His name is Tonco, maybe the writing could be Tonko, with the K, but phonetically the name remains the same. You see the smoke of his cigarette before seeing him, he keeps it always alighted in the corner of his mouth and, showing a promptness for an inborn politeness and education, he pulls out from his lips and moves from one hand to the other when you approach to talk to him. He immediately apologizes, regretting to bother you with the smoke, but after , unconsciously, as soon as the first is ended he lights another: a vicious vestal hidden inside Dalmatian captain.
Proudly he states that his birthplace is in Selve Island, just a little after Lussino Island. – There are buried my parents – point out Tonco and showing us the navigational chart which is in front of us, and indicating the favorable eastern shelter of his Island. Then he add: “therefore during summer time I come down from Ossero up to here to visit them, and then I proceed for Cherso and ..He continues speaking in dialect “I stop in this bay , which is known to very few people, out of the mess, sorry madam, and the noise of the tourists” – then he better explain “You do not hear radio or other confusion, it is for the relax, wright?”
He quits for few minutes his apprentices and came aboard as he promised, to tell me the secrets of the cruising in Dalmatian island chain. We are seated in the dinette and we have open in front of us, the navigational charts of Istria, Quarnaro and Dalmatia. Tonco draws with a pencil, some rings and arrows to point out, to me only, the places where is more safe to moor overnight, or the places where could be good for a short stop to bath, and finally the havens on which it was unwise to let go the anchor if you want after to weight it to leave.
Since many years, Tonco moves in and lives in Pola. His father was the harbor master of that important port, he conveys to him all his knowledge and secrets of the stumbling block and islands, starting from the higher point of Istria and after crossing the Quarnaro, proceeding down along the Adriatic sea.
“Every place is different and the winds turn…you have to know … and try”. Tonco speaks the old dialect of those places, I do not even know if I have written it properly, even if I have often heard it in the ports of Rovigno and Parenzo, where old fishermen were talking while they were repairing their fishnet.
Where I live many persons confuse their dialect with the one of Trieste, but this is not correct because it would means to confuse the two dialect of Marano against the one of Grado. A tremendous sin for the coastal communities because in spite the fact that basically they are all associated with “Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia” they differ because of the large number of contaminations suffered on the last few centuries.
Tonco was coming to Grado to instruct the drifters of the “470” and “Europa”, and without any shame or snobbish reluctance, he was confessing that he uses the motor boat only to go fishing. For some years he tried to improve his incoming by doing the skipper for yacht owners but “for, either they know nothing, or they know very little but they say that they know everything”
“If you go to Cherso, never cross diagonally the Quarnaro, not even in summer with the good weather. Come up sheltering and then cut closer. When you reach to Unie, do not ever enter in the port but moor in this valley on the Est of the island. In this bay there is a dock, stay in roadstead it is better. When you reach this point, stay off and be careful to the cliff, some are not marked”.
Ten minutes are not passed yet and in my navigational charts there are a quite numerous signals marked by Tonco. They are precious rings that I will never rub out, even if, with his innate modesty and practical sense, suddenly he says: “You must try alone to understand”.
Suddenly he remembers his duty with the apprentices and stand up to go but at the door he stop and adds: “For your this year summer holidays what I signed is more than enough”.
“Some people dream to cross the Atlantic, others would like to compete in America Cup with a trimaran, and others would pay a lot to win the Barcolana, I am simply satisfy to check all the ring and arrows that Tonco has drown in my maps. And finally as Tonco would have said: “You need to try!”.