1-15 July 2017, Bare-boat two week cruise, Ludwine and Eddy Maerschalck

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Several months of preparation and finally we were ready to start with our adventure: sailing on a chartered Linssen boat for 2 weeks from Venice to Grado, cruising canals, rivers and sea. I was the captain, my lovely wife the sailor and our 2 bouvier des Flandres were our special guests. Of course, travelling and especially sailing with 2 big dogs makes your holiday totally different and even more challenging. But that’s also part of the fun.
Francesco (owner of the boat Elvira and a very charming man) picked us up at the airport of Venice. Immediately we realized that the Elvira is not a Houseboat (similar as “le boat” – “Locaboat”) but a seaworthy luxury 12,35 m. motor yacht. We also noticed that there is only 1 rule when you sail the Lagoon of Venice: the vaporetto (waterbus in Venice) always wins, no matter which direction it comes from.
After a short introduction I took the wheel and left the next morning. Because the lock of Caposile is closed on Sunday we decided to have lunch at Antica Dogana and discover the nearby island of Murano where we did some shopping for our meals on board. We stayed overnight at the Monastery of San Francesco del Deserto, a very peaceful place, and cracked our first bottle of Franciacorta. in the meantime we found out that we needed to change our plans. Because the Elvira is a seaworthy boat, her draft is larger than a canal boat and when we saw the signs on the map of “shallow water, careful navigation”, we had sometimes no more than 40 cm. between keel and sand, even when it was high tide. We didn’t want to get stuck on a sandbank.
So the next day we left the Lagoon of Venice and sailed along the coast to Cortellazzo where we moored at the trattoria Al Pescatore. We had a great lunch served by female waiters with a lot of tattoos and pink hair. After lunch we moved on via canale Revedoli, Porto San Margherita and Caorle. For the night we moored at the end of
canale Saetta, close to the wooden fishing houses, certainly worth a visit.
Next day we decided again to sail along the coast to Bibione where we could moor our boat just in front of the fancy restaurant Ai Casoni, our best lunch so far. After a nap we took the adventure of sailing the canale Lugagnano. And what an adventure: the first lock was open but with a flashing red light. No problem, Italian way of thinking: blow the horn and just move on. The depth under the keel was no more than 40 cm with no possibility to turn the boat, so we sailed very slowly (5 knots) and prayed to the lord. At the end of the canal: again a lock with flashing red light and a bridge that seemed too low to go under. The tide was rising, so there was no doubt. With my wife as navigator we passed the bridge with only 1 cm. (yes … 1 cm.) between the radar and the bridge. Enough excitement for one day but what a terrific view when we entered the river Tagliamento. Because our guests (the dogs) were desperate to play on the beach and swim with other dogs we moored outside Marina Uno and made the bushwalk to the doggy beach. Fun and laughter.
At day 5, after lunch, we sailed into the sea and headed for the Laguna di Marano to moor at the Marina Portomaran in Marano Lagunare. A wonderful little fisherman village. Initially we planned to sail to Grado the next day and moor at the marina but some nice yachtsmen we met advised us to try our luck and to berth in the centre, at the side of the canal where traffic was not allowed. So lucky we were! But as we wanted to go for a walk in town a marine officer ordered us to change mooring place. Fortunately my wife who speaks Italian could convince him to let us stay overnight. Nice officer! Grado is a real gem, historic city, golden beaches, friendly people, an upscale place.
The next day we planned to sail to the island San Maria Di Barbana through the canale di Primera but again we had to deal with a bridge too low to pass and so we decided to head for the sea and to anchor
close to Banco D’orio to swim and have lunch. On Sunday we decided to sail to the heart of the lagoon, Venice itself. A sensational experience! From the calmly area of Grado to the hustle and bustle where we met with cruise ships, mega yachts, sailing boats, vaporettos, water taxis, canoes, … We stayed overnight in Mazzorbo and had a nice dinner in the 1 star Michelin restaurant Venissa where we had moored the boat.
The plan for the next 2 days was to sail on the Riviera del Brenta but a little too late we found out that the lock was closed on Mondays so we tried again the next day. Anyway, the sailing trip at 9 o’clock in the morning via the canale della Giudecca was extraordinary! We enjoyed spectacular views of many “palazzi”, historical buildings and the Piazza San Marco.
A new try on Tuesday. The first lock was operated by a friendly guy who promised us to phone to the lock keeper to open the next bridge. Unfortunately, at the next bridge, we didn’t see anyone. Friendly citizens tried to help us but after one hour of waiting without a possibility to anchor (water was to low) we were a little fed up and decided to sail back. So, no Brenta with its beautiful houses. Maybe in our next life. Passing the Island of San Clemente (memories: a beautiful Kempinski hotel where we stayed a couple of years ago) we decided that is was time again for a stopover in a bay to relax. Afterwards we headed to the marina Darsena Saline near Chioggia to fill the water tanks and stay overnight. Although Chioggia is very famous, the city couldn’t charm us that much.
We left the next morning and cruised along the island of Pellestrina with fishing houses in the middle of the canal and along the Lido di Venezia to Burano, one of our favourite islands.
The next 2 days we stayed in the neighbourhood and visited Torcello, S. Erasmo and Murano and because we had been so delighted with our first stay at the Monastery of San Francesco del Deserto we decided to give it another try to stay overnight. And despite the storm, it was again a wonderful experience. Thank you Franciscan monks!
And that was it. On Friday we moored at the marina of Certosa, the home marina of the Elvira boat, sat down for a last Franciacorta and were grateful for the superb memories.
I think that Francesco, after 14 days, was very happy to see his boat back again safe and sound. A short trip to the airport parking and we waved goodbye.
Thank you Francesco for your confidence and loyalty and also thanks to our dogs for their outstanding behavior at any circumstance.
We had a tremendous holiday: a private adventurous trip on board of a luxury motor yacht. A trip we will never forget!
Eddy & Ludwine Maerschalck
Belgium

