpenter from Santa Maria di Castellabate; the Az 29 came in 1980, which he replaced with an Az 34 and later an Azimut 43, a Gagliotta 37 and a Rose Island 43.

A family cruise on a boat is an ideal way to enjoy special moments together and create unique memories. The environment allows people to relax completely and switch off, encouraging sharing, development and family activities. Family and boats go together surprisingly well, and can offer new and unexpected experiences.

This was certainly true for Antonio Collarino, a world-renowned vascular surgeon and the first doctor in Italy to use lasers in his profession, and his wife Isolina, whose craft combined the dynamics of family life with the meaning of owning a boat. «The idea of a ‘voyage’ is something universal that we all experience at some point in our lives, a concept that is engraved in our psyche. It is evoked by one of the seven key archetypes, and reminds us that life is a constant, ongoing journey towards growth, evolution and the future. Mythology, philosophy, literature and psychology have all tackled this subject, tying it symbolically to a process of knowledge and discovery».

Antonio Collarino is a man of science, well read and always keen to learn new things; the sea is the ultimate place of discovery, and boats are his tool to accomplish it. He has had several, including a Sirena 58, an Atlantis 39, an Atlantis 50 and an Azimut Magellano. Antonio and Isolina, Rino and Anna are just two examples of couples who have always shared this passion for boats and the sea with their families.

According to the Italian Psychological Society, sea and wind help to combat the stress, depression and anxiety associated with our everyday lives, making a boat trip a genuine healing experience. Travelling by boat gives rise to unique dynamics, where people are forced to stay within a certain environment and a restricted space, share emotions and sensations and work together. Once onboard, you can leave everyday problems behind because most of your concentration is focused on handling the boat itself.

Steering and captaining a yacht stimulates your attention and increases your self-confidence and independence, and being subjected to constant stimulation helps create an environment where everyday problems and tasks are significantly reduced, and even forgotten altogether. The boat plays a central role in architect Renzo Piano’s family dynamics too. «Lia was born in October, and I took her on board in July. She soon toughened up; she doesn’t suffer from seasickness. I remember taking photos of her drinking a cup of milk during a storm, or with her nose in a book when everyone else was feeling sick. To be on the safe side I put up nets and fastened a rope to her to avoid accidental falls».

There are also families that decide to abandon their normal life to travel the world on a yacht. Many people may dream of doing so, but the Portesan family – Fabio, a computer scientist, Marina, a store manager, children Valerio and Leilani and their two cats Vicky and Pancho – turned their dream into reality, selling their home to live in just 30 m² of floating space. Yet Gentilina, their sailing boat, a Bénéteau Oceanis 430, has everything they need: three cabins, a bathroom, a utility room and onboard instruments. For Fabio: «A boat means freedom, allowing you to live in close contact with nature. It strengthens a couple’s teamwork, you have the time to travel slow, and above all it is good for your health. I’ve been onboard for over a year and haven’t caught so much as a cold».

And it also creates unique and memorable experiences for the children. Whether they are pirates looking for underwater treasure or adventurers in search of idyllic bays, they never have time to get bored.

Different families have different boats and different motivations, like the family of Australian YouTubers that took Greta Thunberg on her return voyage from Virginia to Europe, on board a zero-emissions fourteen-metre catamaran. The young Swedish environmentalist was eager to get to Spain in time to take part in the COP 25 climate change conference: all it took was a post on social media requesting a lift across the Atlantic, and the family, with over a million followers and over 70,000 nautical miles clocked up, offered her a space on board. The charm of the sea and of family life on a boat wins everyone over once they come face to face with the immense, powerful and mysterious expanse of water that is the ocean.

For some, the sea can even be a way to discover themselves, their strength and their limits, like singer Andrea Bocelli, who now sails Stella del Nord, the fourth Darwin Class 86’ launched by Cantieri delle Marche in 2015.

Bocelli’s passion for sailing stems from summer holidays during his childhood, when he, his father and his brothers would head out to sea on their five- or six-metre-long family dinghy. «I have had various boats, from oversized craft, which were complex and challenging to handle, and smaller and more aggressive boats, steeds ready to mount the waves, to a safe, solid and comfortable boat, a craft to put in the hands of an exceptional captain, my son Amos. As we progress through the seasons of life, our concepts of fun and holidays change…».

The sea is the ultimate place to relax, and a boat is the ideal tool for recovering the energy we need to deal with our increasingly frenetic and busy lives. 

(Choose a boat for a happy life – – April 2020)