I can’t believe it.
We have been 8 weeks in the south of France, I feel quite at home. The fact that I now drive around Canet like a local, is testament to this fact. I no longer use a map and if I get a little off track I just take my time and find my way round until I arrive at the desired destination. Going backwards on the odd occasion causes no stress only delay.
Dealing with delay is becoming second nature to me.
From Day One Our Plans Were Off Track
Experienced sailors who may read this blog will know that planning must be flexible, because what you think you will do, doesn’t always happen when living on a boat. Days have a happy habit of slipping away faster than normal.
Experienced sailors would also know to be careful, as to whom you invite to share your boat with.
Our original plan was to arrive in Canet, spend a few days with Mike getting the boat organised and then spend a couple of weeks with him and his partner looking around Corsica or Spain.
These plans were never going to happen. Week two we had a parting of the ways with Mike and his partner Laure’s.
They were asked to leave the boat effective immediately.
Without going into detail I will say it was most unpleasant and difficult. It is a rare day for me to lose my temper with others, but when the proverbial hit the fan it was fast and furious. It has taken me 6 weeks to get to the point of being able to share.
My mum says that even the thinnest pancake has two sides.
Bugger the pancakes in this matter. Miss Catana is our home and if we can’t trust you, and your difficult to live with you can’t stay. My only regret was for Laures who was the innocent party, in fact she paid the highest price. It was her annual holiday and time is one thing that can never be retrieved.
My mum also says “He who pays says, end of story.”
I am glad to put an end to this sorry chapter of the Miss and Crew.
Buying A New Boat Is Not Like Picking Up A Takeaway Curry
I caution any prospective buyer of a new boat to allow time for the collection process.
Do Not, I repeat, Do Not invite friends, family or Blow Joe to meet you one week into travel, hoping to go to some exotic place or island. It isn’t going to happen without risk of heart damage or extreme stress levels. This process takes time.
It is also good to have time to savour the experience.
Being new to cruising and new to the country, culture and language have all added to the delays of departure. I have mentioned in earlier posts how in one weekend we signed on the dotted line to purchase our boat. At the time we were forced to select all items for the boat then and there. In hindsight we should have slowed down this process.
When we arrived in France we knew we needed to add items to our boat, including a water maker and an upgrade of some of our electronic systems. To help speed up the process we purchased a great deal of equipment prior to our arrival. I wish we hadn’t. This has caused us issues and been costly. We could easily have organised all or our equipment once we arrived in the country.
Shopping Shopping Shopping
Our shopping list has been extensive and expensive. It includes a new spectra watermaker, a salt water tap at the sink, a salt water tap at the front of the boat, a new much larger electronic display, a new gangplank, an outlet at the helm for a light, a tri light to mention the bigger items.
Being a customer in France does not mean you will always be treated well or with prompt service.
For example the company that installed all our electronics prior to delivery, the main supplier of Catana, ignored ours and Catana requests (on our behalf) for a quote for new and significant work. After 4 weeks of being ignored we threw our hands up in despair and went elsewhere. All the while time slips by as we searched for tradesmen to complete the work on our behalf.
If we ever buy another boat, humour me please, there would be changes to the way we purchase. Most significant is we would only have two cabins. A 42 is perfect for two and ideal for another couple to visit. For us three rooms is not necessary. Plus I would have put the washing machine in from the build process. The Captain does not agree and I am yet to have a washing machine.
We would not consider changing the brand of boat.
Stepping Out Of Normal
It still feels very strange stepping into this life and leaving my former life behind.
I occasionally have moments of intense homesickness. When it comes it usually takes me by surprise. Yet for the most part I keep these difficult moments at bay and the emotion only adds to the importance of making the most of this experience. The Captain mourns his job a little. He took great pride in his role, loved the children he taught and the professionals he worked with. I too had a great job but I am yet to miss going into the office. Moving forward and adapting to change has always been one of my better skills.
This week I finally got to speak to our 18 year old son. It has taken 8 weeks for us to connect. WOW
Life is normal and continues on wherever you are. Washing clothes and dishes by hand, making a bed whilst on top of it and seeking information or items with a language barrier thrown in, are time consuming.
It’s in leaving home that you realise how much our lives are designed to save time, as work and family demand so much.
We Have Left Home Not A Moment Too Soon
I am pleased we didn’t wait for another ten years as was the original plan.
Sailing at times can be tough. Also extremely physical, also emotionally demanding. This not an easy journey and not for the faint hearted. The rewards are great but it is hard work for many hours each week. I am sure there is more “housework” on this boat than there was in our entire house. Truly.