 

4-11 June 2017, All-inclusive cruise, Gillie and Sean O’Connor, Stuart Carneige

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Just an email to say thank you so much for making our holiday with Lagunalonga such a delight.
It was wonderful …and the Venice and the lagoon are quite beautiful.
Happy memories!
With best wishes and many thanks!
Gillie and Sean

 

2-6 April 2017, All-inclusive cruise, Jacques Heynen

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Navigating with the Elvira on the Venice Lagoon is one of a kind experience.
It all starts when the owner of the boat picks you up at Venice Airport,from where then it goes to all luxury Certosa harbour, where dinner is prepared and flushed with excellent Italian wine .
Everyday Francesco takes care of his customers from the morning breakfast to the evening dinner, often prepared to Michelin star level. At the same time you get an excellent impression of the whole Lagoon area of Venice. Included with visits to places where tourists never come and with the very professional explanation of Francesco who is a honoured architect and involved in many restoration projects in and around Venice.
This all in concept gives you the opportunity to live during a week like the rich and famous with a private LINSSEN YACHT and a crew that is extremely knowledgeable about the many interesting visits you make during this amazing trip.
In one word fantastic and worth the money.

 

1-4 June 2016, All inclusive midweek, Lisbet

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Warmest thanks for a wonderful cruise—it was all perfect! Peter and I so enjoyed ourselves. A memory for life, and we are immensely impressed by your energy, your thoughtfulness and your work for Venice and its lagoon. I hope your excellent central idea of networking all the good people working for Venice will work out. It seems exactly the right idea.
All warmest best greetings…….

 

20 April 2016, Day Cruise, David T. Morgan

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Dear Francesco,

Heather and I want to thank you for your hospitality while we were in Venice last month, particulary for the cruise round the lagoon in your yacht, and for the faboulous lunch that you gave us.
You are the perfect host and guide and you opened our eyes to the faboulous “hinterland” wich I suspect is seen by so few visitors. I have being talking about it to all my friend. They admitted they had never heard of the hidden lagoon. I think that your project has a great potential.

