Around the roundabout at 80km

Hello Everyone,

I've gotten enough queries about our welfare to know that it's been enough time between updates. My apologies for taking so long to get this out. Needless to say, it's been a little crazy.

Since last we spoke, we: moved into our apartment in Galveston (not a box left in sight), got to France, took delivery of our boat, and moved into the boat. Wow. This sounds simple enough but, YOU try moving twice in 3 weeks- once in a foreign language...

We are now in the cushy boatyard marina in France, on our lovely new boat, with many of the comforts of home around us. My Dad is here with us for a visit. Prowling around the boat discovering how things work seems to be a non stop entertaining past time for him. All the better for us, we are learning as he does and he's a bulldog when it comes to boat knowledge.

We're still in the phase of new boat ownership where we have a skipper assigned to us and we are being treated like CUSTOMERS. This will end in the next couple of days but we're taking advantage of it while it lasts. Yesterday our poor skipper had to put on a wet suit and dive into 50 degree water to get a line off one of our propellers. For another couple of days he is stuck with the yuck work. Believe me, I've been looking for stuff to dump on him.

Wait, before you start to feel sorry for our poor skipper... (His name is Pierre.) Let me just say that he is not my favorite guy. He is a chauvinistic, arrogant, man who conveniently forgets how to speak English at moments when it suits him, and clearly knows nothing about how to keep a schedule, or how to clean up after himself. He and Thorsten get along ok but my personality doesn't work well at all with him. I think that he and Thorsten might get along better because of the testosterone thing. Also, Thorsten is more content with less of a formal schedule than I am. My new plan with him is to just leave the boat when he arrives. All we have left to do with him is to go over the electronics, which Thorsten knows a lot about already anyway. We also need to have some more docking practice but I'm not sure he is the best person to do that with, more later...

OK, more now. Docking. We've been on the boat while it was docked twice now. I'm clueless about what it's supposed to look like but so far to me it's looking like the Barnum and Bailey circus clowns (with cussing). I know that Thorsten and I need to be able to dock our own boat. We will get the knowledge but these things take time. We could probably do it by ourselves now, but it would take a lot of time (which we have).

Allow me to describe the process, the way it should happen... As we are in the Med, we are mooring Med style, because we must. This means that the stern (back of the boat) is tied to the dock and bow (the front) of the boat is tied to 2 buoys. Docking entails backing 58' of boat into our slip, hooking a rope through 1 buoy per hull, cleating it on, then hooking again through the buoy, then tying it off. The buoy is 6-8' down from the deck and we hook on with a funny complicated hook (something like a beginners crochet hook). During the hooking process the boat has to be held in a specific position with the motors. The person handling the lines has to also signal the motor person to change the position of the boat. Once the bow is tied, the stern needs to be tied to the dock. Sometimes this requires an Olympic long jump with no initial sprint and limited landing area while holding onto a heavy piece of rope. (Note to the beginners: make sure there is enough rope to reach the dock before jumping, also make sure that the rope is coiled neatly so that when you do manage to land on the dock, standing, that you don't have to leap back onto the boat to untangle the line.) Once on the dock, pass the line through the cleat on the dock, then leap back onto the boat. If the person on the engines is feeling kind and there is no wind, the leaps will be less effort. Repeat this process for the other stern. All of this work is done with a bevy of onlookers who speak to each other in other languages. One should never try to figure out what they are saying, it could be bad for one's ego.

In reality, the way it's been on our boat (both times), there have been no less than 5 people on board, running around shouting conflicting directions in multiple languages to the boat steering person. Sometimes making complete circuits of the boat while waving arms and hollering cuss words. The person steering the boat, also hollers in many languages sometimes to himself. The person with the boat hook gets the hook stuck in the hook while the boat drifts away from the buoy, leading to more hollering. There are more people on the dock attempting to catch tossed lines. Sometimes they almost fall in which leads to more hollering. Usually a line or two gets dropped into the water and with more hollering, gets rescued before it sinks. As a visibly pregnant woman, I am allowed to do nothing so my biggest responsibility seems to be to go somewhere private when the overwhelming urge to giggle comes to me. When and if we ever do dock (by ourselves), I have grave concerns that we know enough cuss words in enough languages to get it done.

Thank you for allowing my docking ramblings to go on so long...

We did go on a nice 3 day trip on the boat with Pierre the previously described Catana skipper. We went to Coulleure for a night, and Caracas for a night and then home. The sailing was nice. The towns were cute. I got to drive the dingy (yeehaw, 25hp!). Most of the time was spent doing maneuvers outside the harbor so there was very little shore exploration done. I hope to go back and poke around more. We didn't even go ashore in Caracas. On our return, the winds got up to 35 knots (this is FAST) but our boat was fine. Our fastest boat speed on that trip was 14 knots in 35 knot winds with 2 reefs in the main and the Genoa flying. (Pardon me for showing off my newfound boat speak.)

Other adventures we've had in France were mammoth shopping trips in the French equivalents of Wal-Mart and Macy's. Thorsten and I would each take a cart and fill it to the brim with stuff and then come back to the boat and unload, to repeat the process the next day. We seem to have a never-ending need for plastic tubs of many sizes to store boat stuff in. Putting stuff away on a boat means that we must be prepared for the cabinet to move around. In order to keep the contents organized, it needs to be contained in plastic boxes. The boxes have to be put on rubber mats to keep them from sliding around. It's a whole new ballgame for us to put anything away. Open a locker, open a plastic tub, put the item away, close the locker, lock the locker hatch. It's a good thing that we have more spare time. Just putting the laundry away takes quite awhile.

Driving in France has been interesting. We didn't have a map for the first week and getting lost was fun. Good thing for the round abouts. They make it easy to make u turns with no loss of face. Often we go multiple times around the roundabouts just to be sure we're going the right way. (Note to beginners: 80km is too fast to go around the roundabouts.)

We're both fine health wise. The baby is growing and clearly is aspiring to be an avid player of basketball. It is sometimes amusing for people to watch my shirt bulge as he is wiggling around in there... They lose their concentration entirely which sometimes gives me an edge in the conversation.

Our upcoming schedule: we will leave the boatyard on 3/24ish and head to Gibraltar where we will pick up our trans Atlantic crew and drop off our Gibraltar crew. We hope to leave Gibraltar around 4/3ish for the Canary Islands. According to the winds we will then hit Bermuda near the end of April, hopefully and then Maryland early May. (For the non boat people reading this, the vagaries in schedule are not poor planning, they are accommodations for weather.)

I guess that's all for now. I'll check in again when there's news to report.


Heather (and Thorsten, a.k.a. Captain Tholo)