MARINA & FABIO
Sometimes the most ordinary “Hellos” uncover the deepest connections and rarest of personalities.
One day, at the marina we met Gentilina family. Harbormaster cared to introduce us, so we could meet our winter neighbors. Little we knew that it would lead to long conversations, sharing of adventures and being madly in love with their kids and cats.
Marina, The Captain, is a brown-eyed girl with a personality that’s larger than life. Her honest display of emotions and wild sweetness makes her one of a kind sailor.
Captain Fabio, on another hand, has constant projects, mad positivity, witty jokes on hand and incredible kindness, that’s easy to read in his eyes. Of course the two kids, Valerio and Leilani, are just as incredible as their parents. You can easily have one of the best and complex conversations with the 12-year-old Valerio and build weapons and hunt werewolves with the five-year-old rebel princess Leilani.
It is just as colorful as it sounds, each interaction and time we spend talking and sharing our worlds is a real treat.
So here’s their colour soaked and unique story.
– Talk about your background and where you come from (what’s your story, in the way you want it to be known)?
Marina: I was born in Lombardia, north Italy. I lived between Pavia and Legnano. But I couldn’t feel like I belonged in those places. My favorite childhood memories are connected to Sardinia (this is the place I felt I belong). Every summer my father, my brother and I used to drive to San Pantaleo ( a small village on the hills) on a really old jeep “Campagnola” and a pneumatic boat. At that time that area was really wild. We used to spend a month there, going around from island to island or in the wild with our old jeep.
My first job was as a flight attendant, it gave me the possibility to visit many different cultures and beautiful places. I moved to Novara when I opened a shop there. This Is the town where I met Fabio and where our family started.
In Novara we tried to spend as much time as possible in the mountains, camping beside the river and on Fabio’s parent little boat on Maggiore lake.
Fabio: I was born and lived in Novara. I spent all my summers camping on Orta lake. My parents used to have a little boat on the lake. My parents are scuba divers and so am I. If I wasn’t able to go to the lake I used to take my motorcycle and drive to the river with my friends.
I have always been near the water.
I used to be a snowboarder, and I worked in a snow park. So I feel connected to the mountains too.
This continued until I met a girl, during an earthquake. That day my life changed completely. This is my background that I want to share with you, everything else is just little things!
– What is your age, or age range?
Marina: I am 33
Fabio: I am 41
– What was the occupation before becoming a sailor/liveaboard?
Marina: I was an Area Manager for a famous men’s clothes chain.
Fabio: I worked in Computer Tech. Also, I designed computers. I started an ECO computer company that is still running.
– What was the reason why you chose to sail?
Marina: We chose sailing because we didn’t like city life. We had just time to work and no time for family.The kids were growing up with other people (school, kindergarten, sports, etc) and we were just able to work as much as we could just so we could afford all the expenses of social city life.
We wanted to give our children the possibility to learn that there are different ways to live, not only the occidental lifestyle.
We tried to spend as much time as possible in the middle of nature, but time was never enough.
That’s why we decided to at least try to change our lives and slow down everything. My first idea was to buy a little Westfalia truck… But Fabio didn’t agree at all!
We had a beautiful apartment that we renewed almost by ourselves so we decided to try to sell it… And we did it in 4 days!
– How long has it been?
We started sailing on Maggiore lake with kids. Later we added two cats. We have been living aboard for almost three years now.
– Who do you sail with?
It’s the two of us (Marina and Fabio), our two kids, Valerio and Leilani and our two cats, Pacho and Viky.
– How did your life change since you started sailing?
Fabio: our lives changed completely in every aspect. Running a boat instead of a house is different. You really have to take care of everything, learn how to fix and do the maintenance work.
When you moore in a port it’s like living in a town again, but when you anchor it is the total opposite.
Marina: Before we had the boat, both of us used to work a lot. We didn’t spend much time together. On the sailboat you learn a different approach towards the people you live with because you have to listen carefully to the needs of who is around you.
I used to be an Area Manager for work and manage people and plan everything, but on a sailboat managing and making plans is much harder. The priority is to keep the crew and the boat safe.
Changes also depend on how much you decide to travel. When you travel every day, you have new challenges to face every day.
– How do you make money while cruising?
Marina: In the beginning, we were lucky to sell our house for more than we paid for it. So we were able to pay the loan and have enough money to buy Gentilina and to sail for two years… Soon we learned that having a boat can be quite expensive! So we started looking for a job.
