The Journey to the Seaside

From Lago Maggiore to Cremona


Spring 2008

The catamaran is on the dry at the Marina Verbella in Sesto Calende, a small town at the south end of lago Maggiore.

The nearest place to reach the sea is in Cremona, a small town south east of Milano, on the Po river.  Although lago Maggiore empties into the Po, the river is not navigable for anything bigger than a kayak before Cremona.  In Cremona there is a big harbor from where even passenger ships and freight barges reach the sea, south of Venice.

The problem is to haul a 6.8 meters wide catamaran from Sesto Calende to Cremona.  Height would be an insurmountable problem, since bridges, overhead wires etc. limit the height of a transport to 4.5 meters, but the superstructure of the cat has been made detachable just for this journey.  The width requires special permits and a carefully chosen, wide enough route.  It will take about 45 days to get all the necessary permits.


April 1, 2008

The person of the company responsible for choosing an appropriate route and the truck drivers that will do the actual hauling of the cat come to take the last measurements and discuss final arrangements.  We work out the procedure of separating the cat into two parts and loading them on to the trucks and everything seems OK and settled.  They leave but are back in 10 minutes, with a shocking news.

We cannot get out of the marina and onto the main road because just outside the gate of the marina the road narrows!  Nobody had taken the time to measure the very first bit of the journey.  What an April fools day joke!  I have only myself to blame for that stupid oversight, but all the others were not much better.

So it is back to the drawing board.  The only solution is to start from Arona, across the lake.  Luckily from that town it will be even easier to reach the highway, but it will mean that the cat will have to be launched, driven across the lake with its own engines, hauled out, separated the top from the bottom and both parts loaded onto the trucks.  All in one day. 


July 3, 2008

Finally, we get all the permits and the moment has come to launch the cat into the lake for the short journey across the lake to Arona.  Luckily the transport company decided not to do everything in one day but to put the cat into the water a few days before.

Margrit, the wife of a german friend, Clara and I wait for the crane and truck to arrive.

Having been able to split the launch from the start of the journey makes for a much more relaxed atmosphere.

Intermezzo di pioggia prima del varo

Just before the moving equipment arrives, a heavy downpour threatens to wet us all during the launch, but luckily it was only a temporary shower.


The Ossola crew, the crane company that  organized the transport, prepares the crane.

It always takes much longer to prepare the crane and program its computer than to do the lifting itself.


The marina does not have a dolly to transport the cat, so we had to load it on a truck for the short journey to the water.


Finally, ...


... back in the water.


Although this is the second time the cat is launched, it is always a nerve racking experience to see it float in the air.

So after the launch Giancarlo, the head of the Verbella marina operations, yours truly, Clara and Adriano relax a bit.

The hardest part of the whole journey still lies before us.


The short trip to the docking place lets me quickly test the engines.

Everything not essential for the short navigation across the lake had been disconnected or cut in view of the separation of the house from the hulls.

A marina with trees looks very bucolic, but I soon found out that it is sheer hell.  Whenever there is a wind leaves end up, I don't know how, into the bilges, where they rot and then clog the bilge pumps.


Clara waits for the cat to reach the slip, ready to tie it to the floating dock.


July 8, 2008

The big day has arrived. 

I arrive with the cat in Arona.

I left the marina Verbella without any sad feelings.  Nothing wrong with it, it just is a place that has "zero charisma".

I am glad I made it across the lake since I had only  the barest minimum of fuel on board, due to the transport.

Before leaving the road police checked all the measures but never asked how much fuel was on board. An oversight or just could nor care?


The cat is being lowered onto dry land, ready to be cut in two.

Clara and my daughter Elizabeth are happy and look relaxed.

I am nervous (in the background on the right) since the most touchy part lays ahead, the cutting, or better said, prying away of the house from the hulls.


The house is first lifted for a few centimeters with the straps attached to the handholds and railings of the top of the house.  Since they were not designed to take such a weight we then put wooden blocks to separate the two parts and then passed the straps under the house.  So if a weld had broken the house would have fallen at the most a few centimeters.

