I started to follow my passion for sailing in 2014 while studying at university. I got my sailing boat licence and started joining as many sailing race events as possible. It was important for me to build my confidence in sailing, no matter the weather conditions and at maximum efficiency, and to develop a strong relationship with the crew even in the worst situations.
In 2018, I began my professional yachting career as a seasonal crew member in the south of France with only my STCW basic training. During the winter season, I seized the opportunity to acquire valuable certifications such as RYA Yacht Master. Additionally, I gained hands-on experience in the maintenance and management of sailing boats, including ocean passages, by participating in a two-handed 4500NM delivery passage from Richards Bay, South Africa (Indian Ocean) to Fernando De Noronha, Brazil (Atlantic Ocean), exploring various places along the way, including Lesotho, Namibia, and St. Helena Island.
In 2020, I joined CeFeA, a Solaris 111 ft custom sailing yacht, where I primarily worked as first mate and acted as captain for two months due to unforeseen circumstances. I also experienced the transition of the private yacht to commercial status in winter 2021/2022, where I encountered the highest standards and performance of a custom brand-new sailing yacht. Additionally, during this time, I obtained my AEC 1 and 2 tickets to cover the engineer role on the commercial yacht. The yacht’s impressive reputation led to participation in major boat shows and attracted a select group of charter guests.
In November 2022, I joined the sailing yacht Canova while doing shipyard work and maintenance in Genoa, preparing for the first part of the round-the-world programme. She’s a technologically advanced boat offering daily learning opportunities, combining speed and long-range capabilities as a high-performance cruising sloop.
On the 2nd of March, we embarked on our journey from Genoa, facing a strong wind of up to 35 knots in the Lion Gulf, and after covering 900 NM, we arrived in Gibraltar on the 6th of March. Following a few days of organising for the crossing, we warmly welcomed our guests onboard. On the 14th of March, our course was set for the Caribbean, and after navigating 3500 NM, we dropped anchor in Fort de France Bay, Martinique. The crossing was safe and, most of the time, in light wind. Despite damage to the mainsail near Cape Verde, we persevered, using the trysail to reach our final destination of Martinique. After a few days of repair and refuelling, we resumed our voyage, engaging in coastal cruising for three weeks, exploring the beautiful Caribbean islands.
Departing from Saint Martin on the 30th of April, we braved 1500 NM, facing 4/5 meters waves and an intense low-pressure system on our wake, skilfully navigating to reach Newport, Rhode Island, US, on the 7th of May. Now, anchored in front of the proud Newport Yacht Club, our vessel, Canova, has undergone maintenance, receiving a new mainsail. As we anticipate the second part of our 2023 program, which includes Maine, Nova Scotia, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Ocean, our spirits remain high, ready for the next thrilling chapter of our journey.
We try to have at least eight crew during long passages with guests and six/seven for coastal cruising. The chef and stewardess are more dedicated to the guest but can also participate in watches during long passages.
During our cruise and technical stops, I’ve had limited time ashore for various tasks such as guest transfers, provisioning, and shopping. Occasionally, we’ve had the opportunity to spend a half or full day exploring certain places like Gibraltar, Dominique, Antigua, St. Barth, and Newport. Despite the scarcity of these opportunities, I appreciate them. To ensure fairness, the crew follows a rotation system where each member gets one month off every three or four months, depending on their role. I took advantage of this system and went home from mid-May to mid-June, but everyone has the freedom to choose how and where they spend their time.
So much time at sea overwhelms you with many stunning colourful images, landscapes and emotions that sometimes you forget the gorgeous places you’ve visited. The unforgettable places I visited are the Rock of Gibraltar with its funny monkeys, the wild beaches of Dominique, the breathtaking Hansons Bay in Antigua, where you can meet swimming pigs and Colombier Beach in St. Barth, where you can swim with sea turtles.
During these initial months on board, I encountered no unexpected surprises. While occasional failures are anticipated, their timing and nature remain uncertain. A strong crew relationship is essential for maintaining morale and easing the job’s challenges, yet it’s crucial to acknowledge that nothing is fool proof. As we embark on this lengthy sailing journey, preparedness for the unexpected is vital, and adaptability becomes key when aspects of the program require adjustments for repairs, transforming changes into opportunities. So far, our plans remain uncompromised by any unforeseen circumstances.
In the last months on board, we had a great time with the crew despite facing many stressful situations and tiring, long passages. One of my favourite moments is when all the crew meet in the mess to cheer for another goal reached. When we landed in Martinique, it was a very short celebration but very special as it was the first Atlantic crossing for some of the crew.
I love swimming and getting some training on board when it is possible. It is tough to find the time with a busy day-by-day routine, but usually, you find yourself doing it at sunrise, and suddenly, it becomes an extraordinary moment to recharge your body and mind. I also love to explore on land and meet locals and, nevertheless, sailing times.
The most important aspect of this kind of job, particularly when undertaking a long journey, is finding your balance between all the limitations and the great opportunities. Strike a balance with your team and respect their space and time. Reenergise constantly to face all the challenges and experiences this hard job can present and continue learning as much as possible. Balance is essential to not getting bored or annoyed by this job. It is different according to your age, family, character and many other factors but if you find a good one then all the time far from home will last only a minute, but you will feel all the path you have done as an incredible achievement. No matter how exhausted I am, this feeling pushes me forward to the next adventure with the same energy and curiosity as when I first stepped on a sailing boat.
As he continues his journey, Francesco remains committed to learning, growing, and making the most of every opportunity that comes his way. Stay tuned for updates on Francesco’s journey around the world.