Thursday, 17 May 2012

When you forget how to laugh

I'm not sure how I'll remember these weeks at Port Napoleon, or if I'll want to remember them. I think not. It's a month today since we left Sydney, and last night I told Alex I didn't know if I was cut out for the boating life. I love sailing, I love living on a boat, I said, but everything's coming back to me now. The boating life is more about keeping your boat afloat than it is about enjoying being afloat. It's about waiting around in marinas for weeks that turn into months while your stomach is eaten out with anxiety and frustration, and your spirits curdled by fist-banging impotence. It demands a different kind of temperament from mine. I was fragile last night. I almost lost it.

Alex at work on Enki's freshwater pump
I could blame the malicious wind for my ill-temper, but in this part of the Mediterranean, called the Golfe de Lion, gales are as commonplace as floods in Queensland and fires in Victoria. Or I could blame the month of May. We were going yet into another long weekend (today is a public holiday, so Friday is "the bridge" and then, of course, the weekend...). Or I could blame the tradies. We hadn't seen anyone all week. No progress on the davits, the engine and generator service, the deck cleats. And still no mast, though the news from Marcus was that the replacement rigging had arrived.

Market morning in Port Saint Louis du Rhone
Or I could blame the boat herself - for being a boat. After the light relief of the market in Port Saint Louis yesterday morning, Alex and Dave went flat out - literally - for the best part of eight hours replacing the pump which supplies us with fresh water.  It had burned out overnight. At the same time, they continued their battle with the watermaker, which as it turns out, needs a part which is unavailable in the boatyard. Those jobs weren't even on the list when the day began.

But really, is there something else at work here?

This morning, we were all up early,  primed to have Enki around at the dock by 10 am. The wind had dropped, and though it was cold enough (I'm wearing three layers today), the sky was blue. We had water coming out of the taps again, and the prospect of a mast. We even allowed ourselves to believe that Matthew would show up to make a start on the engine and the deck cleats. Breakfast in the cockpit was much happier than dinner the night before.

At 9 am, Markus rang to ask Alex to come and look at the mast.  The call felt ominous, and yes, when Alex returned, the news was bad. Enki wouldn't be getting her mast in today. The stays, which last week were too short, were now too long. Embarrassing for the rigger, but for us, mortifying. France is more or less closed until Monday.  Enki has 14 mm stainless steel stays. There is no-one in Port Saint Louis with a machine which is big enough to effect the change needed to shorten them (I write this in a convoluted way because I'm wobbly on the technical term - to swage. Can I use it properly? I'm unsure). There's a chance that someone in a big marina in Cannes may be able to help between now and Monday. If so, we'll drive the offending stays there ourselves.

Matthew and Alex fixing the deck cleats
We will leave Port Napoleon before June arrives. I tell myself this. Alex tells himself this. These trials which are so large in our minds now are insignificant in the scheme of things. We know this. But we are human. Our responses cannot be moderated as easily as we'd like. We lose it, even the coolest of us. Perhaps one day we'll be able to laugh when someone mentions Port Napoleon. Or perhaps will we choose to forget this wasteland at the mouth of the Rhone.


  1. Feeling yout frustration right now...what to say? You know how to make god laugh...tell him your plans! Seriously though, love Past the Lighthouse.

  2. what a coincidence - I don't like the boating life either! Nor does Alisa, I'm pretty sure. It's just that sailing is so good that it makes it all worthwhile....that, and the fact that we can't imagine any reasonable alternative to living on a boat...