Zolo, an Elban legend on the ocean
"7 Roses", a German shepherd and a mutt: on January 1st, 2000 the
skipper from the Naval League will depart from Venice to conquer Nova
Laura Zolo began going to sea as a child. The first, and not so timid,
outings were with her parents, first on a small boat not more than 5
meters and then on a sailboat measuring 7 meters. It was here, on the
sea of Elba and with the kids from the Naval League at Grigolo that
Laura found her passion for the sea, a passion that would lead to
incredible oceanic undertakings.
The skipper began to cross the ocean in 1980 aboard an old plywood
trimaran, which would be exchanged for an eleven and a half-meter steel
wreck in the islands of Cape Verde. The sailboat had been brought
ashore and abandoned by its previous owners.
Four months of extraordinary restoration of the hull, which had been
attacked by reefs, rust and inclement weather, were enough to reach the
Caribbean and return, by way of Azores, to the Mediterranean. It was
1992 and the boat couldn't take any more. The original blue color
could only be seen in spots under the iron oxide covering. The remains
of the vessel were brought ashore in Corsica and Laura began to test
the body of the hull and the deck, which were mostly ruined by rust.
With a lion's courage, the help of a grinder, a welding machine given
by her father, and an enviable will, she began to rebuild the boat.
The Latin and Greek she learned in school were of little help to her.
Putting the boat back together and reinforcing the frame required time
and understanding of the toil involved. Before starting the
reconstruction, the young woman spent several weeks in a Corsican
metal-working shop. There she learned how to use the arc welder and
grinder. In January of 1996, after three years of intense work, Laura,
"Sultan" - a magnificent German shepherd- and the little dog "Stella",
left Campoloro for a new adventure. For four months she sailed around
the French island and then nearby Sardinia, accompanied the whole time
by her faithful four-legged companions and her mother.
Once her mother disembarked, Laura set her course to the west, the
Balearic islands and Gibraltar. It was the beginning of a fascinating,
solitary adventure of the sea and of life, briefly interrupted by the
arrival of her father who accompanied Laura to the Canary Islands.
She then set course for the warm South Seas.
It was a new life. Encounters, job opportunities and experiences upset
her established plans and the young woman once again changed her course
180 degrees. She pointed her prow to the north-east and set sail for
Portugal. Still alone, she took on the Bay of Biscay and reached Great
Britain at the end of April. There she learned to navigate fog, strong
currents and waves over 6 meters tall. Although she was used to the
Mediterranean sun and the subtropical climate, she was still able to
appreciate the new and sometimes hostile climate, made up of squalls
and gray skies, ports, voyages and landings dependent on the tides.
After a difficult summer of work aboard an old Schooner - at the origin
of the reversal of the course- Laura, four-legged friends and "7 Roses"
set off to sail around Great Britain. It is November 1997. The boat
first reaches Scotland, then Ireland, France and then returns to the
port of departure in early March 1998.
The indefatigable young woman is not satisfied with the inclement
climate of Yorkshire and decides to venture off to Iceland and reach
the Arctic circle. Prior commitments and work obligations don't allow
her to leave until the end of August when she sets off to the north,
setting course for Shetland, where she arrives at the end of the summer
in 1998. The delay and the arrival of bad weather force her to give up
her plan, which will be replaced by a much more ambitious project.
In the Orkney Islands Laura learns about the enterprises of the Zeno
brothers. Nicol had explored the northern islands, Iceland, and the
eastern coast of Greenland. A trip to the New World in 1398 is
attributed to his brother Antonio. Earlier than Columbus, Antonio left
the Old Country with twelve ships during the time of the Holy Land, the
refuge of the Templars. In this northern archipelago, descendants of
Prince Henry St. Clair (Earl of Orkney, at the time of the Zeno
brothers) were interested in recreating the voyage of the navigator and
contacted Zolo. The historic undertaking has been the subject of study
of the Henry Sinclair Society of North America for years.
A new horizon was opened for Laura: to repeat the voyage of the Zeno
brothers. The plan: depart from Venice on January 1st, 2000 and reach
the Orkney Islands by the beginning of June. She will pass Malta,
then the Balearic Islands, the strait of Gibraltar, then Brest, the
Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, the Faeroe Islands, Iceland,
Cape Farawell in Greenland and final begin the crossing that will bring
her to Halifax, Nova Scotia on the American continent. Who will
accompany her on this voyage to Canada? "Stella", the little mutt;
"Sultan", the German shepherd; and the "7 Roses", of course. Her
companion, Jack, owner of the oak Schooner from 1929, will embark as
During the long voyages of Laura Zolo the Naval League flag has always
flown under the left cross tree of the sailboat. The last pennant that
she had aboard is now on display at the Boating Club of Scalloway in
the Shetland Islands.
Sunday the 21st of November, on the prize-giving day of the Aethalia
Cup '99, the "navigatrice solitaria", as she has been defined by
newspapers all over the world, to whom Venice just gave honorary
citizenship, will be the guest of Elba's sailing circle in Porto
Azzurro. It will be the chance to meet this authentic feminine myth.