History & Legends

Portofino, a World apart
February 2016

The Seamen

Portofino Larry Ellison Yacht

With the coming of the new State of Sardinia the Ligurian Navy, that had for centuries taught the world the craft and art of sailing, underwent a massive awakening that in a short period won back the marine economy in a talented way. In Portofino existed families who had alot of familiarity with the sea, making a real fleet, like we read in books of sea stories about the Ligurian ships. These sailing-ships were crewed, by the captain to the ship-boy, by people exclusively from Portofino, moreover it is certain that other captains and sailors were commanding the ships of the ligurian shipowners: these men were not only good navigators, but also good traders, sensing which products were to be exported, and which to be imported. The shipowners of Portofino, who were also captains of their sailing boats, worked very well with international hiring to the point that their sailing lasted for years, as long as they travelled the world transporting for foreign firms, different types of goods from one continent to another and gaining remarkable earnings that they invested in real estate and possessions that even today belong to the families of their descendants.

Other sailors and commanders, that dedicated themselves to pleasure boats, were called “lord” because the english lords were the first to own these types of boats: they were different from the others, they were very clever in the sailing regattas and they were sought after for their agility in climbing up the foremast during the regattas; this was because these people were used to climbing up the trees in the country, therefore used to the “air sensations” and beware of danger.In Portofino the shipowners were, from the last century to the beginning of the twentieth, eighteen families, whilst the numer of the ships of the “malafuera” (that is the oceanic navigation) were 24, this appeared in the list of a book titled “Capitani di mare e Bastimenti di Liguria”.


Here is the list of the ships: 1- “La Pace” – schooner, Cap. G. Battista Valle; 2- “Giulietta” – schooner, Cap. Andrea Schiaffino, shipowner Rocco Schiaffino; 3- “San Giorgio” – brig, shipowner Giuseppe Merello; 4- “Amicizia” – brig, shipowner Domenico Davegno; 5- “La Unione” – schooner, shipowner Nicole Scarsella; 6- “Papa Giovanni” – shipowner Devoto di Portofino; 7- “Gemma” – brig, shipowner Rocco Schiaffino; 8- “Sant’Antonio” – shipowner Gotuzzo; 9- “Il delfino” – brig, shipowner Emanuele Guerello; 10- “San Giorgio” – schooner, shipowner Davegno’s family; 11- “Giulia Paris” – shipowner cap. Paris; 12- “Velocifero” – Cap. Francesco Guerello, shipowner Domenico Guerello; 13- “Fratt. Janes” – Cap. Cesare Gotuzzo, shipowner G. B. Schiaffino; 14- “Nuova Gemma” – skipper, Cap. Davide Schiaffino, shipowner Antonio Schiaffino; 15- “Nostra Signora” – brig, shipowner Beraldo di Recco (with commerce in Portofino); 16- “Antonio Gotuzzo” – skipper, shipowner Gotuzzo; 17- “Gemma” – brig, shipowner Rocco Schiaffino; 18- “Elena Cordano” – skipper, shipowner G. B. Schiaffino; 19- “Trento” – skipper, shipowner Ottavio Schiaffino; 20- “Chile” – skipper, shipowner Gatuzzo; 21- “Giovanna” – schooner, shipowner Giovanni Giuffra; 22- “Regina Vincitrice” – schooner, shipowner Elia Schiaffino; 23- “Stella Polare” – ship, shipowner Elia Schiaffino; 24- “Ex Meres” – schooner, shipowner Elia Schiaffino.

The name of Captain Sanguineti deserves to be remembered by all the future generations: this daring seadog and master of navigation who was one of the “strongest” captains of that time for certain officers, not only of Portofino but all the Liguria, I’ve said it all. During his sailing, He had ploughed thirty times the oceans with a credit of fifteen “crossings” of Cape Horn in tha Pacific, and seven of Cape of Good Hope, by Maulein and Achiab. During the period that he commanded “Enrichetta Raggio“, a beautiful ship with three foremasts weighing 3000 tons, Captain Sanguineti went round the world twice, also establishing a record surpassing the speed of the biggest english iron ships, and the famous german “four foremasts”, becoming the mail carrier of the continents. In the book “Bastimenti di Liguria”, the old sailors of the “malafuera” who boasted in those times, remembered Captain Sanguineti, sailing on Cape Horn in strong winds, and behaving in a daring way with only one foremast sail and a smaller one in front: the sailors were mumbling and “moaning”: “Why’s the commander waiting to change the sails? Why doesn’t he go and tie them!”. If they hadn’t spoken it would have been better! There was a roar of orders, a calamity of God.


Captain Sanguineti with bandy legs plants himself on deck, he calls the boatswain and the guard and, between the whistling of the wind, he starts to shout: “Let loose the foremast sail, let loose the prow sail and the one in between!”: The crew, after carrying out the difficult manoeuvres, hoped for a little rest. But no such luck. That devil of man shouted again: “Pull the fore-and -aft sail and leave the bow’s sail!”. The sailors said that it was a true adventure, a desperate adventure. And woe who “Moaned”! That majestic ship, veiled in a way, that not even in the region of Brise it had hoisted so many sails, it reared up like a steed, moving with tremendous speed: the boatswain Schiappacasse, from Camogli and a “dedicated sailor”, said that the ship travelled at seventeen knots and the shrouds groaned and the sailor’s were at their wits’ end. Captain Sanguineti with a grim frown, was still hanging on with both hands to the deck railings as though he was ruling a ship: about midday an enormous sailing-boat was seen and we were on one side of it at four o’ clock in the afternoon. It was the american four mat ship “Cuba“, that sailed with only four bigger sails and, had left the same port, that “Enrichetta Raggio” had left, that is Liverpool, 12 days before, arriving at Valparaiso the destination of both, when Captain Sanguineti was already unloading since four days ago.

That crossing, carried out with an advantage of sixteen days on “Cuba“, that was a perfect timer for the north americans, struck a record that all the marine magazines spoke about and congratulated. Today Captain Sanguineti is not stubborn, courageous, and likeable anymore, but the tough memories of him on decks of ligurian ships, many of which are commanded by Captains that, have followed his examples and learnt the “risks” of the sea. Another Captain was Domenico Davegno, who sailed the oceans commanding sailing boats belonging to the shipowners Rainusso of Santa Margherita Ligure. Another two master mariners who have been promoted in their careers as Captains of armament: Gaetano Gotuzzo of the Tirrenia, navigation society, and Andrea Giuffra of the Cosulich, after the second world war. Whilst the shipowners withdraw to Portofino to enjoy the last period of rest, a new century arrives which gives an end to an age of navigators: together with the small rowing boats belonging to the people of Portofino and those belonging to the fishermen, the bigger pleasure boats, especially during the winter period, started to stop and settle in the port. With the passing of time, they helped to change ways of navigation and make Portofino known to the tourist world. (Thanks to Giovanni Carbone).

Portofino,a World apart.