In the late 70’s, I was Chief Engineer at Magnum Marine, on Thunderboat Row. It would be hard to find a better job for someone like me. Although one of the owners was somewhat cool toward me (she hated me), the other loved me, and I loved him. Most anyone who knew Filippo Theodoli regarded him as a gentleman, and in fact, he was a Marchese in Italy. I don’t know how one becomes a Marchese, or what it is, but I can tell you that it swings some weight over there. I did the Genoa Boat Show five times with the Theodolis, and it was obvious that he had a great deal of clout. He was handsome, fun, honest, an excellent boat handler and bon vivant. Most every night after the show, we went to the Old Port of Genoa for dinner. We went to a very old restaurant, called “Mario”, that had been a restaurant for 800 years, and Mario for 500. It was just behind the Maritime Office, which was the same office where Columbus signed out when he sailed for Spain and the New World.
We called Filippo “Ted”, his U.S. nickname. At Mario, the Theodoli family had bottles of Blackberry Brandy of immense age, with a little chain and Theodoli family crest on each bottle. Most of the patrons greeted Ted with some degree of reverence. Ted was a dreamer. Before Magnum, he had been a boat dealer on the “shin” of Italy, and was responsible for selling a couple dozen 49’ Diesel powered Cary Marine boats. He took the boats as empty, running hulls, with engines, drive gear, fuel tanks etc. Each one was fully functional, with no interior whatsoever. Later, I learned the reason for this. Italian craftsmen are second to none when it comes to fine finishing of carpentry, upholstery, polished stainless steel, etc. Ted’s clients included both the Agnelli brothers and the cream of the Italian boating scene.
We carried on that concept after Ted purchased Magnum Marine from Don Aronow. I was in charge of building the first 53’ Magnum, and after thorough testing, shipped the bare, running hull to Genoa for fluffing by the Italians. This involved offloading the Magnum in the Old Port of Genoa, and driving it to Marina Carlo Riva, in Rapallo, twenty or thirty miles south of Genoa. The boat was descended upon by Artisans, who did a great job of preparing the boat for upcoming Genoa boat Show (La Fiera), at Piazzale Kennedy. I had done dozens of boat shows, including New York, Paris, London, Monaco and others, but I was hardly prepared for Genoa. There were fifty or sixty yachts over 100 feet, with some much larger. This is where it gets interesting. With a billion dollars worth of boats and yachts on display, the show management HAD NO EQUIPMENT TO PLACE THE BIG YACHTS INSIDE THE BEAUTIFUL HALLS. Yacht builders around the Mediterranean Sea partially finished their craft (always late, it’s an Italian thing) and launched the big boats with the work cradle still attached, and roped tightly to the hull. They motored or towed to the boat show site, where the real fun began. I watched a 100+ foot long Bennetti, built in Viarregio, 60 or 70 miles south of Genoa, arrive at the giant sloping launching ramp. At this point, a simple farm tractor arrived at the top of the ramp and strung out a thick steel chain. The big boat was pushed into position by a couple of small tugs, and hooked to the chain. On some sort of signal, about fifty Italian boat yard workers showed up with a hundred or so greased boards and proceeded to slide them under the front end of the work cradle as the tractor started backward up the ramp and took up the slack in the chain. Like something one might see in an historical movie, they added greased boards as necessary and slid that big mother several hundred yards into “Padglione A” where all the big ones would be. Believe it or not, that was the easy part!
Now, the beautiful yacht was in its proper location for the show, but it was sitting on a nasty work cradle. Behind the yacht was a partially assembled show cradle, painted to match the yacht, and beautiful. I foolishly waited for the big lift to pick up the yacht. Didn’t happen. Instead, another fifty boat yard workers showed up with mechanical jacks that one might use to move a large house or building. Under the supervision of the Capo, each man went to his assigned position and placed his jack under a special spot on the bottom of the yacht. Some of the jacks were lashed to a jack straight across from them, some were not. On signal, the men slowly started jacking up the yacht, while quietly humming or singing a beautiful tune, used to keep them coordinated. In about an hour, the yacht was clear of the work cradle, which was now partially disassembled. The workers slid the remains of the work cradle out, and slid the beautiful show cradle in. Another round of music, and the proud ship was ready for the final touches. I was awestruck. With my extremely limited Italian, I asked the Capo if they ever had an accident. In perfect English, he said “Are you s******g me? Not since this morning!”