David

March 2016, Elvira’s maiden voyage on the Venice Lagoon, Jonathan Hobbs

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I have always been interested in the maritime history of Venice and its similarities with the historical development of London and its relationship with the River Thames.
It took a combination of factors, to finally get me there after 45 years of waiting- the charm of Francesco Calzolaio, and a brand new Linssen 410 (the newest member of Linssen Boating Holidays)
I had to fit in a visit before the boating season began on the Thames, and the end of March seemed perfect and actually meant that my family would be taking ‘Elvira’ for her maiden voyage on the Venice Lagoon.
Elvira is moored at Marina Santelena on the North eastern tip of Venezia only 2km from St Mark’s Square. It is a brand new marina with excellent views of the main channel between Murano and Venice and looking south to the Lido area of the lagoon.
Francesco kindly organised a stunning wooden water taxi to collect us from the airport and it sped us over the lagoon to the Marina where he was waiting to welcome us aboard with wine and traditional Venetian Cod Canape ‘Baccalamantecato
Francesco is President of Culture and Heritage for the Venice lagoon , and his passion and knowledge for this world famous maritime area is one of the reasons for my family’s visit and I am sure it will be important to the success of ‘Elvira’ for Lagunalonga.
He has devised perfect 3 and 7 day itineraries to explore Venice, its surrounding Islands, and the Lagoon.
After a technical handover, we set sail from the marina with Francesco and went straight into the ‘Basin of St Mark’ which give you the iconic view from the water of The Doges Palace, St Mark’s Square and the opening of the Grand Canal.
We shared this impressive waterway with Water taxis, Vaperettos ( waterbuses) and the occasional ‘Cruise Liner’ I have to say it was one of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen, heading toward the Giudecca Canal with the Island of Giudecca on our port side and Venice on our starboard. My family were in awe of the historic landscape before us. At the end of the Giudecca Canal I had my first experience of the ‘canales’ ( channels) that boats have to take to avoid the shallow areas of the Lagoon. Francesco was excellent in his explanation of how to safely navigate this unusual (for me) navigation system. I was surprised by the lack of signage. If it was the Thames there would be signage all over the place!
However the combination of the electronic plotter and charts supplied on board were more than adequate for passage planning, and after a while you get to understand the ‘piles’ or ‘withies’ in the water. The Depth sounder was very helpful too, with the depth below dropping to below 1 metre at times.
We just took it very carefully and cautiously and managed to get accustomed to it, but I have to say constant awareness was necessary, but that was half the fun!
We berthed ‘Elvira’ back at its superb mooring at the Marina and watched the sun go down with Francesco still telling us tales of the lagoon!
Day two was a day of sightseeing by foot around Venice, apart from a fantastic gondola ride from Rialto Bridge through the narrow canals just off the Grand Canal. We saw Marco Polo’s birthplace and Vivaldi’s home to name a few.
Day Three we were back on the Lagoon. Francesco recommended a route to visit the islands of Burano and Murano via Erasmo. We were navigating alone for this voyage and conditions were fine as we set off towards the mouth of the lagoon. The Canale Passaora took us closely along the northern side of S. Erasmo which served as the ‘Market Garden’ for Venice. The Islands in the lagoon all seemed to have their own role in the centuries of Venetian Imperial domination of the Mediterranean. Murano concentrated on glass blowing as the furnaces were prone to setting fire to the neighbouring buildings and if this was based in Venice, it risked the whole island going up in flames á la The Great Fire of London! Burano was, and still is a fishing Island, as well as hand making lace and we had a reservation at Venissa on Burano with its own mooring and Vineyard. The fresh fish and wine were exquisite and I would recommend a visit here for a sublime gastronomic experience. After lunch we cruised back via Murano and got back to Marina San Elena at about 5pm.
The Marina has its own water taxi – a Riva St. Tropez! With a very friendly skipper.
He gave us a very good rate to drop us off for dinner at ‘Restorante Riviera’, which is in the Dosodura area of Venice. This was another recommendation of Francesco’s (his favourite restaurant) and it didn’t disappoint. It was a ‘Fine-Dining’ experience but with excellent relaxed service. With lunch @ Venissa and Dinner @ Riviera we had experienced excellent Venetian cuisine of the highest standard and felt very spoilt, but full and content.
The three night stay was just enough to scratch the surface of the ‘living Exhibition’ that is Venice and its surrounding Lagoon and just enough to entice us to return and discover more.
Elvira was a perfect cruising vessel for the lagoon and I’m sure she will turn heads and encourage more Venetians to think of owning one on the lagoon. The new additions to the Linssen Boating Holidays Family; The River Thames, Loch Lomond and Venice have added a real cultural flavour to the established mix of locations, offering the boating enthusiast an opportunity to sample and learn about the history, culture, environment and cuisine from the luxury of a Linssen.
This whets the appetite to investigate the cultural importance of L.B.H in Europe as a means of exploring a nation’s heritage and culture from the waterways. L.B.H could offer ‘joined up’ thinking in its approach to marketing its brand and members to ‘Culture Vultures’ looking to explore, learn and experience, rather than just navigate and relax.
As a family we had an amazing experience and Suzy and I are already planning to return for our 20th Wedding Anniversary in 2017.
Thank you to Francesco…….
L.B.H is lucky to have Lagunalonga and Francesco on its team.

Jonathan Hobbs M.D of Hobbs of Henley, member Linssen Boating Holidays.