Our boat was sailing on a piece of silk, the water so calm it looked like one massive piece of glistening cloth. The boat rose and fell as though the ocean was breathing. No faster than a walking pace we inched further away from Canet de Rousillon and toward our planned escape. For the past seven weeks we shared our home with relatives, that was grand, now time for just the two of us.
Our intent was to sail three days, in the best direction of the wind and enjoy some one on one time with our boat.
Although the wind was minimal, we had a full day to sail 14 nautical miles and we were in no hurry. Our main sail was up, patiently waiting for strong winds from the NE. forecast for later that day. As long as we reached our destination by night fall, it would be a great day on the water.
I was happy.
(I should have remembered how quickly things can change…)
When the wind speed was reading 0.00 knots we took turns jumping into the water from the front of the boat and floating back to stern. The Captain thought now would be a good time to have his first nude swim. I declined the offer. French appear to be very casual about dress codes on the beach, if I had gone the nudie rudie I would not have been out of place.
Each to his own.
Our destination was the sandy harbour of Paullies. Well known by locals for it’s safe waters with idyllic sandy bottom. Most important to us, it offered protection from the ever regular NW winds, anticipated for this evening. As we travelled south there was only one other boat on the water in our vicinity, a small monohull, struggling to keep the spinnaker working, as they too attempted to move in the winds on offer.
This lack of vessels was a strange phenomena.
For the past 8 weeks the French waters and towns have been occupied by sun seeking holiday makers on masse. In France it seems that everyone, except bakers, hoteliers and restaurateur’s take holidays at the same time. For the month of August the entire country seem to soak up the sun, in an act of solidarity, sharing the sand.
Not this day.
It was like the water and weather were joining us by taking a deep breath from the recent rush. Summer was nearly over.
Arriving At Paullies
When we were about 5 nautical miles from Paullies the wind picked up from the North East and was now blowing a healthy 25 knots. The Captain delighted in tacking our boat from one side to the other solo. We even sailed past the entrance to Paullies and continued sailing further on, before turning around arriving at dusk. It had been a good day.
Well good until it was time to head into the wind and bring the sails down.
For those not versed in sailing terms, heading into the wind is when you turn your boat face on into the wind, the main sail drops down easily into the lazy jack bag. It’s my job to steer the boat into the wind, at the same time release the main rope that holds the main sail up, allowing the sail to fall in a controlled manner. The job of my ever patient Captain, go onto the boat roof and assist the sails descent.
Problem was on this day I was doing a pretty crap job of holding into the wind.
It Was Bound To Happen
It just caught me by surprise. The Captain finally, like a bottle of champagne under pressure, popped!
He lost it.
He was frustrated and pissed off. Next he was shouting at me. All composure was gone. The most frequent word in the rant was You.
His outburst included finger pointing and shouting. I think he would have stomped his feet, had that been possible. I got it with both barrels.
My Captain had gone completely over the edge. If only for a minute or two he was doing it in style. I was surprised and rendered speechless. I could only stand there and listen with my mouth agape, a WTF look on my face.
The reason I am sharing this meltdown moment is, it’s relevant, as it’s part of this new world of Sailing. Most times we have normality and calm, but the regular touching of the extremes is what is different. I recall reading about couples who shout at each other during anchoring and I remember clearly thinking I doubt that would be us.
Who you think you are and what happens at sea are not always the same thing.
That evening I may not have answered back but I did sulk for a while, as you do. However I struggled to maintain the high moral ground. My moments of POP are far more and greater, truth be told. Plus there was too much good to be had on this weekend to maintain the rage.
Next morning, the weather was beautiful, sunny and warm. We sat outside over breakfast and discussed the night prior. We both agreed that a weekend staying put in beautiful Paullies was perhaps the best course for us this weekend. Our boat was to be our shack for the weekend. A chance to be kind to each other and kind to ourselves.
Our only dilemma was we planned to buy more wine further down the blue highway, therefore for two nights we shared half a bottle of vino. I did have plenty of teabags on hand.
Our Anchoring Was Fine
We know this because we swam down and checked, plus night one I checked and rechecked as I do.
Our Saturday consisted of all those things people have imagined we have been doing 100% of the time since we left Australia. Waking late, swimming multiple times throughout the day, eating, drinking lots of tea, reading, listening to music and being glad to have the company of each other. Thus far this has comprised about 6.43% of our time. We are working hard to address this percentage.
It Was Getting Busy
As the morning progressed, more boats joined us. It quickly went from 4 boats in the bay to over 30. Near the end of the day it was fascinating to watch the motor boats move out and the overnight cruising yachts move in. I was watching each anchoring procedure with great interest, seeing how others go about the business of making their floating homes safe. Some boats rush in drop and the deed is done. Others take their time in selection and the putting down process.
The wind was a light NE approx 5 to 6 knots, and gettting lighter. The forecast was for stronger winds later in the evening.
At some point in the afternoon “Little Nina” arrived. Captain was reading his first book in France and I was enjoying the computer, both out the back, we had front row seats to watch Little Nina come in.
Little Nina was interesting from the onset. A brand new 50ft Dalfour, she was a sleek polished cruising boat. The couple aboard where dressed in sailing attire, complete with sailing gloves, a rarity thus far on our trip. Besides looking the part these guys appeared to know what they were doing. Once the anchor was set they reversed back hard to get a good hold on the earth below. When the the anchor was set, they got into their dingy to lay a a marking buoy to show other boats exactly where their anchor was positioned. I was impressed and told my Captain so.
Captain commented that their anchor chain had crossed the boat next door and was too close to the steel boat. I wondered if they would like to swap some fresh home made sushi for a bottle of wine. I didn’t bother Little Nina for the wine nor to discuss their anchor.