Being aboard with a low budget means that you have to do all the maintenance and of course you must face all the failures (out in the sea you can’t just call the tow truck!), so we learned quite a lot of new maintenance skills.
We were taking care of our blog with articles and videos, in this way we learned copyrighting, video editing, SEO writing and WordPress in general.
So we started receiving requests from companies that wanted us to write articles about our experiences, routes, etc…
Now Fabio is Head of content for Nautical e-commerce (HiNelson.com)
Fabio: Both Marina and I learned how to work remotely from a sailboat. Marina started working with market analysis, with the help of our dear friend Siri.
– What kind of a boat do you own and what kind of boats have you had previously?
Fabio: Gentilina is our second boat( the first boat was a small boat on the lake Maggiore, “Pupaccia”). She’s a Beneteau Oceanis 430, 1990 cruiser boat. Really well done and tough. She’s an old beautiful lady. In the beginning, she needed some improvements so we gave her solar panels and a wind generator, we added a heater and other little upgrades. But we live a simple life and also our boat is quite simple.
– What do you love and hate most about your boat?
Marina: Gentilina has a soul, she became our home immediately. I like her stability, she’s a really safe boat.
She’s quite big and has a lot of space for a cruiser boat. I like how bright she is because of all her windows.
Bigger bathrooms, more storage and a more comfortable cockpit would’ve been a much better feature.
Of course, she needs a lot of maintenance because she is a 30 years old boat, despite that she continues to be a really safe and great boat.
Fabio: I really love that Gentilina is the boat you can trust, you can count on her. What I hate most is lack of space.I wished to add a workshop on the boat, but it’s really impossible. Also I wish I had bigger bathrooms.
– If you could change your boat’s name to anything else, what would it be and why?
Marina: Gentilina was the former owner’s mother. But as soon as we jumped on Gentilina, that in Italian means “the little kind one”, we realized that this was her name. We believe that every boat is alive and has a soul. So we didn’t feel like changing her name.
Our first idea was to change the name boat in “Golden Brown” because of our favorite song of the “Stranglers”. But it can be misunderstood for obvious reasons!
– What is your dreamboat?
Marina: I am in love with two boats. My dreamboat has always been Amel Super Maramu and I think that it could be the best boat for our family. Recently I got passionate about a fast cruiser, so I really like the Beneteau First 47.7. I think that it’s a good liveaboard boat too.
Fabio: I would like to have a bigger and more comfortable boat, so Gentilina could be my dreamboat with two meter extra. Each time we buy something, we need to get rid of something. The space is limited.
Another dreamboat is an Oyster.
– If you could pick any fictional character to sail with as crew, who would it be?
Marina: We both agree that we would love to sail with Indiana Jones.The first quality that I search for is to be a great adventurer. Bear Grill is one of my myth but I would like to have even a sense of romance like Hemingway.
Fabio: I have two non fictional and dead characters and one fictional that would like to sail with. First one is Kevin Costner in “Waterworld”. No one likes that movie, but I really love it.
The other two are Jules Verne and Tesla. First one because he introduced a new genre of writing, sci-fi, that I really like. The second one is Nicola Tesla, because I would like to travel with such a tough scientist.
– What’s the best thing about sailing and your favorite moment while sailing?
Marina: Visiting new places, bringing your home with you and having your family comfortable inside the boat.Also, being so close to nature and having the possibility to live a slower life taking care of who is with you. One of my favorite sailing experiences was passing through the Corinth Canal, and we did it both at night and during daytime.
Fabio: My favorite moment is when you set sail and the wind is just right so you don’t have to worry about trimming sails and the boat just goes forward. So you can just enjoy the moment you’re spending with your family, it’s like a meditation moment. Also, you can meet a lot of new people. The 99% of our friends are really cool, so you can spend time mooring with them. And if you don’t like them, you can just set sail.
– What are the most memorable anchorages and places you sailed to?
Marina: Reina Island ( by Mykonos) in the Egean sea is one of my favorite anchorages, We sheltered there after a few hard Maltemi days. It was completely deserted, only a fisherman boat was going around the bay, the water was super and we found a beautiful and big jellyfish. Also, Delos Island is magical too because of history. I’m in love with Paxos Island, but avoid it in the high season.
