You might think you already met Valerio last week, when I chatted with his parents aboard their boat, Gentilina. But that was only the beginning of the things I can tell you about this amazing Italian kiddo! Here’s how I met him:
Once, many months ago at a party for us liveaboards, I took my glass of wine and, after a tour greeting and meeting people (and eventually smoking about 20 thousand cigarettes), I spotted him sitting across the room with a wide smile and button-down shirt, ignoring the other children but listening with deep attention to a conversation between two other skippers. On a whim, I decided to sit with my glass and him and have a chat, and boy oh boy, I got my mind blown! We started talking as adults immediately, about the sea and quickly moving towards his favorite topic – fishing. He explained to me his respect for nature and sea, how he doesn’t fish small fish anymore, how smart the octopuses are and that it is outrageous that people fish the young ones, and how people should fish just for necessary food. Then we talked about religion, also about politics (without fighting and quite agreeing), about equal rights, about traveling, many many many more topics and ended our conversation (circa two hours later) on the meaning of life. And that was just the first time I talked to this 12-year-old! One of the best conversations I had in years!
We all became friends and seeing each other every day is much fun as he always brings awesome information to the conversation (yesterday it was that cats have extinguished 32 species!!!). At the second marina party, he brought the heat like he had been planning it, and we discussed Russian poetry, Italian literature, theater, classical music, and OPERA! My own mother used to be a piano teacher in conservatorium, and I grew up in theaters, but I don’t recall ever talking about opera at the age of 12! (I think I started in my 30s).
He has all the common issues of every kid growing up on the sea, but his vision of things is very personal. His mind roams free in his perception of the world, which happens to be very informed and complex. He’s still creating an idea for his future: at one point he told me that he’d like to be a doctor, but he also likes his freedom and fishing. So that’ll be interesting to see what he ends up doing! It’s always a delight to see him with a book, getting completely lost in history, in worlds, and beautiful stories.
That’s my new super friend Valerio, and here are his words:
– Talk about your background and where you come from
I was born in Rome. But I moved to Novara at the age of 2 where I lived until I was about 9 years old. I went to public school until I boarded Gentilina.
– Who do you sail with?
I sail and live with my mom, my dad, a troll (who is my sister, Leilani), and our two cats, Pacho and Vicky.
– What is it like to liveaboard with your family?
So this is my regular day: I wake up early, at about 6-7.30 am to take my breakfast, occasionally I prepare it also for two other sleepy heads (my dad and my sister, Leilani), wash up my face and I am ready to study, sometimes on paper books or the computer, it depends if mom needs it. Usually, at noon I take my pause and prepare some chapati with the mother-dough starter that I also made. After that, I do Greek lessons and homework so I can get to the second half of the day which is free so I can go swimming. At 9 pm we have dinner all together and I wash the dishes. By that time the day is over and I go to sleep.
The boat is a small space, it’s a natural habitat for arguments, and it’s harder to live all the family together, so if you can’t stand each other in a regular house, don’t get a boat!
– What was like your life before becoming a sailor/liveaboard?
My life was very normal. My mom would kick my out of bed, I’d fake being sick crawling through the house, I took my cereal breakfast (that looked like rabbit poop), I brushed my teeth with kids toothpaste thinking of how I could buy a gigantic tube of toothpaste for adults (I was afraid that by the time I could use the real toothpaste, the brand would go bankrupt and would not exist anymore). I got dressed, said bye to my parents, went to school until 4.30 pm (where I would plot with my classmates on how to evade), return home to do my homework and play for an hour, have dinner with mom or dad (because one or the other was working), wash my face, and go to bed thinking of myths of monsters that my friend made up. Whew!
– Do you miss living on land and what do you miss about living on land?
I miss a little bit the dry land (even though I prefer life on the boat). What I miss the most of the life on land are my relatives and friends (to be clear, I did not put friends last because I miss them less), Italian and Japanese food, all the tastes of the land of the sea that explode in millions of nuances in my mouth… and it’s not that the food in Greece is bad… but all the peoples have unique and inimitable flavors.
– How do you study? Do you like it? What are you interested in?
The method that I use for studying since we live on our boat, is called “Homeschooling”. It means that I study from home and each year I complete a program in order to take my exams. This method, for me personally, is very efficient because I get to schedule my day. My favorite subjects are History which I am very passionate about, and Biology.
