Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sailing to Venice and Anchoring in the Venice Canals

Here is the route to the Anchorage off Burano.
Like so often before we set sail for Venice without a clue.

We could find nothing on the internet to help us plan our trip.  The materials we had on the boat did not say anything about anchoring in or near Venice once we got there.  

All we knew was that there had to be a way to get to Venice and drop an anchor.  Since marinas close to Venice were charging €80 a night and up there just had to be a way.

There was.

Along our journey we engaged in a SSB conversation with a sailor who was returning from Venice.  With a bit of finesse we cadged some rough and ready instructions.  The instructions were wrong in all but one very important detail: the coordinates for one of the most advantageous anchorages near Venice.  

Thus armed we invaded the lagoon system: a vast expanse of mud thinly covered with water but cut through and crisscrossed with large navigable canals.  Here is everything you need to know to have a fantastic visit to Venice aboard your own sailboat.

To begin: it is easy.

Where to anchor: Just North of the island of Burano 

Coordinates:  45 29.30N
                    012 25.32E

With a half decent chart any enterprising sailor will find his way on this bit of info alone.  It puts you in a quiet(ish) anchorage in a canal close the island of Burano, well worth a visit on its own.  Burano has a ferry dock and by ferry you are one half hour from Venice.

The other important thing to know: the takeaway pizza place on the main concourse of Burano makes fabulous pizza.  The calzones not so much.

For those who fret the following will give you something to work away on while you make your approach.

Getting There

A Straight Shot from Dalja to Venice
From mid July to end August likely a motor job
Because the east coast of Italy is so uninviting we took the opportunity to use the anchoring facilities of Albania, Montenegro and Croatia.  This worked incredibly well for Albania and Montenegro.  

Entry to Croatia is very dear (minimum $400) and the anchorages, while plentiful, are of poor holding, consisting mainly of rock tables without even crevices in which your anchor can lodge its pick.  The government officials have all been trained by Nazis and suffer numerous personality flaws.

Still weather in summer is pretty much settled and for all the bitching and carping the idea was sound.

We mainly motored North through the islands of Croatia to Novi Grad and staged to Venice from a small anchorage just north of there at Dalja.  The Adriatic is only fifty miles across at this latitude so the trip from Croatia to Italy was a daytrip.  

What Do You Do When You Get to Venice

How to Find the Main Entrance to Venice Canal

Entering Venice lagoon at the main entrance you sail a mile or two into the canal and then take the first right (or first turn to starboard or first canal running North, however you like to hear it).  

When we did this there was a lot of construction going on right at the intersection of the main canal and the canal onto which you wish to turn.  A temporary channel, narrow but well marked, was in place.  Do this in daylight as the channel is intricate and the buoys are not all lighted.

Time you arrival around the tides.  You want to come in not much more than an hour after high tide.  You will get a nice push from water still moving into the canals from the tidal flow.  

Conversely you will leave at low tide or just after.  We left our anchorage two hours after low tide and still had a two knot push out the canals and into the Adriatic.  

I would hate to have to fight the tide.

The collection of islands that is Venice is situated in the middle of a big salt marsh.  Various other islands, not close enough to the Venetian outcropping to be part of the inner city, have been urbanized and are fully built up.  The town of Murano, home of all that marvellous Murano glassware, is an example.  Murano is one island full of houses and glass furnaces.  
Burano is another island town.  Burano is famous for its hand made lace and linen products.  It is a postcard perfect small town just waiting for you to pull up your boat and anchor nearby.  It has its own leaning tower.

That is what you do.  You sail to Burano and anchor.  ONce anchored you dinghy to town, tie up on a canal wall and walk to the nearby ferry where you are transported to Venice or Murano or Lido, all famous Venetian hangouts.

It is that easy.

A Note on Tides and Timing.

The Route and the GLitches, Minor as They Are

Choosing the correct entrance may be important.  We used the main entrance to avoid difficulties.  One of the entrances has a bridge with unspecified opening times and procedures and the others required mucking around in the canals which can be fairly shallow in places.  

Knowing nothing about what we were doing we simplified the process and entered at the main gates.  You cannot miss them.

There are two areas in the canals you will use where the water shallows.  In one spot I found myself in seven feet of water but that was at low tide.  Just go slow when the water shallows and keep to the centre of the canal.  There is no risk of running aground.

The bottom at Burano is good mud and despite the strong tides you will need only a single anchor. Our Meredith swung back and forth with the tides for eight days without giving up a millimetre of distance in either direction.

Take your dinghy to Burano, motor up the canals that cut through even this little town and find a place to tie up.  Walk to the ferry dock.  Ferry pass is €50 for a week and that includes all transportation in Venice.  

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