The Sea Is Not Meant to Be There

In Venice, a Young Boatman Steers a Course of His Own Between Two Uneasy Bodies

By Daphne de Vogue

Photos: Andrew Jarecki

I grew up with the feeling that boats could get me places. When my parents would take me out for the afternoon, there I would be at the helm, navigating my way through the canals, and always, somewhere in the background, would be the sea, always changing colors from blue to green, with a few boats skimming on the surface, catching the sun. It never failed that, when I stood on the deck of a boat—sundowners, as they were called—at sunset, I would feel myself at sea. For at least an hour, I would be at the mercy and mercy’s end of the sea. Then, when I could see the water again, the sense of freedom and space after the cramped quarters of the boat would begin to creep into me, and I would begin to enjoy the feeling of being out at sea alone.

In the early 1980s, I first traveled to Italy with a friend when I was eighteen years old. I spent my first night with a family in Venice at their beach house. They took me out to dinner, and as we were walking back down the lane, my friend’s father stopped and asked us to look at the view.

“Look at the sea!” he said.

Standing there, I saw it at first as if through a veil of mist. As I looked out at the vastness of the Venetian lagoon, I could see from the water, just below me, a little boat, one with a single, blue sail, slowly bobbing in the water. It turned out that night we were not meant to be there.

It was not yet summer and the weather had been hot. My friend’s father said that he had been watching for me to come, and when he saw me looking out at the sea, he told me to take me to the beach house. The next morning when I saw my friend he said, “So what do you think, Daphne? Is

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