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SUPERYACHT #505
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
Fabio Petrone


G.B. SCHIAFFINO M/Y "DIONEA"

We met Captain G.B. Schiaffino in the lounge of the Dionea, Marriotti's motor yacht, currently in for repairs at a shipyard in Genoa before leaving for Cannes.

Captain, from your name we can easily understand that you are originally from Genoa

I was born in Camogli, a town of seafarers, the towns name literally means "wives house" referring to the women of the town that waited for their men who were out at sea. The role of captain has been within my family for generations, for about seven hundred years. My grandfather, G.B. Schiaffino was commodore of Lloyd Trieste and during the war he actually sunk his own boat in South Africa rather than letting it fall into the hands of the English Navy.

Where did you study and what kind of experience have you had?

I went to the Nautical Institute "C. Colombo" that has since the beginning of the nineteenth century trained sailors. Professors were like "human computers" which meant that they had a wealth of maritime knowledge, gained thanks to their experience at sea. I wanted to study languages at University, but my father sent me to work on oil tankers for five years (from 1998 to 1998).

After, I spent ten years on Costa cruise boats as first officer in charge of boat safety (from 1998 to 1998); this gave me the chance to learn to speak five different languages and to write three of them. Form 1996 I started to work on superyachts: seven years on a 40 metre Benetti and now on "Dionea" (52 metres).

Can you tell us about "Dionea"?

Dionea was a ferry. It used to sail in the Adriatic from Venice to Grado to Trieste, up to Croatian Coast; it used to transport up to 320 passengers during the weekend. The interior has been completely refurbished; it has a minimalist, stylish look that has been very successful. Dionea has been classified by the R.I.N.A in the luxury comfort class.

What have been the main changes to the boat?

The new project kept the hull, the superstructure and the original launches (now used as tenders). The interior has been completely changed: on the lower deck there are, from the centreline to the bow, the guest cabins (1 VIP cabin, 2 twin bed cabins, 2 king size cabins); from the centre to the stern there are the crews quarters with space for 9 people. On the main deck there is a lounge with a plasma TV and a bar, a dining room with room for 12 guests (the former engine room), a kitchen and an entrance area. On the upper deck there is a sunbathing area with a buffet table for 12 guests, there is the owners suite and the former radio station and post office is now the owners suite. To complete the picture there is a light colour scheme throughout the boat, soft lighting and a relaxing atmosphere. The refurbishment has reduced the amount of technical space and has allowed the inclusion of the latest technologies, for example the navigation system and double stabilizing flipper.

What are your favourite routes?

The Mediterranean! In my opinion the Mediterranean is just as good as the Caribbean. From Sardinia to Croatia there are crystal clear seas, great beaches and cliffs.

I like the Croatian coast as the sea is really beautiful and still quite quiet to places such as Cala di Volpe which are much livelier. A few years ago I went on a 52 day tour round the Italian coast by superyacht, from Genoa to Venice. I clearly remember all the places we stopped off at: Genoa, Portofino, Portovenere, Elba, Argentario, Giglio, Pontine, Ventotene, Ischia, Naples, Sorrento, Positano, Capri, Vulcano, Eolie, Gallipoli, Leuca, Brindisi, Dubrovnik, Dalmatian, Coronate, Istria, Venice. It was a great trip, tasting all sorts of different foods and visiting different cultures and climes. We started in Genoa where we ate the famous and traditional dish, Pesto, arriving finally in Venice where we ate "granseole" and in fact in each port the chef prepared, on my request, a traditional dish from that specific part of the country.

What would be your idea of a perfect trip?

A 4 month world cruise with a 70metre charter superyacht, which would be a dream!

What has been your worst adventure?

During a storm in the North Sea I lost a lifeboat. It's one of the worst seas I know. If you're lucky the sea can be quite calm but more often than not it's foggy. If you are unlucky there are waves of 5 meters high or more and if you are really unlucky there can be force 9 winds.

And you're most memorable moment?

The sighting of a shoal of dolphins with my former ship- owner and her six children.

How could you sum up a superyacht captains life?

It is a difficult and stressful life but on the other hand it lasts only from May to October.

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

We have a trust based relationship where there exists continuous dialogue about the welfare of the boat.

G.B. SCHIAFFINO M/Y "DIONEA"

Name: Giovanni Battista
Surname: Schiaffino
Age: 39:
Nationality: Italian
Education: C. Colombo Nautical College, Camogli.
Experiences as captain: 5 years on oil tankers, 10 years on Costa cruises , 7 years on superyachts.
Current position: M/Y "Dionea"
Flag: Italian
Boat details: Venice - Croatia Ferry, currently motor yacht. Length m 52 - displacement t 320 - speed 15 knots.
Interior design: "minimalist" restyling, designer Porfili (studio Cerri)
Favourite Port: Capri, Venezia, Cannes, Antibes.
Favourite route: In the Mediterranean, Venice, Croatia
What development in the world of yachting has most impressed you and why: the equalization in the status of superyachts with business boats. This has improved superyacht safety standards and staff professionalism.
Worst experience: in the North sea with the loss of a lifeboat;
Most memorable experience: The sighting of a shoal of dolphins with my former ship-owners family.
What do you think is your role as captain and of the environment in which you operate? A Captain now has to be increasingly aware when at sea, the sea is now a busier place but I think we have said all that needs to be said so far.