Setting Out for France

from 'The Journal of Alacazam', by Mary Swift...


Friday 20 July 2001

What a foul day, rain and more rain; the weather had started out quite dry. Dick positions the lee cloth under the pilot berth and inserts the bolts and an easy release tying up system in readiness for the off-watch sleeping during the passage to France. It seems to work well. We then go ashore to shower and to do the washing.

Dick (quite rightly) decides it is time that I learnt to how to use the outboard motor and drive the dinghy. We manage to land without any mishaps although I did bump into a dinghy of a not too pleased German, just as he was about to get out of it.

It is now pouring with rain and for the first time Dick does not have his rain jacket with him. He decides not to go back to Alacazam but instead borrows my jacket to buy a newspaper at the local shop to read at 'The Chain Locker' pub and a magazine for me to read whilst wash-sitting.

I get chatting to a woman who has lived and sailed in the Pacific for years, mostly based at Fiji and obviously loved it there. She now lives at Chichester and although she does not sail far these days still loves the lifestyle. She only works part time when she wants, never wants to work full time again, much preferring a simple relaxed lifestyle.

Unbelievably my washing is still damp but as this lady has also waited a long time I let her use the drier next and I go to the shops to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, chicken etc and also some red-bush tea from the health shop. As usual I buy too much and I am struggling along with four heavy carrier bags when lo and behold my knight in shining armour appears. Yes, Dick has come to find me. He had gone back to the boat to fetch his wet weather gear because by now it was raining cats and dogs.

Back to the washeteria for the third time of loading the drier, this time successfully. When we have folded and packed the washing away it is still pouring with rain, so we head back to 'The Chain Locker' laden down with four bags of food, two bags of shopping and my usual shopping bag (which secretly contains another DVD, bought because I had discovered we had 'thirteen' DVD's on board).

It is now about 1700 hours and most people must have had the same idea, as the pub is full. We share a table with Kent (from Sweden) and John (from Norway) who prove to be great characters. They had arrived from the Azores yesterday in Kent's 45 foot heavy displacement (20 tons) yacht 'Como si Nada' and had had quite a sail - a week of bad weather with winds of 40 to 50 knots and enormous seas and they were glad to be in Falmouth in spite of the rain.

Kent (about 58 with a look not unlike Sean Connery, it was the smiley eyes) was sailing back to Sweden to see his wife and family and to work for a while. John (about 30 and who also has a handsome smiley face) has a yacht in Bonaire and had travelled back with Kent to be best man at his brother's wedding in Norway.

They both knew the Caribbean very well. Kent had worked for a time in San Diego and Los Angeles as a Shipwright and Carpenter before sailing to most islands in the eastern and western Caribbean and also Venezuela and the ABC islands (of which Bonaire is one).

They told us of the dangers to yachts people now in some areas of Venezuela, pirates etc, but also told us of the places where there was no trouble. John has tired of the western Caribbean finding that in his opinion the people have changed over the years and seem only interested now in the money to be earned. He says that the islands other than perhaps the French islands, have no culture and have become very Americanised, but that the eastern Caribbean is still quite lovely and well worth visiting.

Notwithstanding this he also said that he knows we will have a wonderful life wherever we choose to go. They also told us of an alternative way to reach the Pacific Ocean rather than to go through the Panama Canal, which can prove to be very expensive especially if you have any kind of breakdown. This alternative is to sail to Texas in the Gulf of Mexico and then road haul the yacht across land to San Diego. From there, sailing to the Marquesas islands would be a wonderful beam reach sail of about two weeks. This will certainly be worth considering and could be fun.

A few hours and drinks later we bade them both farewell and headed back to Alacazam, we felt as if we had known them forever.

Saturday 21 July 2001

The winds are blowing south-westerly 3 to 4 and it is still raining but we decide to set off for France today at about 1400 hours.

Dick has renewed the bolt on the Aries wind-vane (yes, this one fits) and we are feeding a couple of Swans that have come to visit when we notice a number of fishing boats all dressed in flags. It is the Flushing Regatta day.

About 1100 hours we move from the buoy (perfectly) to tie up at the Marina to take on water. On route we see the French yacht Diaton X (the one that dragged down onto our anchor) entering the harbour. As we get closer I shout "Bonjour Diaton X" and the Frenchman and his wife turn and wave their arms in recognition. Dick covered his face as if to say "Oh no!" and they laugh heartily.

We reach the Marina and tie up against a large American yacht on the Marina - there is no-one on board. We notice Kent and John standing on the pontoon, they do not appear to be suffering any ill effects from the night before.

Murphy joins us for coffee (having phoned us earlier) and we introduce him to Kent who, when he was in San Diego, had worked on the same Americas Cup yacht that Murphy had crewed for. They had not met before but they had a good chat about boats in general and it was interesting to hear that Kent had only paid $65,000 in America for his 44 foot yacht.

Time was pressing and Murphy kindly drove us to the petrol station and back again as we needed to buy more petrol for the outboard motor. We say our goodbyes to Murphy yet again, and head off to the Chandlers to buy a lock for the outboard motor. We also search all the charity shops (and there are quite a few in Falmouth) for old pairs of glasses (spectacles) as Kent had told us that as the Cape Verdes is a third world country they would welcome them. The women there do a lot of craft and close sewing work and really appreciate how glasses can help them to see more clearly.

They are apparently very friendly hospitable people and it is good if visiting yachts people can give something in return for their hospitality. All the people we encountered in the charity shops were most helpful but we were despairing of finding any glasses until we reached the last shop, where we bought a dozen pairs for a fiver. We also could not resist the temptation of buying a few more books from the various shops that we visited.

On the way back to Alacazam we bumped into the French couple who did not recognise us at first until we said "Le vin est bon". We chatted for a little while in pigeon French and English and told them we were on our way to Camaret sur Mer, which pleased them. They thanked us again for being courteous and helpful (thank heaven they could not hear our mutterings that night when they dragged down on us).

A quick shower, a dash to the post-box to post two postcards to Mum and we are about ready for setting off. John boards Alacazam for a quick tour then assists with casting us off. He shouts 'Fair winds, see you in Bonaire next summer, do not forget to email me'. We missed saying goodbye to Kent who was busy sorting out his faulty alternator with Kevin Green (the guy who had repaired our wind generator and whose name we had passed on to Kent). We shout back "We will, give our regards to Kent" and then we were off.

It was 1700 hours a little later than we had planned but we were confident that we would make up the time. The wind was blowing south-westerly force 3 to 4, on the nose, but we are getting quite used to that.

We felt again the weird mixture of excitement and sadness as we were finally leaving England in our wake.

Next: The Sailboat Live Aboard's Passage to France

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