I know I am very late with this post. And I apologize to those concerned. But how do you write about people who are not here any more? It is a difficult task and a big responsibility.
I don’t remember how I met Maurizio but the expat community is small in Sudan, so it was probably through a common friend or at an expat party. Maurizio was an outgoing and charming Italian gentleman, who spent his life on a boat sailing between the Mediterranean, Yemen, Djibouti and Sudan. I met him in 2001, by when he had been based in Port Sudan repairing his boat for almost one year.Following Maurizio’s invitation, I flew to Port Sudan for a long weekend and he came to pick me up at the airport on his motorbike. I was properly dressed, as one needs to be in Sudan, but we were stopped at the exit gate of the airport by a young boy pointing his gun at us. To be precise, the gun was pointing at my head. Apparently it was too sexist that a man and a woman sit on the same motorbike. While I kept looking at the gun, hoping it will not explode by accident, Maurizio talked his way out of the situation. Off we drove, to the harbor where Boreas of Katharina, his boat, was waiting for its first guest.
What a holiday I had! What a pleasant time we shared! It was one of the happiest weekends of my life and I am sure it was for him too. Maurizio was the captain, and in addition he had two Yemeni assistants. And then there was me. A young girl from Finland. Out in the big sea with strangers. With strangers who treated me like a princess. And that’s how everyone called me, The Princess of Katharina.Every morning after breakfast we had our first dive. Turtles, wrecks, sharks, big fish. One of us always stayed on the boat to prepare food, which was usually sushi as Maurizio called it. Fresh raw fish from the Red Sea. Delicious. After a siesta we continued diving. One time we went very deep. Very, very deep. It was to watch hammerhead sharks. An other time we descended to the bottom of the sea and stayed still. A dozen of sharks were circling us. I will always remember those eyes looking at me.Maurizio was a very happy man. He loved his boat and his life. He knew how to live. He appreciated every sunrise and every sunset. Every sushi meal was a blessing. He dived as I have never seen anyone else dive. Skillfully, carefully but fearlessly. He loved the Red Sea and the Red Sea loved him. At least that is how it seemed. Eventually my weekend came to an end. And a bit later, my work contract finished, too, and I left Sudan. Maurizio and I stayed in touch by email and telephone, and he would always tell me stories about fishing and diving trips. He sounded very happy. Like a man who lives as he always dreamed of living. Until The Storm came.
Last year I started noticing something strange on his Facebook page. I don’t speak Italian but I could sense that something is wrong. Eventually, I got in contact with Maurizio’s sister who told me about The Storm.
Like in 2001, Maurizio was again returning to Port Sudan to have his boat maintained. The Storm came and his boat lost a mast. Maurizio kept diving very deep to find it and during one of the many attempts, the bubbles stopped. And that’s it. The bubbles stopped, period. Difficult to believe, even more difficult to accept.
Until today, Maurizio has not been found. How awful and haunting that sounds like. But as his sister wrote to me, “he died in the way he would have chosen”. I know it brings little comfort to his family and loved ones, but I agree with this sentence. I have rarely met a happier person, and I will always be thankful to Maurizio for that amazing long weekend I spent with him, his team and precious Boreas of Katharina. Good bye Maurizio. I am sure you are a happy man wherever you are now.
PS If you read Italian, you can find articles here: