Friday, 04 AUGUST 2017
We leave Louisbourg at 8AM. On the dock there are already fisherfamilies with rods catching mackerel. Just as we’re about to shove off a guy loses his bucket in the water. I loan him our boathook. He retrieves his bucket, then returns the hook. No thanks, no goodbye. I wave to his wife. Nothing. Wow, Louisbourg, you sure are having a day. I hope tomorrow’s better for ya’, eh.
Glenn swings me by the tall ships now anchored in the prohibited area. I snap some content and then we’re off. Because they believe themselves hilarious, “content” is what Glenn and Ava call the material I gather for the blog, especially if they think I am only recording it for the sake of the blog or if I’m shaping it toward the blog story. I wish I could say they are wrong, but I don’t think they are… completely. I ask myself, do I want to see the tall ships? Yep, I do. Would it be cool to see them from the water, especially when no one else is around them? Why yes, it would be. Will I put this on the blog? Of course, this is part of the story I’m telling. What are the consequences of social media on what I see? And what are the consequences on what I want (to see)? Since keeping this blog I realize that the impact is far greater than I imagined. The curation of my experience for an audience (even if that audience is only imagined) is profoundly effecting my lived actions. Is that okay? No. No, it’s not. But at least I feel I am somewhat in control of the shape of the outcome here in this blog. Is that enough? Probs not.
The winds today are 15-20kts from the SE. This seems pretty good as we are headed north, but the ride is rough due to some very rolly seas. I hate this kind of sail, but we don’t have a choice. If we wait for perfection, we’ll never get anywhere, right? All three of us have shaky stomachs the whole way.
Tall ships. I mean, come on… they’re cool:
Saturday, 05 AUGUST 2017
The wind slows at 1AM. By 3AM we turn on the engine and motor the rest of the way to St. Pierre. Even so, we don’t arrive until 9PM. At least we think it’s 9PM, but it’s very hard to keep all the time zones straight. St. Pierre’s time zone is ½ hour behind Newfoundland Time Zone and 1 hour ahead of Atlantic Time Zone (Nova Scotia) which is 1 hour ahead of Eastern (New York). Got it? No? Don’t feel bad. I never got it straight.
Almost as soon as we are tied to the public pier, the border guards and the immigration officers arrive. They are friendly, polite, and helpful. They let us stay in place until we can make arrangements with the yacht club in the morning and they tell us where to go for a bit of food (there’s a boulangerie across the way), for local history (the hotel owner), and for fun (the music festival is going on right now!) On the heels of the worst, this feels like the best border crossing ever.
And why are we dealing with border patrol at all? Some of you may not know, as I did not until very recently, that France owns two small islands, St. Pierre (pop. 5500) and Miquelon (pop. 600), situated in the Laurentian Channel just below Newfoundland Province. Visitors entering these islands are subjected to all of the laws of entering any part of France, including customs and immigration. The islands themselves are, of course, influenced by their geographical proximity to Canada, but have remained far more French, than French-Canadian, culturally. Hence, here we have to use euros, 220 volts of electricity, very bad internet, and, yes, the French language. This last one is really the biggest problem. Why? Because my family knows that approximately four hundred years ago when I was in high school I took French. Plus, they know that I lack self-consciousness regarding opening my mouth. So, I am expected to do all of the communicating. What they don’t know (or don’t care about) is the eye-rolling I have to enjour on their behalf.
I love you. Why don’t you love me back?
Sunday, 06 AUGUST 2017
On this day fourteen years ago I delivered to the world, sweetness personified. I never thought so much could come from so little…
This morning I wake up early-ish to bake an exotic Brake. This is a brownie, fashioned into a cake through the addition of frosting. I had bought this boxed stuff on our provisioning trip in Halifax thinking that I would need a prefab mix while at sea, where baking sometimes has to be kept minimal. I could, today, make something more intricate since we are at anchor, but I also know how much Baby Choco, er I mean Ava, loves brownies, so I stay the course.
Glenn gets up first and together we walk over to settle our boat situation with the Club Nautique, the sailing school/club of St. Pierre. We take a mooring ball (15 €/night) as there is no space at the dock. For this price we also get showers, unusable WiFi, and laundry machines. Yay!
In the late morning the three of us schlep ourselves off the boat and walk around town to get our bearings. We look for a breakfast nibble. We find only one patisserie open (it’s Sunday) and they have almost nothing left, but the meringues they do have are outrageously delicious. The town of St. Pierre (yes, same name) grows from the waterfront up a south-facing hillside. The town square is not in the center but along the edge of the water and the streets are mostly in a grid. Still, the little city feels somewhat European, because of the scale and look of the urban fabric. The buildings are mostly smallish and hip roofed, the streets mostly narrow and some cobblestoned, and periodically Renaults go zipping by. The most distinguishing characteristic of the town, however, is the color. Everywhere my eye lands on a brightly colored surface. The palette seems controlled or, at minimum, on a certain segment of the color wheel where the super-saturated pastels live. Maybe someone had a grand plan (An artist? A mayor? A hardware store paint importer?) or maybe people just pick up on the trend and roll with it. Two things are sure though: almost every house is bright and no one has the same exact color. And, this is a startling difference from the Canadian towns to this point. In the days to come we will meet people who find the colors here garish, but we love it. To St. Pierre we say: Vive la individualism chromatique!