– What is the one county that you would most want to (and can) sail to that you almost certainly won’t get to, and what’s stopping you?
Marina: My dream is to cross the Atlantic to get to the Pacific, sailing to the most remote islands. The reason why not now: The route is quite long and our boat is not prepared yet.
I would love to sail also to Egypt passing through the Suez Channel, but because of political reasons, I wouldn’t do it now.
Fabio: I would like to reach Japan by sailboat, but it’s impossible to reach it by sea because there is Godzilla and at this moment it’s too expensive and we don’t have any time to do it.
What is the craziest thing that happened while sailing? Scariest moment?
Marina and Fabio: We have a couple of stories: one is about the 70 knots storm sail, that was crazy and scary at the same time. We were not afraid while we were sailing, but as soon as it was over we realized that it was a kind of hurricane that broke a lot of things on our boat ( geno, plotter, radar in the ferry way), we were running 12 knots like never before.
The other one is when we stayed on anchor by Lepanto.
While staying in Lepanto we did not have the inverter, we didn’t have the engine and we couldn’t leave the boat. We could not call anyone, and if the coast guard knew about it that would’ve taken away our boat. In the same place, Valerio spotted a baby shark swimming around our boat, so we could not swim anymore and that was the worst. We could only go to the restaurant across the bay keeping an eye on the boat at all times and discover history.
– Share an anecdote
Marina: All that we knew about boats was not very much. But we knew that when professionals and old timers anchor and moor the boat, only incompetents scream at each other. So, the first times that we were anchoring we were screaming between each other and at the windlass, and banging on it with a metal bar.
Fabio: Also, one time, in a bay Vati by Itaca we had a night with 30-knot winds. All of a sudden we heard a bump noise onto our boat. Of course, we jumped out to check what was going on. It was a catamaran that released 60 meters of chain, therefore ended up bumping into us. While I was trying to figure out how to fix the situation, the owner of the 500000 euro catamaran was distracted by Marina. I looked at her and there she was standing in 30 knots completely naked. She did put on something, eventually, to help fix the situation and direct the attention to the right cause.
-Do you have any rituals on the boat?
Fabio: Before leaving a port or an anchorage we always do “I Ching” and read the oracle. Also, Marina is a kind of a witch with tarots, I call her “ tarotrist”.
– What are the plans for the future?
Marina: For now we just want to live on our sailboat with our family and work remotely. At this moment we are happy with what we have.
Fabio: In the future I would like to have a bigger boat.
– What is your personal dream?
Marina: I am happy with our life, but if I have to dream big my desire is to set the sail for a big adventure to the most remote places and cultures, exploring as much as I can.
Fabio: At this moment I have no other desire, if not to live the way I do now.
– What’s your ocean “anthem”?
Marina: Homme Libre “Toujour tu chériras la mer Baudelaire”
Fabio: “Space Oddity” by David Bowie and Leilani loves singing the Moana song from her favorite cartoon “Oceania”
– How COVID19 has changed your plans?
Marina & Fabio: By this time we were supposed to sail towards peloponnese islands, but of course it is not going to happen this season. I, Marina, and Valerio had to return to Italy in May. The kid was supposed to have exams for his school, but also this is an incognita for now. We try to adapt to the situations as best as we can. For now it has been quite nice because we live in a very beautiful port in Corfu’, where we have a very small but tight community and we take care of each other. We are lucky to be able to work from our boat and also restart working on our blog.
– What is your idea of freedom?
Marina: Being able to manage our time and go where we want and when we want. Do what we want whenever we want. Working remotely was one of our goals because it allows us to go anywhere we like. If we had a stable house we could not do it and everything would be different.
Fabio: I agree with all above, but to me freedom is also to have all the spices to cook all the things we love.
Marina: “Fate stirs the cards, but we play them” Moitessier
I am extremely happy to have had the chance to interview these brave sailors and have the chance to learn about their lives. I wish them all the joy of sailing and that winds of freedom always fill their sails.
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2 Comments Add yours
It is fantastic to see a family choosing the sailing life. I think it is the best education for the next generation so they are equipped to take care of the environment where we have failed.
Often you can see them collecting trash thrown by the waves onto the beach. They are very environmentally aware.
It is nice to have them around because they are such a great exemple of good humans!
Thank you for reading!
Sending you tons of hugs 🙂