I had checked before that any temporary weld between the house and the hulls had been cut.  Nevertheless on the starboard side two small welds had been forgotten and they broke with a loud noise that scared everybody after a hefty tug of the crane.

To my surprise the house weights almost 4.5 tons. 

The house gets lifted onto the truck.

Notice the beams attached to the bottom of the house to prevent any unwanted movement of the house.

Not to cut the straps we put some heavy rubber mats between them and the aluminum edge of the house.

What really worried me at this point was to break one of the window panes.


This picture gives you an idea of the length and height of the house, but not of the width.


The hulls without house seen from the aft.

The jumble of wires on the right are some of the wires that were disconnected from the house.


And from the front.

The electrical of the hulls and the water were only switched off. In an emergency one could have gone to the bathroom.

I had decided against trying to cover everything because it would have been almost impossible to make it waterproof and so why bother?


A moment of rest after having loaded and fastened the top to the truck.

We are all very thirsty since it is a very hot day.


Then it is the hull's turn.

The trailer onto which the bottom part is loaded is a hydraulic marvel. The platform with the load can go up or down and can even be tilted to avoid any low obstacle on the side of the road.  It can be towed or pushed from either side.  And when the special transport is finished it gets taken apart and becomes a regular sized trailer.  A fantastic piece of equipment.


The trailer fits between the hulls with space to spare.

The supports of the hulls had been strengthened for the trip.


The hulls ready to be transported.

The last item to come off were the railings.  I did not want anybody fall down.


All the work with the crane is finished and we are all relieved, even though the transport, the most difficult part, is still ahead.


Just before sunset the police that will accompany the convoy arrives and last details are discussed.


The convoy is ready to move.  Of course some stupid bureaucratic problem delayed the departure of the bottom part for an hour or so.

Believe it or not, the two convoys traveled separately.  The top part took the highways, while the wider bottom part took the surface roads.  Go figure.


July 10, 2008

In Cremona, finally. 

The bottom part arrived during the night in Cremona.  These oversized loads can only travel for a few hours in the middle of the night.

It took each convoy two nights travel to arrive.


The bottom part is unloaded.

It suffered only some minor damage on the gunwale of the starboard side.  A tree branch hit it and bent it in two places.  All considered, nothing much.


July 11, 2008

The house arrives one day later and in the morning we immediately proceed to put the two parts back together.

I am very relieved to see that the house had not suffered any damage.


The crane operator is magnificent.  He positiones the top part with millimetric accuracy on top of the hulls. 

I cannot take any further pictures since we all have to help to join the two pieces together. A few blows with a hammer and a piece of wood took care of any pinching. 

I have been very lucky with the weather.  Not one drop of rain.


I spend the next days frantically putting everything together.

Bruno welds the aft part of the house to the hulls  and Adriano paints the two hulls with antifouling.

We have to hurry since the level of the Po river that was to take us to the seaside, is rapidly falling.

At least I have a place where I can park the car in the shade.


July 24, 2008

Mr. Popovich, who runs the section of the harbor where I am staying is very friendly and helpful.  After all, he calls me "young man" and just for that I have to thank him.  His friend, who is supervising a big welding job, knows everything you want to know about the history of the Cremona harbor.  Unfortunately I am very bad at remembering names.


The last splash of this year (I hope) is uneventful and it marks the end of a difficult, expensive and nerve racking transport.


The view of Cremona harbor from the back of the cat.

Nothing to write home about, but for me and the PH8 it is the beginning of a new life at the seaside.

As I said before, I am bad at remembering names, and anyway I am sure I would forget some.

So I say a heartfelt "thank you" and "well done" to all the women and men who made this difficult transport possible.


Non ho una buona memoria per i nomi e comunque sono sicuro che ne dimenticherei alcuni.

Un ringraziamento ed un ben fatto a tutte le signore ed i signori che hanno reso possibile questo difficile trasporto.