The Captain and I agree that since we have been here we have experienced some intense moments. Both good and bad.
We have snapped and disagreed more in the past 60 days than in 25 years of marriage. As a result we have needed to give each other more grace and patience as we adjust to the major changes. Living the dream is hard work, it’s also amazing you have to pinch yourself to know it’s real. Our stress levels improved dramatically the moment we had the boat to ourselves and this is another piece of advice to the new comers, yet to start their journey. Remain on your own until you are really confident with your boat. Meeting the expectations of anothers holiday, while learning the business of sailing is best avoideded.
This week my Dad and Aunt have joined us and this is the right time for us to have guests aboard. How awesome are these two, both in their 80’s and neither have been on a boat before and adapting beautifully to life aboard a cat.
Seven Weeks Pissed Off Syndrome
At seven weeks I had a day where I was just annoyed with the French and everything here. I just wanted it to be easy when it wasn’t. “Why do they?” was my constant question this day and my frustration was at an all-time high. On this day the French drove me crazy. I was sick of all the issues and the things that make living here difficult. It would have been a good day to lose myself in a book but this was not to be. I wonder if this period of annoyance is normal for other travellers? I built a bridge and soon got over myself.
I have lost time in this place and not just time at the supermarket in ever longer queues, or the same delays at service stations. The calendar even though I am trying to get things done no longer binds me. I have finally put a clock on the boat but the Captain hates it as it’s not a ship’s clock. When the boat sails it’s put into a basket as it’s not important, truth be told it is totally impractical and falls over. I like it though, it helps make this boat my home.
Losing an urgency in time is a good ingredient to successful living in France. The French seem to have mastered this skill a long time ago. My advice to those following in our footsteps, be prepared to do it a little slower than you expect. Here they hurry slowly. Do it on your own and give yourself time, the rewards have more than covered the delays we have experienced.
If we had tried to live as we had at home the experience would have definitely been diminished.
Canet Our First European Home
I will always view this part of the world with great fondness, it’s because we have been here longer than the average, from this we have reaped unexpected benefits. By being here we have been welcomed, invited, taught and shown how to live life as a local. I am in awe of the French and their afternoon aperitif. We have been welcomed into homes, played bocce, ate the local food, tasted the wines, we have been taught skills by those in the know on a daily basis, we have had a glimpse into what it’s like to live in this place. Even the local baker knows our standard order and welcomes us warmly each morning as though we belong.
One Thing I Won’t Be Missing When I Leave Is French Toilets
Toilets. Every traveller will have a toilet story or two, now I know why. Toilets loom large in your thoughts as you go about your day. Here in the south when you do find the elusive public toilet they are often unisex. Oh goody I get to share with the other half of the world. Here is a question to the other half who do it standing up. “How hard is it to point and fire at something you have had a lifetime of practice at? The later in the day the worse your aim appears to be…”
While I Am On The Subject
Last week our boat was on the hard (out of the water on small blocks of wood for new sea outlets to be installed) we could not use the boat toilet so I was forced to use the local marina toilet. There was a monsieur’s and a dames so I had the luxury of a girls only zone. (Plus a kilometre walk away I had my first non stop shower in 2 months!)
It was after midnight I was the last one up and needed to go to the toilet prior to bed. 309 steps later in a large empty yard behind a container I got to the toilet safely and all was good in the world. That is until I decided to leave. The lock had engaged, It’s late, its isolated and its slightly spooky. This was not a good moment. This part of the marina is far away from anyone or anything so the chances of anyone coming to assist were zero. It was a real possibility that I could be spending the next seven hours in a toilet. Maybe 4, no doubt the Captain would have missed me when he got up himself and may have noticed I was not there. He may have come looking for me.
My strategy was to take a moment and think slowly about all the reasons why the lock would not work. I tried again. Nope not moving and neither was I.
I can now testify to how strong you can be when you are locked in a tiny toilet and forcing the door has become a final option.
Yet this toilet drama continued as the next night when it was a repeat experience of going to the toilet late, well after the Captain had gone to bed. Once again I did the long walk to the toilet and then decided a squat outside was better than taking my chances with the lock again. I was half way through only to be caught by the couple from the boat next door who were walking into the compound.
They only spoke French so I had no way of explaining. This was embarrassing and I wondered what they thought of their Australian neighbour at this point. A week later we were to have drinks with this couple on their boat, I decided it best not to mention the event they also refrained.
PS we are currently waiting for our VAT to be reimbursed but France has all but closed down for two weeks, no one told us this was happening , so we must stay in France so we are sailing East instead of West.