It was a magnificent sunset. The Crew of Little Nina watched it as did I, Captain was too busy reading his book.
Once the sun had set, the couple from Little Nina took their dinghy ashore. I took myself to bed to read. Soon the predicted wind arrived at about 25 to 30 knots.
The Domino Effect
The Captain called out, but I could hear it clearly, the grizzly sound of a metal boat hitting another boat which happend to be Little Nina. In this up close and personal position it was always going to hurt. As the wind gusted through the bay the steel boat would swing in hard and hit Little Nina. It was a sickening sound.
The Captain explained to me that the problem came from the two boats having their anchors too close to each other. This was ok when the wind was light, once the wind strengthened and swung north west, Little Nina swung round and was now beside the steel boat.
We stood there for a moment watching via our spotlights. Have the owners of Little Nina returned? if not why are they not doing anything? There are so many boats here at Paullies, will anyone do something? Was it up to us to do anything and what could we do.
The lack of action from anyone else seemed to make it our responsibility to assist. Trusty Captain, now back in the good books, lowered our dinghy as I grabbed our buoys and we went to the maiden Nina who was distressed and needed our help.
Knock knock on her hull. Who’s There… No one at home.
Captain climbed aboard and placed buoys between the two boats. I went back to our boat to grab the camera. I say now for insurance purposes, really I was thinking I needed at least one photo to share.
I was shocked as I went past one forward window to see little eyes reflected back at me. Had this couple a child on board, hidden away from view?
Was there a greater mystery to behold?
No, on closer inspection, I could see it was not one, not two but three cats peeking out trying to see what was going on above their heads. As I was taking a photo the owners came across, just returned from dinner ashore. At this point I felt a little ashamed of myself, caught taking a sneaky peek inside their windows, once we explained the drama on the other side of their boat they forgot my camera.
Hands brushed together our job was done.
This Couple Were In More Trouble Than The Early Settlers
Instead of taking a breather, assessing, staying calm and smart they were into action immediately. It was a pity as this couple now had time to work out what was best as the fenders had given them time.
If I were to pinpoint the moment things went pear shaped it was this moment of rushing in.
In my Captains humble opinion what needed to happen was Little Nina had to get as close as possible to their original anchor position by motor and then retrieve their anchor from the same direction they came in. Instead they pulled their anchor straight away as they sat beside the steel boat.
A new drama began.
Not only was Little Nina’s anchor coming up, so was the anchor of the steel boat.
Throw into the mix, a dark sky with no moonlight, winds increasing and high levels of stress.
Was there shouting?
We decided to watch to see how things went for this experienced couple. It took a while for them to untangle and release themselves from the neighbor BUT…
But Wait There’s More
Little Nina failed in her attempt to be under control once she released herself from the steel boat. She was now moving back with the wind and was now not only dragging their anchor but had ensnared another boat directly behind the steel boat.
Let me introduce a new 50 ft Beneteau which has become part of this sorry opera.
I once again pulled out my camera, Captain would not let me film or take photos as he said it was tasteless and rightly so, I doubt I gave this scene the credit it deserved.
It was CRAZY.
A Seemingly Bulletproof Boat has left the stage only to replaced by the Beneteau Antxeta. Were these guys awake watching the initial drama? I don’t know, three people on board were certainly awake now. Little Nina moved from the Port side to the starboard taking the anchor underneath Boat Antxeta. Soon it sounded like everyone was shouting.
I only know one swear word in French and it is a biggy. I heard it this night. The other word I heard most repeated surprisingly was English. Stop. Stop. Stop.
In all, this was a stellar performance watching anchoring go wrong and the shouting that accompanied the drama.
It took nearly an hour to bring the whole sorry mess to a close. At times it hurt to watch as “but for the grace of God go I.”
Every person on a boat nearby would have felt similar I have no doubt. I kept thinking what would go through your mind if this was your boat. Did it shake their confidence, did they shout at one another once in the privacy of their boat, and will they sleep well tonight? How about the three cats. The folly of humans….
It Was Finally Over
I know that Little Nina parked a long way from everybody once they got themselves organised. A bit like a dog licking its wounds after a scrap. I didn’t blame them I would have done the same.
In the morning the crew of Nina came to visit and return our buoys. My early assumption they were experienced proved correct, Paullies was a place they came to on a regular basis as they live not far away.
They told us this was a rare occasion to leave their boat at anchor and probably the last time.
This comment raised one of the big questions for me. We sail to destinations so that we can get off our boats and experience what ever it is on the side of the beach or the beach itself. This is why anchoring is such a biggy for me. On the end of a chain you have your life’s savings, home and security, you have to be confident to leave it otherwise what’s the point.
More Random Observations From France
An observation I had both this weekend and other anchoring times is, quite a few people go nudie rudie on their boats. Nationalists are alive and well in the boating community.
When the Captain did his first nudie swim I thought of fish. Snapping turtles in the water crossed his mind. I know because I asked him.
French Karaoke – we have now experienced first hand.
Neither of us are into Karaoke but it was fun to watch. The singers ranged from excellent to not and a few in between. The DJ blended the local talent with his selection from professionals belting it out via dance, trance, Gangland style, 80’s and 70’s. The barmaid/owner had a referee’s whistle blown frequently and handed out wigs and coloured glasses giving the night a surreal drag queen feeling. What was to be a quick cool drink after a long bike ride one Saturday night turned into an early Sunday morning. It was a random and unexpected pleasure.
PS When the crew of Little Nina came over they had a bottle of wine for us to say thank you. Maybe I should have gone over with the sushi exchange offer and the whole drama could have been avoided.