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May 2004

Article selected from our quarterly magazine dedicated to the largest and most luxurious boats with information, interviews, technical articles, images and yachting news



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Article by
Franca Urbani

"CROCE DEL SUD" (Southern Cross)

We are in La Spezia in the Beconcini shipyard talking to Sergio Gugielmone, Captain of the Southern Cross which is currently here undergoing repairs and repainting. The captain has kindly invited us into the chartroom, outside there is a 30 knot, south westerly gale blowing and it seems as though we are at sea during a storm.

Are you originally from Liguria and does sailing run in your family?

I was born in Bocca di Magra. My father bought a trawler and I started helping out on the trawler when I was about 13. I was born a fisherman and I then became a sailor, next an officer and then finally a captain. In Bocca di Magra there were not many other alternatives, it was either fishing or sailing.

Where did you study? What about your career?

I have always put my family first: as young boy I helped my father at work , when I was 24 I got married and I started leading boats for a living. In the meantime I was studying to become a captain which I did in Genoa in 1968. From then on I sailed on cargoships which is where you really learn to sail professionally. Life in particular on containerships is stressful because of the pressure of running to tight schedules. I've also been arrested twice, the first time was in Bengasi while we were pumping salt water from the double hull. Towards the end of the pumping the salt water became rusty in colour and the Libyans charged us on the grounds of polluting the water. The Second time was in Tripoli because of our flag. The Libyans charged us as they found it offensive that our flag was higher then theirs was. I was able to get out of trouble in both cases thanks to my quick thinking. Anyway I love my job and I wouldn't change it for any other.

Which are the main characteristics of "Southern Cross"?

Southern Cross is a family boat which was made by from a love of the sea. From 1933 up to the present day it has been in the same hands. I think that only the yacht "Britannia" breaks this record. It is a typical three- masted schooner. This means that a third mast has been added to the typical two-mast schooner giving an extra sail that helps to better harness the wind.

This has probably been the choice of the owner and of the designer. The structure is made of iron, the interior is in mahogany, the deckhouse and the steerage are made of teak and the mast is made of spruce. In the interior, from the mast to the prow there is the captains cabin, the kitchen and the crew's cabins with room for 10 persons, on top naturally there are the bathrooms. From the mast to the stern there are 5 guest cabins and the lounge. On the main deck towards the prow there is a small sitting room bar overlooking the sea, at the stern there is the chartroom with navigation equipment.

In the stern there is also the open wheel area as is typical with this kind of boat. The deck is spacious (8 m in width) and there are dining tables in the open, a "Boston Whaler", a tender, and an old lifeboat. The Southern Cross is designed to sail downwind and due to the kind of sail, it doesnt constrain the wind too much, it hasn't any sailing problems and can be classified as an oceanic going craft.

Which are your favourite routes?

My favourite route is the Mediterranean in general. In particular I like: Croatia, between the new destinations because it is still a place where even in the middle of August it is possible to find a cove to have a swim on your own. Greece still has some quiet bays, the Balearics are lively ; Sardinia is wonderful, especially in the west from Cagliari to the island of Asinara. Turkey is beautiful and quite isolated. The beauty of the Mediterranean is in its colours and in the variety of beaches, rocky and sandy alike, making each corner unique and picturesque. Moreover there is not just the possibility to go swimming but it is also possible to visit a lot of historic and archaeological sites.

How about your cooking onboard?

Vegetables, fresh fruit and fish purchased locally and cooked with Mediterranean care.

Which trip you would still like to do?

I would like to make an Atlantic crossing on the "Southern Cross". If you think that Christopher Colombo crossed the Atlantic Ocean on a simple 16m vessel without any equipment, I'd like to do the same kind of journey on the Southern Cross just for my own personal satisfaction. In this way I would like to crown my career as Captain and I could then retire with my small boat in Bocca di Magra.

Which other boat do you would like to command besides to the Southern Cross?

Only the Southern Cross I couldn't wish for a better boat than the Southern Cross.

How about your worst adventure?

We were going to Marseille from Genoa with a Messina container, when two illegal immigrants, onboard a cargoboat, threw themselves in the sea. It was not easy to recover them because of the height of the sides of the ship. As matter of fact we had to lower the main door to sea level and let them ride in on a wave, tied to a rope and to the lifejackets we had thrown to them.

And your favourite memory?

Passing through the Faraglioni (and other difficult passages) is a personal satisfaction that one takes pleasure and satisfaction in completing successfully. Nobody asks you to do these kind of things, experience is the only way to learn at sea, as in life. Maybe second to this is being humble enough to learn.

How could you summarize the life of a superyacht captain?

Motor yachts have a big bureaucratic part to them, a lot of paperwork and organisation comes with them. I'm lucky because I can change and go on a sailboat where I can be a sailor and have some fun, during the cruise and during the meetings of "Vele d'Epoca".

What kind of rapport is there between you and the ship owner?

Marvellous, we have a trust based relationship. We collaborate working on behalf of the "Southern Cross".

And the crew?

With this type of boat it's really important to have experienced sailors not only to sail under any condition but also to be able to maintain the boat. At the moment I'm really lucky to have a great crew, and in particular the boatswain is irreplaceable. He used to be captain of an ocean going fishing boat, and sailed in the Read Sea, the Persian Gulf, along the Terranova Coast and around Senegal


Name: Sergio
Surname: Guglielmone
Age: 64
Nationality: Italian
Education: Padrone Marittimo Technical College, first year (evening classes) Sailing experience: Since he was 14 (when he left high school) he sailed as ship's boy and sailor on sail boats such as Motosailor and regatta yachts of 1st and 2nd classes. Up to 27 two years of sailing sports on the Navys Artica II and Stella Mattutina. At 28 he achieved the title of maritime Captain, starting his merchant navy career on ferries and containerships of "I: Messina & C." Company, Genoa; up until he was 33 he worked as first deck officer. At 33 he started working on Mediterranean routes still with "I: Messina & C.", Genoa, sailing along the North African coast to Turkey, the Read Sea, the Canary islands, West Africa, Nigeria, until he was 40 (1980). In June 1980 he started working as captain on the Southern Cross. He still works on the same boat and has done so for the last 24 years.
Flag: Italian
Boat details: three-masted schooner, length 42 m, width 7,80 m, draught 5m - speed 10 knots. Designer, Shipyard Martinolich, Builder Shipyard Martinolich (Lussinpiccolo) JU
Favourite Port: Porto Cervo
Winter Base: La Spezia, "Porto Lotti"
Favourite route: Mediterranean, Greece, Turkey , The Balearics, Croatia
What development in the world of yachting has most impressed you and why? the building of new, large Superyacht, has created a more professional environment within the pleasure craft field because of the presence of people with a merchant background This has improved safety within the superyacht sector in which there are involved many lovers of sailing... but not real sailors.
Worst experience: the rescue of two survivors near the Genoa Coast;
Most memorable experience: the passage between the two points called "the faraglioni" of Lipari (they are named "the two policeman") going east at sunset, with the sun setting between the faraglioni that gave a red glow to the Italian flag of the Southern Cross.
What do you think is your role as captain and of the environment in which you operate? The sea is one natures great forces, Captains firstly, have to feel respect and humility towards the sea because the art of sailing is as always being a sailor.