Italy to Croatia

Kevin GouldingGeneral

Associazione Gommonauti Pordenonesi
Pordenone to Umag

Associazione Gommonauti PordenonesiAssociazione Gommonauti Pordenonesi known as the AGP for short is one of the most active RIB Clubs in Italy. The city of Pordenone straddles the crystal clear emerald green waters of the river Noncello which runs from the Italian Alps to the Adriatic Sea.

Our programme was to join up with other RIBs arriving from several corners of Europe for the 34th Gommonata Europea, a planned three day RIB raid from Pordenone to Umag in Croatia, via the Laguna Di Caorle, with an outgoing overnight stop at Bibione for refuelling and refreshment.

We, that is Peter Zurrer, an international member of the British RIB Club BIBOA, committee member of the German RIB Club ASC, and myself set out from Zurich in the early evening of Weds 15 Sept. with Peter’s “Highlander”, a 6.8m Ribcraft in tow. After clearing the St Gotthard Tunnel we continued south down the valley for an overnight stop just prior to the Italian border, to ensure we missed the early morning commuter traffic going to Milan.

Associazione Gommonauti Pordenonesi

The Original Plan – Adriatic Crossing

After a leisurely drive, we arrived, as the very first RIB, at Pordenone by mid-afternoon, Thursday 16 Sept. Greeted by the chief organiser Gaetano Solarino it started to rain. Looking towards the sky it was simply said “well this is Pordenone after all…!” It was not long before the AGP team arrived on the scene and RIBs began appearing from every direction. As the well-organised routine of craning in each RIB and parking up the trailers got underway, the party mood began. Gazebos were suddenly erected and tables laid out with complimentary wine, cheeses, cold meats and bbq continental sausages. It wasn’t long before everyone was meeting up with old acquaintances and making new friends.

On Friday morning, after the RIBs which had arrived overnight were launched, proceedings began. As is the Italian way, some 30 mins of speeches preceded a blessing to all those taking part in the event by the local bishop. Then at 11:30 am, after the cutting of the starting ribbon, the tour got underway in light drizzle. Just an omen of the rain yet to come.

The fleet arrived at Bibione around 6 pm for refuelling, an evening gala dinner and an overnight stay. It was while we enjoyed ourselves that the weather began to turn. The following morning weather reports were grim for the trip across the Adriatic. Indeed, with a worsening forecast, the organisers took the difficult but prudent decision to cancel the crossing. However, not to be downhearted, the organisation quickly arranged for the hire of two coaches to bus the full contingent from Bibione to Umag via Slovenia followed by entry into Croatia.

We arrived in the pouring rain and checked in at the “Sol Stella Maris”, home to the famous ATP Croatia Open with its tennis school and 15 tennis courts. Following a late lunch, the afternoon was free to explore, which enabled some of us to visit the port of Umag some 2km away. The sea looked calm in the bay but close scrutiny of the waves out at sea and the condition of the sky warned of some severe weather to come.

An evening of thunderstorms, lightning bolts and pouring rain soon had the streets running like rivers. With no let-up overnight, it was not possible to depart the following morning. We and our transport were confined to barracks for several hours until the local police gave the all-clear that we could proceed on the road. Departing Umag it was sobering to see cars submerged and houses flooded on the banks of the river. Debris was all along the roads as we proceeded to the motorway, only to be turned back as this had also been closed. Another attempt to cross the border into Slovakia was also thwarted when we were turned back by the border police.

The AGP Team

Eventually, a 120km diversion across the Croatian peninsula (Umag – Opatjia) enabled us to head north back into Italy to be greeted with glorious sunshine and blue skies and then onto Bibione to pick up the RIBs for a late afternoon ‘sprint’ back to Pordenone before nightfall. Photo opportunities were few and far between in this ever-changing scenario.

Credit for the exceptional re-organisation of the programme as events unfolded must go to AGP, the organisers, with many thanks for all their hard work. Congratulations to Gaetano Solarino and his team for turning a disaster into a lifetime experience.