Thursday, 3 May 2012

She floats

She's in the water. She doesn't have a mast, but that's ok. We know where it is. She doesn't have quite a few other basic things, in fact, but she's floating. That feels good, very good. 

Here at Port Napoleon, power and sail boats are lifted in and out of the water as a matter of daily routine. The travel lift is the star attraction, its towering blue frame drawing the eye like a ferris wheel. You take a ticket for the ride and wait your turn. When you hand over your 18 tonne baby to the travel lift guys - who are not unlike carnival men  -  you engage your head, and try to ignore  the agitation of your heart.  Other people's boats strung up in the travel lift are just passing curiosities, but yours is....well, she's different.

When we were last in this place with Enki 11 months ago, we were prospective buyers, and Christophe was the nervous owner standing at the base of the travel life. Since then however, we've invested an awful lot in getting her back in the water, and today was the moment of truth. Alex is a cool customer but I knew he was jittery when he rather wretchedly admitted that he'd run out of cigarettes (I did it, I made the mercy dash into town to buy the horrible fags....greater love etc).

When it came time for her to be moved towards the travel lift, Alex was nowhere to be seen. He'd gone to confirm which pen we were going to put her into.  I untied the ladder - that bloody ladder - and set her free to move. The man in his machine pushed her towards the water like a boy pushing a toy on a table. '

Once she was hoisted in the straps, the anti-foul guy came back with his paint and brush and patched up the bottom of her keel, which she'd been resting on during those 11 months, and the bare spots where she'd been held by the arms of the cradle.

Then they dropped her in. I missed the action. The crane operator Peter sent me off to the capitainerie. Apparently, as a rule, you must pay your bill before your boat goes in the water - I guess in case you sail away and they can't find you again. In our case, we have no mast, so there's no place we're going unless it's up a French canal (though Enki has too long a keel for canal-cruising, sadly). When I came back, she was floating. Hurrah!

Her engine kicked over on the first turn. There were some problems manoeuvring her. The folding prop, as it turns out, crabs to starboard in reverse (all propellers favour one or other side, and I won't continue with that imagery) and our previous two boats crabbed to port. That threw Alex - I think it must be a bit like reversing in a left-hand drive car (which I can't do very well yet).  Luckily he had Matthew, who has a reputation as Port Napoleon's demon helmsman, on board with him - I missed the boat, of course. She's in her pen now, and inconceivably given the state of the interior, we'll be moving aboard her on Saturday morning, for a long time.

There are a lot of loose ends still to tie up. The davits need to be fixed to the boat, the new bowthruster and windlass wired up, the engine serviced, the HF antenna attached to the backstay... I could go on, but Marcus was installing two bookshelves when I left the boat an hour or so ago., and that made me happy. That's Markus the rigger, who originally trained as a cabinetmaker. Books make a big difference to a boat's interior.

We carried a lot of books on Kukka, but on this voyage we have defected to Kindle, for obvious reasons. I did however bring my hardcover set of Virginia Woolf's diaries with me. There are some books you don't like to sail halfway around the world could, but why would you want to (to bastardise a quote from our very good friend Mike about his fabulous wife Alisa)?


  1. Hi Diana,

    I've been following your adventures. So... adventurous! I'll be thinking of you.


  2. Ditto, Josh. Who would have thought of sailing as a career move? Turns out it takes you places which don't come up in an ideas meeting! Diana x