Taking your dinghy through the Venice canals

After last year’s exploration of the Venice lagoon (see this post), we learnt recently about pilotage inside Venice’s own canal system, with a tour in a private motor boat. With care, you could do the same in a visiting yacht’s tender.

Shout as you approach a junction....
Shout as you approach a junction….

A new set of municipal rules took effect on 1 April, though apparently some of its key provisions, such as limits on the speed of water taxis, were dropped after protests from their vociferous spokesmen.

In a nutshell, drive on the right except for one canal near Piazzale Roma in the North West which for obscure reasons has a keep to the left rule. You also keep to the oar side when you meet a gondola coming the other way, which basically means switch to the left hand side because their oars are to starboard.

When nearing a junction in a motor boat shout ‘oy-oy’ loudly, and give way to vessels coming from the right (as in the collision regulations). Before you go anywhere, make sure you can stop quickly. Keep speed right down, for the newcomer to walking pace or less. And read the little signs, because some canals are one way and others have size limits.

It turns out that there are lots of spy cameras round the canals and fines are handed out, often in the region of a hundred euros. Don’t leave your boat unattended in an empty mooring space, because they are like gold dust and you could find your stay expensive (or even face some form of direct retribution). It is hard to see any way of legally going to a restaurant by dinghy!

The Grand Canal is completely banned to outsiders, including Italians who have moorings but aren’t  residents of the island of Venice itself. But by custom at least, though we couldn’t find a rule, it is open to all on Sundays, except anywhere near the Rialto bridge (but I don’t know how near. Maybe don’t go where you can see it would be a good rule of thumb?)

There’s a strict boat licensing system for anything with an engine bigger than 10HP and fines if you don’t display the boat’s licence number. You need a personal Venice licence as well above 40 HP. With these rules, it is hard to see a reason why a small foreign yacht tender with a modest engine should not venture into the canals.

Even so, if may be  prudent to make sure the driver has an international certificate of competence and the tender displays its national ensign. Belt and braces would be to have the tender entered  on the Small Ships Register, which is possible but not likely for most cruisers. I shall enquire further about the rules, if any, for foreigners. Meanwhile, my advice is to stick to Sunday if you want to potter round in your tender. If you’re on the canals for the first time, the speed and aggression of commercial craft makes it risky on a busy weekday for the Venice novice.

PS The sight of the day last Sunday was a Briton in a kayak paddling along with a red ensign displayed on a flagstaff at the stern.

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