– Do you have hobbies? Who taught you about your hobbies?
My favorite hobby is fishing. I got introduced to it by my uncle. I started it in the far, the farthest year of 2014. It all started when my usually very well-prepared uncle went on the beach at night to fish and got a hook stuck in his finger (ahahaha!), and after a minute of screaming, he courageously took the scissors and….zac!….chopped a piece of flesh off his finger to extract the hook. Unfortunately, as he’s not a surgeon, he started bleeding and bleeding… but as soon as he overcame that problem, he started fishing. After three hours, he returned home with a microscopic fish. At that moment I thought to myself “if a person is willing to sacrifice their own flesh for a tiny fish, it means that it’s worth it to go fishing”. This is how I began fishing, I started with small fishes, eventually bigger and bigger ones too, the fishermen in ports taught me new ways and, after gathering enough information, I created my own technique. But the person that revolutionized my techniques was Nicolas. He used to tell me that I shouldn’t spend more than I am able to fish.
– What kind of boat do you live on?
I live on a Beneteau Oceanis 430, with 4 cabins, 2 bathrooms, and a kitchen/living room. It has also a very spacious cockpit where we usually have our fellow sailors and friends over.
– What do you love and hate most about your boat?
what I hate the most about a boat are the sizes of each space. My room is slightly bigger than a casket (it barely contains my body and my books), the bathroom is smaller than a casket, and the living room it’s about three-quarters of a “standard” bedroom.
My favorite thing about our boat is that she floats and I love our cockpit because there’s the best sea view of all the house.
– How long have you been sailing?
It has been about 3 years now.
– What’s the best thing about sailing and your favorite moment while sailing?
I love fishing a lot! When I get to do this while sailing, it’s my favorite moment. Also, I get to troll fish and it’s usually when I get the biggest fish.
– What are the most memorable anchorages and places you sailed to?
The best anchorage I can remember is Antipaxos, in particular the Voutumi pools. There’s bright blue water, white sand, a shark, and Barracuda fish!
– Where would you like to sail?
The best place I could go to is, of course, the one I can fish better. I also would love to sail to Amsterdam and Mexico.
– What is the craziest/scariest thing that happened while sailing?
The scariest moment was in front of Salamina when we had 70 knots of wind. I was so scared that I went down below and laid in bed with my little sister and ate crackers, trying to take care of her. I could feel the boat tilting from side to side, I almost could walk on the walls. When everything was over we got rewarded with hot chocolate.
– If you could change your boat’s name to anything else, what would it be and why?
I wouldn’t like to change the name of the boat because it’s her perfect name.
– What is your dreamboat?
There’s no answer to this question for me. The dreamboat for me is Gentilina.
(when I asked the question, he hated it and said he didn’t like it… soon I understood that he didn’t want to offend Gentilina by preferring any other boat instead of her)
– If you could pick any fictional character to sail with
I don’t have a character that I would like to sail with. I wish I could sail with another one of me and get some big fish.
(he explained that he knows how to trust himself on a fishing boat and he is very comfortable alone, a lonely little sea wolf AUUUUUU!)
– Share a funny story while sailing
My parents decided to buy me a safety jacket, it is strictly required by law, unfortunately, they bought a waaaaaaaay too small of the size. It resulted in whenever I was wearing it, as it was too small on me, I moved like a penguin.
– Do you have a favorite myth/legend
I love a lot the Odyssey because it is a very compelling story and I have been always very fascinated by Greek mythology. I’ve been very lucky to have had the chance to visit many of the Greek archeological sites! my favorite ones were in Delos and Delphi.
– What is your dream?
My dream is to have the chance to travel a lot and see as much as it is possible. On my bucket list, I’ve got also Machu Pichu in Peru! I am fascinated by the mystery of that almost unknown civilization that lived in the mountains. I would also love to visit the European capitals, and at first place is Amsterdam. I would really like to see a town aesthetically very different from all the places I’ve seen until now.
– Do you see yourself living on a boat when you get older?
I don’t think I will live on the boat, I am not bewitched by the idea. But I still don’t have any idea of where I’d like to live.
– Would you share a song that you like?
– What is your idea of freedom?
The chance to make decisions for me and not being hindered by people and situations. To me, it’s a very important concept. To me, it is very important that everyone has the freedom to make their decisions, of course without damaging and getting in the way of other people’s decisions.