Life on deck
Tommaso Sagnelli, 28 year old Italian takes a life changing decision: quit his job, buy a boat and live in the port of Barcelona. Could he be the pioneer of a new lifestyle for the future generations?
Have you always had a passion for sailing?
Not so much really. I mean, I always liked the sea and the boats but I never had anyone in my family who had one except with my father-in-law Jorge.
When I would come to Barcelona to visit my girlfriend Isabella we would take a few boat rides and then last year we did the first trip from Barcelona to Mallorca, and that is where my passion sparked. At the time I was working and this whole world seemed far away to me but then this summer I decided to quit my job and I asked myself “ if you had some savings out of which you could live for three months to learn something, what do you want to do?”. The answer, it turned out, was buying a boat!
That’s a unique life choice..
It’s definitely not standard. The sailboat is great in two ways for me: it represents freedom and it gives me a lot of security. I know it’s not a house, but I like to do it my way and I’m surely learning a lot from this. Indeed, if you have to sail, you have to be at the same time a mechanic, an electrician, a carpenter and for this reason I learned more in the last three months than in the past three years.
So what are the advantages and disadvantages of living in the port of Barcelona, both economically and in terms of living?
The cool thing is that you wake up in the morning, have a coffee and you’re surrounded by water. Whatever you need to do is also just a stone’s throw away because you’re in Barcelona. The harbour is a place with a lot of life, there must be at least 200 people who live here, and I think a lot of them do it for an economic reason. Here you pay for a berth based on length: for example I pay 380€ a month with my 11 meters but there are those who live in smaller boats who pay 150 euros per month all inclusive (electricity, bathrooms).
Is there a community among you who live in the port?
Definitely. Even if the port managers don’t like it very much….
Why is that?
In my opinion, they would like people to come and have their vacations and then leave.
Even if the managers of the port don’t like it, there are a lot of international people living here full-time: portuguese, american, french.
So that’s also a good perk of living here!
Yes, that’s nice too. Because if I went to a smaller port, with fewer people, I could pay less but here everyone helps each other out, I feel really supported and often spend amazing nights with my neighbours. There’s a lot of curiosity about getting to know each other. You always know that any new friendship can then allow you to learn something new.
Here I see that there is a majority of sailboats…
Yes, 90% of the boats here are sailboats. There are three ports in Barcelona: Olimpic, Forum, which is a little further away, and Port Vela, which is the big one that specializes in super yachts.
What year is your boat from?
It’s from 1979, designed by a Swedish gentleman named Anderson.This model is 35 feet long and it’s called Vindö 50, named after an island in the Stockholm archipelago where many boat builders used to live and work. The cool thing about this boat is the fiber hull and the wood top structure. The advantage of this is that there is less maintenance and you can still keep the wood cabins.
Are there people who work from here?
Yes, I took a part-time job last month that I could easily do from my boat. Of course, you have to organize yourself well because if I wanted to work full-time I would need a Wi-Fi modem.
From a life perspective, do you miss life on shore?
Could you live this lifestyle forever?
This for me is a starting point, I’m learning to then maybe one day have another lifestyle that might even be more itinerant. Right now for me it’s like being in kindergarten. I’m learning, I’m in school. To answer your question though, I think so. In the end when one lives in symbiosis with his or her passion there is nothing more beautiful, no?
If you want to go to the sea, which are your favourite spots?
Well, I often go out here to fish. In this period there is good fishing, we have caught some nice tuna. Otherwise I go south, passing through the industrial port to get to the natural park of Garraf and right after that there is Sitges. A couple of weekends ago we did the route together with four friends and during the trip we saw dolphins. We stopped in the small port of Garraf which has mountains behind it, it was really spectacular! Otherwise you can go north to Costa Brava and if you have a little more time you can reach Mallorca or Ibiza, not bad at all.
How long does it take to get to Mallorca?
It depends on the wind, it’s about 500 miles so 20-25 hours. Usually one night is enough to reach Mallorca and from there you can go to Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera…spectacular!
So what is Tommaso Sagnelli’s typical day?
Let’s see…I wake up, check the wind and make some coffee. If it’s a nice day I drink it in the open sea! Last month, when I was working, I would get off work at two o’clock and then have lunch here or go to the bar at the port. For dinner, I usually cook the catch of the day if I’m lucky.
Are you thinking of selling your boat in the future?
I don’t. For now I’m enjoying it and I still have a lot of things I want to do. Especially from an electronic point of view, there’s nothing here, it’s like being in the 60’s, we only have a portable radio. I would like to do a modern electrical system, buy some fixed solar panels and enjoy it next summer. For now, there is no such thing as selling it. You know, I made the move to go all the way to Sweden to buy it.
A final question, do they also hold sailing competitions here in the port? And would you consider taking part in them?
Yes, if you look here there is a sailing school. Often there are regattas with typical Catalan boats called Patín Catalán. Basically they are small catamarans with only one sail and no rudder. You steer the boat with the weight of your body.
As for me, for now I see the boat as a lifestyle and not as a sport.
What I like about the sea is that it’s a bit of everything, you live it as you prefer, it makes you meditate. Personally it allows me to be completely free, grounded and connected, sensations that I feel at sea are difficult to have on the mainland.