In Venice, a Young Boatman Steers a Course of His Own
By NANCY JACOBS
Published: February 19, 1989
VENICE, Italy, February 16— The young boatman of the Venice tourist-cruising fleet steered his vessel into the lagoon of the Grand Canal on Thursday morning and came to the end of his three-week journey.
With his bare hands, he set about a perilous task: cutting away the old and rotten planks of the floating-bridge that spanned his vessel’s hull and carrying, piece by piece, the structure across the grizzled waterway that so recently must have seemed the safest passage to the Venetian lagoon.
The vessel in which he had spent nearly two weeks, the Venezia Grande, had sunk into the lagoon, and the young man, Giuseppe Cristofani, a 19-year-old Italian citizen, and two friends were pursuing the impossible task of retrieving her–a task made more difficult by the two-mile-long, 400-foot-long canal itself. After cutting down some of the planks, Cimpo, as the Italian cruiser is called, had to carry the structure across the lagoon, under the watery surface, to its destination.
A few hours earlier, a day after the accident, the vessel had hit a small rock and sunk in the basin of the lagoon, leaving only the stern of the bridge and the cabin on board, with a few planks and the sailors’ chests thrown overboard.
”I am very happy and proud to know that I did not leave my friends behind,” the young man said after emerging from the dark waters of the lagoon early Thursday morning. He was clad only in a light red shirt and black tights, with no shoes or hat to indicate that he