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                           Text and pictures from the book "THE SAILING SHIPS OF CAMOGLI"  SAGEP Editions, Genoa 1987, 
                           at the care of Capt. Pro Schiaffino, Director of the Maritime Museum Gio Bono Ferrari of Camogli.

he paintings in the Maritime Museum constitute a detailed reconstruction of the whole of the sailing history of Camogli, the "City of the Thousand White Sailing Vessels".

The everyday work of the Captains and sailors of Camogli created a fleet which has shown how application, skill and favourable circumstances can obtain well-being and comfort for an entire community and not just a minority.

The shipowners of Camogli took advantage of the high freight costs at the time of the French campaign in Algieria to strengthen their fleet.

Many Captains-used their savings and those of their families to become shipowners themselves and many sailors invested part of their pay and earnings on portage or “Paccotiglia" to buy shares of part ownership or even eighths of shares in the ships they sailed on. With the profits they made on these shares they paid for their sons to study to become sea captains, thereby raising their own status and that of their neighbourhood. These favourable circumstances were repeated during the Crimean War. Sometimes the cost of freight for one voyage was enough to pay for the vessel.

Of course it could be a very risky business, but as Cavour said, “those devils from Camogli were a guarantee of safe passage”. The cause of this improvement in living conditions is partly to be expIained by the people's natural leaning to the sea, and also by the geographical location of the place, the sea being practically an obligatory choice due to the lack of overIand communications.

In this settlement cut off from the rest of the world a shake of the hand was enough to seal a contract. The family network was a further guarantee. The shipowner entrusted the ship to his son, his son-in-law, his brother, and everybody worked together for the success of the voyage.

The best part of the profits went into building a house or villa, but this was always in the town, so that everbody could see and judge. And every house, and every villa might carry the name of a sailing vessel or a voyage.

This solidarity is expressed in a regulation of the Mutua Assicurazione Camogliese (Camogli Mutual Insurance), founded in 1853, the first in Italy and perhaps in the world ''The Captain commanding the vessel must be from Camogli"; almost a distinction, a guarantee of professional standards, skill and success.

That Camogli had reached a position of distinction is witnessed by the fact that a theatre was built a symbol not merely of well-being but also of culture. This is also demonstrated by a piece of information supplied by an English book of notices to seamen, dating from the beginning of the twentieth century: "Camogli can be recognized by night because it is lit by electricity". In fact, it was the only town on the Riviera to have the new and expensive ele!ctric lighting.

After the pink we have the other types of sailing vessel: the bombard, evocative of wartime and defence the strong and agile brigs which at one time almost-completely prevailed over all other types of sailing vessel in Camogli, seeing that of all the vessels listed h the Camogli Mutual Insurance in 1853 125 out of 145 were brigs. And lastly the barque the favourite vessel of Camogli seafarers, capable of good speed with a following wind or slack winds but also able to make good headway to windward.

In the evolution of sailing vessels we must also remember the schooner, which the Camogli sailors called the "barco bestia", a corruption of the English "best bark", for it was indeed the best bark, simple, fast with its big fore-and aft sails, able to go to windward, quick to put about, swift and nervous as a foal.

This vessel, we might say, was the type that put up the longest fight against the irresistible advance of the steamships.

The paintings are by various artists, some of whom are famous, such as Nicolas Camilleri, Domenico Gavarone, Angelo Arpe and Vincenzo Liuzzo.

It is remarkable how in nearly all the paintings there is an extremely precise depiction of both standing and running rigging. Even the tackle belaying pins and tacks show a degree of detail suggesting such a knowledge of the subject that one is forced to conclude that the artist was a sailor first and then a painter.

The dates and characteristics of the sailing vessels have been obtained through researches, especially in the registers of the Registro Italiano Navale for the years 1865, 1879 and 1890, which are in the Museum. For the year 1865 there are 1.274 vessels recorded, which is clearly only a part of those that existed.

The Mutual Insurance companies fixed the value of vessels using their own surveyors. The only dimensions supplied are the register tonnage, that is the tonnage calculated from the product of the three principal dimensions, deck length, maximum internal width between the second deck planking and the depth from the floor-plate hook to the underneath of the upper deck planking minus the thickness of the floor ceiling divided by 3.80 (Article 18 of the Regulations for the Construction and Classification of wooden Vessels) and finally the draught expressed in French feet, equivalent to 32.5 cm.

The degree of a vessel's seaworthiness is expressed in decimal fractions. 1.00 is the unit ascribed to vessels meriting 100% seaworthiness. The fractions 0.85, 0.75, 0.65 and 0.50 are used to express the seaworthiness of vessels which fall between the maximum degree and that off mediocrity. Other information has been collected from the Museum's Lloyd Registers for the years 1902 and 1909.
Vessels bought second-hand in Great Britain were almost always registered at Lloyd's, but several Liguria built vessels were also by Lloyd's registered.

The numbers of the insurance pennants and the insured values were obtained from the various lists of sailing vessels belonging to the Mutua Assicurazione Marittima Camogliese for the years 1853, 1862, 1880 and 1881, and to the Mutua Cristoforo Colombo for 1907. All these records are held in the Museum. It is interesting to note the depreciation in the value of vessels between 1853, 1862 and 1880. Research into the sailing vessels, especially those of the early nineteenth century, was extremely difficult. This was also due the numerous vessels, Captains and owners with the same names.

This work is only dedicated to supply information and documentations without any commercial purpose. We do not sell neither we can give permission to copy images, texts, pictures, postcards, duplications of the site content, that remains property of the respective owners also when not explicitly cited.

This book is dedicated to the shipowners, captains and sailors of the glorious period of sailing history.

 Capt. Pro Schiaffino
Director of the Maritime Museum Gio Bono Ferrari of Camogli



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