Henry James thought that `everyone interesting, appealing, melancholy, memorable or odd’ gravitated towards Venice’ That’s our lame excuse: we must be `the odd’. We are an accidental all-female crew: no-nonsense Alice; dreamy Kasha and landlubber me. We make a shambolic team. Alice brings common-sense to Kasha’s sense of wonder and my bookish sense of Venice. Our roles are cast early on: Alice keeps us afloat; Kasha keeps us in wine and girlish good spirits; and I keep us vaguely on course, despite a penchant for Prosecco and drooling over mildewed palaces while navigating.
This is billed as a voyage for Venice addicts who are tired of battling over the bridges to St Mark’s Square. Instead, we will drift by deserted islands, once lunatic asylums, leper colonies, hermitages or monasteries. We might encounter shrimp fishermen, Benedictine monks and migratory birds. If the mood takes us, we can jump out at the port of Chioggia to buy still wriggling fish, or have a picnic lunch of artichokes and fruit in Venice’s market garden. The clincher is that it is for `boating virgins’ rather than `snotty yachties.’
Although also novices, the boys snub our services and sail into the sunset alone, having mastered the controls in the Chioggia lagoon before breakfast. The battle-lines are drawn on the water: spatial skills versus verbal reasoning. We have the language, the love of Venice, the laminated maps and the lip-gloss. The boys have the brawn, the love of boats, and both bottle-openers. We go round in circles in water; they go round in circles on land. Mercifully, we have that innate female gift for begging for help when stranded on a sandbank, and they have that innate male gift for opening wine-bottles and unblocking our lavatories. Mastering the ensuite nautical flushing system involves pumping for Venice or being unexpectedly drenched. Before cancelling your booking, bear in mind that we are incompetents.