Messing About On Boats

There’s nothing half so much worth doing as messing about on boats. At least those are the sentiments Rat expressed in Wind in the Willows. I don’t agree (I’m not a water person) but I’ve had my fair and fun share of them since arriving at Lake Garda in Italy.

 In order to go climbing on the other side of the lake near the golfcourse by the church Madonna del Soccorso, (I feel a song coming on) The Big Bloke and I drove north to Toscolano-Maderno and took the ferry across to Torri del Benaco. The car and driver cost €8.90 and the extra adult passenger was €4.10.

 We chose to get out of our car and stand on deck. Other passengers on foot had disappeared upstairs to the enclosed section. Twenty scenic minutes and three bobbing plastic bottles later we reached Torri. It was an extremely smooth and pleasant ride. I wondered how big the waves would have to be for the ferry to be disturbed from its clean, calm slice through the water.

 A few days later our family of fellow travellers hired a boat. The shore at San Felice provides plenty of options regarding watercraft including pedal boats shaped as cars. As an aside, I did once see a real car used as a real boat on Lago Maggiore.                                                              

If I’d beenhiring for frolicking-fun I would have chosen one of the pedal boats with a mini slide. One climbs the slide behind the pedallers, slides over the top of them and whizzes off to one side into the water. Top notch! However, this day we had bigger excursions in mind and only a powered boat would do.

 To hire an outboard up to 40 horse power one needs no license…which means that I, with less knowledge of Italian boating rules than even Rat, could have been in charge of one. Watch out on the water! Our boat, at 70h.p. easily big enough for six people and a large dog, cost €170 for the day plus fuel money which came to €40.

 It’s a long time since I’ve been on a boat moving with that rhythmic soar and dip accompanied by the sloosh sloosh of water hurled out the side in a blurry stream of white. I’d forgotten how like riding a horse it is. The deep teal water was a kaleidoscope of changing surfaces: slick as oil, wrinkled, spotted, flecked and dented with long ripples. As I gazed at the smooth surface and the furrows apparently lying beneath, I was put in mind of selkies and the legends lying beneath our lives.



 Our first destination was the markets at Lazise. They were teeming with people and wares. Stalls displaying belts, Italian leather handbags, sporting-team clothes, women’s filmy dresses and blouses, men’s shirts in colourful asymmetry, silk ties, leather coats and pants, children’s cheap gadgets and toys, garish crockery and shoes abutted each other. Patrons at the many restaurants lining the streets, relaxed over their coffees and pastas and seemed glad to be removed from the passing hubbub.

 Leaving the crowded quay I realized that I had, in some odd way, cast the markets of Lazise as an island, even as I knew they were part of a town linked to others all along the shore. Indeed, looked at from way above, the lake is an island in the middle of a sea of land. My arrival by boat had twisted my perceptions most deliciously, as a dream can do in those moments upon awakening.


There’s something rather nice about approaching a castle, or indeed anything, with an expanse of water between you and it. The water and your surrounding space gets smaller and the object gets bigger and clearer. Simple. You can stay in your world with its two dimensions – water and sky – or you can forfeit them for whatever the object has to offer. What a tantalizing choice.  

And if all that is what Rat meant, I’m almost with him.

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