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Riva Days in Trieste

Keeping up maintenance of a Riva reaps its own rewards, like in a highlight-filled three-day summer sail across the Adriatic Sea

We have kept our classic 1965 Riva Super Florida, Severina on the beautiful cool waters of Lake Como in northern Italy for many years. While one can never have too much of this amazing lake, occasionally it is nice to stretch Severina’s legs on a different piece of water and take part in a rally organised under the auspices of the Riva Historical Society or ASDEC (the Italian Classic Boat Association) which we have undertaken at various places including Monaco, Aix-les-Bains, Viareggio, Lago di Garda, Lago Maggiore, and even Venice. This year the main RHS meeting was held in Trieste in the very northeastern corner of Italy on the Slovenia border. The itinerary looked promising, so we decided to splash out and take part in the fun.

Our 1965 Riva Super Florida is 6.27m-long and weighs 1,240kg, making it just too big to be towed behind a car and therefore necessitating it being transported on its original factory cradle by truck. This is not an inexpensive exercise and the event being over four days meant that the lorry driver had to make the round trip to the Adriatic port twice.

It was worth every cent, though I had my doubts on the first afternoon when Severina was lifted off the lorry and launched by crane at the Cantiere San Rocco in Muggia some 5km from our mooring to be, at the Molo Venezia in the Marina San Giusto in Trieste.

The wind was blowing swiftly into my face as I gunned the engine to escape the narrow launching point fearing that I might be blown against the harsh concrete walls and damage the beautiful delicate timber of my precious vessel. I had no worries though, as the 220 hp V8 engine responded immediately and I moved out into the water rough enough to make me wear an obligatory life jacket.

Hunkered down behind the windscreen in the drizzle on my own checking my phone to locate a mooring I had never accessed before, I was glad knowing that my craft was maintained properly and in tiptop condition. While maintenance of any boat is a necessity, with a wooden boat, perhaps like a classic car, it is imperative that the upkeep is on an ongoing basis. The original engine requires servicing more regularly than a modern engine, and the hull needs to be stored in the right conditions – one simply cannot just leave a Riva in the water for the summer, but it needs to be taken out of the water after use. Saltwater can be a killer and the sun on the varnished decks can cause serious deterioration very quickly. A Riva in good condition will have some 12 to 14 layers of Stoppani varnish and every few years it is necessary to replace a couple of coats to maintain a pristine finish. Severina is in splendid order, having had a recent overhaul mechanically and cosmetically two seasons previously at Lazarri, one of the best yards on the Italian lakes for the care and proper maintenance of Rivas.

I reaped the benefits the very next morning. The wide expanse of the Adriatic Sea was as still and calm as it is possible to be. On Day One, we headed south – a long run of 40km for an al fresco lunch at Porto Anfora. The rundown was on the open seas but then part of the return journey was interestingly through the channels of the Grado Lagoon, a striking nature reserve, its marsh land reminiscent of the outer reaches of the Venetian Lagoon 160km away, its beauty interspersed with the occasional fisherman’s hut on an isolated islet. The inland channel led back out to sea where we returned back to our mooring, our crew all sun and sea-salt tired but grinning from ear-to-ear after a fast-paced run home across the undulating mirror of water.

Saturday was just as fair, and once again the water like glass. After a quick briefing, the excitement on our boat was palpable as we headed northeast, sitting up high looking across the shining foredeck towards a new country – soon we were in Slovenian waters. The flotilla of 15 Rivas; Junior; Florida; Super Florida; Ariston; Olympic; and the big twin-engined Aquarama and Super Aquarama; spread across the water in echelon, spray flying, the deep, burbling engines quickly carrying us 25km to the Bay of Portorose, and past the colourful houses and picturesque church of the town of Pirano, a major seaside attraction on the short coast of Slovenia, which soon became the coast of neighbouring Croatia right in front of us. A quick dip in the warm blue Adriatic waters, a picnic and then home again to Trieste made for another highlight in a trip of highlights.

The next day, the weather was not so kind but that was okay, as I had to help judge the assembled classic cars in front of the Savoia Excelsior Palace Hotel along the front, our Riva Days meeting being run in conjunction with the Italian Historic Automobile Association (ASI). Judging duties over (it was hard to look past just one of the two surviving 1935 Balilla Furgoncino), it was a rush down to Severina with my fellow judge and his friends for the grand parade in the harbour with crews dressed in the chosen theme of the poster artists, Dudovic, Metlicovitz et al of the inter-war years of Trieste.

That evening, in blazer and tie at the Hotel Savoia it was prize giving time, where no one left empty handed and our ten-year-old son, Jack helped hand out the goodies. At the end of a wonderful weekend, Severina was hauled and made the journey back to her home on deep Lake Como.