A four day weekend for us means water sports and the Italian country side. Leaving Munich after work Thursday we drove south through the Austrian alps to Lake Garda. This trip instead of climbing in Arco we focused on the lake.
Friends ask me: how do we sail? what sort of license do we have? I explain sailing doesn’t work like that. Many different jurisdictions and rules exist but what it comes down to is, “Do you know how to sail?” followed by a confident “yes”. So it was for our latest sailing adventure on Lake Garda.
We chartered our largest boat yet, an 8.5m Dehler. Unlike the dinghies we took out before this boat had an interior with galley, navigation desk, seating area, bathroom, and bedroom. Besides being more comfortable it opens a possibilities for longer journeys. All I had to do ahead of time was write a few emails explaining our sailing experience.
Upon arriving in Riva del Garda we went right to the harbour. A dock hand of GardaseeCharter helped us navigate through tightly packed boats out onto the lake, only too realise we hadn’t yet payed. Luckily, cellphone in hand with rocking waves, we managed an online bank transfer. After which the employee was swiftly picked up by a motor dingy leaving us on our own.
Plan was to sail south against Pelér, the north wind that blows from June to September each day until noon, to Limone Sul Garda. There we would have lunch aboard the boat and return against Ora, the south thermic wind that blows from noon to sunset.
To my surprise the bigger boat handled smoother than anything I’d sailed before. What an incredible feeling it is to move the till and feel the entire vessel shift.
Good weather and ample wind make for a pleasurable sail.
The swell was minimal, Garda being a lake and all. I’m curious to take such a boat out on the Adriatic; it must handle swell better then the small dinghy we took out last time we were there. Hopefully that translates to less sea sickness.
Another big advantage of a boat of this size is having an engine. Beside not being held back by lack of wind it make serval tasks easier:
Our boat featured self tacking jib sheet system, supposedly to making solo sailing / tacking easier. I didn’t like it. It jammed often requiring one of us to go up there and bump it loose and limited how tight we could pull the jib sheet. Without a tight jib boat can’t sail as close hulled. So note to self if I ever buy a boat, avoid it.
Taking turns steering and making plenty of photos we sailed down to Limone Sul Garda. Before eating the brave among us went for a swim in the cold water.
Eating on the boat is something I’m still figuring out. Currently any amount of waves and I lose my appetite. The solution so far has been stacking while underway. This I was munching on chips when we headed back north.
Approaching Riva del Garda we met strong winds and an army of wind / kite surfers. Hundreds of small sails darting back and forth in the waves made our return treacherous. Best I could do was avoid those who had fallen. Multiple times a surfer would approach us from the side then stop by jumping into the water moments before hitting our side, a sort of wind sport traffic jam.
After reefing our sail in the calmer waters on the side of the lake we headed for the harbour, once again assisted by a dock hand to navigating to our slip.
Friends and family reading, hope you are enjoying story. Soon we you’ll have to join us for sailing adventures. Our next step is an overnight sailing trip, eventually building up to week long island hopping Adriatic voyages.
We stayed at Masha’s favourite Garda area accommodation, Agriturismo Cervano. With such a nice experience now Agriturismo is my preferred way to stay in Italy.
The villa from 1880s, more history here, and is full of character. Exposed wooden beam ceilings, brick floors, and antique decor make for a warm environment.
It was a rustic experience eating breakfast and hearing horses trotting along side the windows with lake view in the background. Down from the villa there is a photogenic path through Vecchia Provinciale to the water. Thanks to Masha for the following images:
Behind Cervano is Monte Castello di Gaino, a beautiful summit to overlook the lake.
The path was a challenge in the heat. I defiantly didn’t get enough exercise between ski season and then. Time to get back in shape for summer.
Went sailing, went hiking, what’s left to do? How about windsurfing! And thus we spontaneously joined the army of board-sport enthusiasts enjoying Garda’s winds. At a small surf shop in Gargnano we dawned our wetsuits, rented boards and sails and got in the water. Counting the short course on Starnbergersee, made in zero wind, last year this made for my second time windsurfing. “Surfing” might be a stretch; I exhibited my standing on board and slowly getting blowed down wind skills. Masha, also new to the sport, took to it quickly and sailed up wind immediately. After wading back along the shore a few times the shop owner, probably feeling sorry, paddled a SUP out to me. We switched boards and in a mix of English, German, and body signals we communicated a small lesson. Soon I managed a slightly improved standing technique that brought me up wind. From those few seconds I knew windsurfing had a lot of potential.
Wind surfing is like wake-boarding except instead of being restricted to the boats path you literally set sail and go your own way. It fits my personality much better.
Before heading out on our last day we went further north into stronger winds to surf again. This time it was a more professional outfit, Pier water-sports center, with nicer equipment. The woman working the dock sensed my inexperience and urged not to get stuck down wind and force rescue boat pickup. Trying my best to avoid this I waded up wind and floated back to the shop a few times. Eventually something clicked and I was able to hold the sail in a close-hulled sailing position and gain progress up wind. I joined Masha and the others 100 meters upwind. We chatted and decided to go further together, off I went. Getting proficient in tacking I sailed further and further upwind. At about 400 meters out I noticed Masha was back with the other surfers near the shop; no big deal I’ll turn around. Having never properly sailed down wind before my I tried a few turns. To my dismay I ended up more down wind. After a while I figured out how to go side to side and because of the wind this slowly blew me back to the shop. With a few tuns left I finally figured out one can bring the sail fully in front of their body and look through it to sail down wind.
Both times out were super fun and I’m excited to add windsurfing to my board-sport experience. Even better there are places like Walchensee near Munich to practice. I’d like to build up my skills and try it in the ocean one day.
Lake Garda is perfect get away from Munich. Plenty of sports and lesser known towns to enjoy. Can’t wait to go back. I’ll leave you with a cold summer drink recipe: