As we approach our winter mooring, we’re starting to focus on the next part of our adventure, and look back at what we’ve achieved so far. The journey has been a pleasure and, conversely, a bit like a Carry-On film too. After the ‘challenges’ of buying a boat in a country where we don’t speak the language, we are now reaping the rewards.
First: The challenges Hauling-out, survey and work in a foreign place, with an angry broker (the sellers’ broker) as the sellers had accepted our low offer (our fault?) – AND, secret ‘meetings’ between the yard and previous owners, where we could never figure out what was going on and always felt like we were being led up the garden path to rip-off-land – made a rather stressful time. But, it all worked out in the end – and rather well!
After we’d traversed the buying process, in order to get going Noel spent two-and-a-half days bent over like a crone in the engine room, he fixed umpteen leaks in the wheelhouse windows and we painted a 18.5 metre boat (“why’d you buy something so big?”) – hanging up-side-down to reach the hull or balancing in the leaking dinghy.
Meanwhile, a cat adopted us, which was nice until we found out she had at least one other home. We tried to convince the cat to go home and stopped feeding her, but there was a bountiful supply of field mice. The cat stayed and continued to leave a trail of gall bladders on the carpet and mats to denote her preferred nocturnal eating spots.
When we set off, we tackled low bridges that caused palpitations. We fudged the drawing of the bridge curves, guessing the water height (after flood rains), and we considered several alternate suggestions from other nomadic-brained cruising folk, such as ourselves:
- Load up the boat with passers-by at the feared bridges, offer free beer as an enticement.
- Get close to the bridge and ‘GUN-IT-MATE’, which would indeed lower the roof height, as these barges do sink considerably at speed in shallow water (about 3″- 4″)
The problem with these ideas was:
- How do I overcome Noel’s inherited Scottish antipathy to providing ‘free beer’?
- We didn’t think we had the bottle to approach the offending 200 year old stone arches with 25 tonnes at 6 knots. “What could go wrong?”
We took a day off prior to tackling the low bridges, we had flood rain that night that really ensured the adrenaline reached peak levels…. with clenched teeth and other body parts…we made it – just.
We made good time south and Noel swam in The Med, he said, “It was very nice, no surf, dead flat and I managed to avoid impaling my feet on the broken glass and syringes.” (I have trouble swimming in the sea, since my shark encounter…another story for another day!)
More recently, we have sacked the planning staff on board that we used on the current co-ordination of events. (Fancy coming so far south for warmer climes to head north again!) There are vacancies in the afore mentioned position. So far, no takers.
Now: The Rewards Each day we trickle along, accompanied by the ripple from our bow. Otters ruffle the silky surface, my favourites, the Kingfishers, flash bright blue and vivid orange within the canal’s banks.
It’s a real feast for our eyes, as we putter through villages, rolling hills, and resplendent trees where horses frolic. The relaxed way of travel heightens our senses, the breeze picks up the tangy perfume of autumn, and in the evenings iridescent dragonflies flit in the fading light.
We hear the throaty calls of the dawn chorus, eerily hidden by heavy mist. We are enjoying the cool nights where we feel the pleasure of wearing warm clothes.
We’re no longer sailing but we’re still weather watching. Wind is still to be respected and, now, rain too.
The journey is becoming etched on our skin, by way of smiles; created by new friends, passing acquaintances, helpful locals and friendly waves.
It’s been an honour to do this journey and we’re having the time of our lives. It’s all there for the taking, just waiting for us and anyone with a sense of adventure.
The next part of the adventure We plan to renovate below decks and enjoy living in a small, friendly village, Buzet sur Baise. It’s here we’ll re-acquaint with friends that we’ve made along the way, and hopefully make new friends (while creating a nice home too).