In the evening we attempt to go out to a swanky restaurant for Ava’s birthday. When we arrive at the maître d’s stand, however, we are asked, “Do you have a reservation?” Nope, but you have a half empty restaurant (to myself, obvi). “Sorry, then. We are full for the night.” Instead we mosey to a really good pizza place nearby (My pizza had chevre, brie, and lamb!) and then home for brake with candles!
Monday, 07 AUGUST 2017
Highlights/Lowlights of the day:
- We find a good hiking trail. / We can’t find the part of the trail that returns to town.
- We find a café with “free WiFi.” / It is the least welcoming place to open a laptop I have ever been to.
- We find the public library. / It closes for lunch fifteen minutes after we arrive.
Tuesday, 08 AUGUST 2017
We take a ferry to L’île aux Marins. This is an “abandoned” (except that there are still quite a number of people living there) island about fifteen minutes away. This island has a picturesque fishing village whose peak population was about 700 at the turn of the twentieth century. At one time it had a small government (a mayor) and some “public” amenities (a church and cemetery, school, sports field, and lavoirs). Today it is a tourist destination to see these maintained sites, go for a great walk and have lunch at the little restaurant (make a reservation though!)
Wednesday, 09 AUGUST 2017
Today, Glenn laughs!
Thursday, 10 AUGUST 2017
Today we make a sunny passage to Fortune, Newfoundland. Our winds are coming from directly behind allowing us to put up the jib on the port side and the main sail on the starboard side. Scissoring! The winds are light, 10 kts. at most. This makes our boat travel slow, sometimes even below 3kts. So, we periodically turn on the engine to get a boost.
Three knots per hour is the rough equivalent to the speed of walking. Even on days when we are moving quickly we don’t get much above 6 or 7 kts., or the speed of a light jog. It can feel brisk from the cockpit, but, well, it’s not. If your interest is speed, then sailing will not be your choice of transport. Basically, we are walking around Canada. But moving at this rate has its advantages. For one, there is a lot of time for thinking. And at times, thinking about thinking. I don’t mean in a grand or philosophical sense. I’m talking more about the ways that I get to observe my own developing thoughts from a distance… and then beat myself up over what I see. Now, I am a devoted practitioner of the art of self-bashing, but out here, given the additional time, there has been surprising progress.
We reach Canada by mid-afternoon. Re-entry is smooth and easy, because, now we are experts. (Yes, we have to check back in with customs and immigration since, yes, we were just in France.) In back of us on Fortune’s dock is a Belgian boat that has been in our vicinity since Halifax, the Jooley (pronounced: Joely; meaning: Himalayan greeting). We are always interested in aluminum boats with centerboards, like ours, so we have been watching them. Now we finally meet them! And, because of our sad eyes, they invite us over! On board are four people ranging in age from a bit older than us (55 maybe?) to 78(!!) Two of them are doctors, one is a nurse, and one is a nature photographer. They have traveled from Antwerp via the Azores to get the boat into position for a much bigger expedition starting next May. Jean-Paul, the owner and skipper, plans to sail north to Greenland, west through the Northwest Passage, down the west coasts of North and South America, east through the Straits of Magellan, then north to get back home again. That’s a circumnavigation of the Americas!! While this has been done before (if you’re interested in a really great documentary about the first person to do this (in 2012!) check out Red Dot on the Ocean: The Matt Rutherford Story or, if you have Amazon Prime get it for free here), this remains a very, very challenging trip.
Jean-Paul is a soft-spoken and completely enthralling and inspiring person (as are all of the other people with whom he is travelling). They each have been many times to Africa (on medical excursions) and Greenland/Iceland and India and K2/Mt. Everest (YES!)… and… and… All night long they warmly tell us about their travels and what they know of the world. They ask us about ourselves and answer our naïve questions. They give us amazing lemony Belgian (?) liqueur (“Der Wer…” argh! WHAT was the name of it???) Glenn, Ava, and I are in awe listening, and once in a while adding, to the conversation. Perhaps the most moving aspect of their stories, though, is simply that they have pursued their curiosity about the world through adventure. What more can I say? One day, I want to be them…
[Next year starting in May Jean-Paul will be traveling with a crew member who will be blogging their trip. If you have any good sense, you will seek this blog and follow them. I’m sure it will be fascinating.]