Monthly Archives: July 2012

Stuck on a boat during the Roaring Twenties (Cruise log #2)

Stuck on a boat during the Roaring Twenties (Cruise log #2)



Bonjour les amis,

This French Girl is alive, and well. 

My boys and I have just wrapped up our first week of happy sailing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. We left American waters on Thursday and entered the quaint and scenic Canadian Gulf islands.

The Gulf Islands: So far, we have stopped on Pender, Galiano, and Thetis islands.

How quaint are the Gulf Islands? Let me fill you in. 

We have left city life and le plancher des vaches (terra firma) behind. Nature is everywhere around us; evergreens, and the magnificent Madrona trees mostly found on the West Coast of the United States and in British Columbia; peaceful bays, where anchored powerboats (“stink pots”) and sailboats of all sizes coexist peacefully, bobbing along in the breeze; pretty beaches where kids play on the local “sand” (pale crushed seashells;) shaded trails where deer can be spotted on a daily basis… 

The Bench and the Madrona tree
Telegraph Harbor, Thetis island, BC

And then there are the marinas, where we have reservations, a necessity during peak season. Ah, marinas. You know you have entered Canada, when “restrooms” become “washrooms,” “soda” becomes “pop,” and dollar coins are named “Loonies” – or is it “Toonies?” I keep getting them confused, and that is a big deal because you need handfuls to get just about anything done: showers, laundry, etc. I am getting concerned a local will eventually hand me a giant rabbit or a black cat, the next time I take out a 10 dollar bill and ask for change!

This is all your fault, Looney Tunes!


Anchoring out solves the problem for a while, but then again we still have to go ashore, and the story repeats itself. I have been doing mental exercises. On my way to the marina office, I remind myself: “Loonies… Loonies… Loonies… Oh, what a nice dog… Toonies… Merde. LOONIES. LOONIES. How hard can it be?!”


Oh well.


Everyone is so nice here, and so helpful. When a boater gets in trouble, and his vessel is pushed sideways by strong winds while docking, neighbors rush to give a hand. People sit on docks and chat; tell you their life stories; introduce their kids and dogs. They help you forget that sometimes, taking a simple shower involves a huge leap of faith… The environment can be rustic. Water supply is limited. On occasion, an island can’t offer shower, laundry facilities, or garbage disposal. Even dog poop has to be picked up by the dog owner and taken away with the rest of the trash. Imagine Parisian chien owners dealing with this type of arrangement [insert hysterical laughter.]

“The washroom”
Wait: Didn’t I see this shack in the movie “Deliverance”?! 



Life is simple. Our days are spent traveling, and we enjoy the many adventures offered by a life at sea. We make new friends, furry or human. We read a lot. More about that later… We explore. We take pictures. The boys are creative and they hardly sit down. Sometimes, there is drama. While underway, when the wind dies down, and we have to turn the engine back on (putt-putt-putt…) we listen to the VHF on Pardon my French. Some of the real life stories unfolding on Channel 16, the emergency channel, beat any soap or reality show on TV. Anyone in the boating community can empathize with the emergency situations some fellow travelers unwillingly get themselves into. 


On Friday, on our way to Galiano Island, we were caught in a small craft advisory.  While the husband expertly steered the sailboat, in the cockpit, Junior and I were glued to the VHF and followed a crisis en direct (live.) A man lost steerage on a 42-foot powerboat in the middle of heavy swells, and called for help. The Victoria, B.C. coast guards responded immediately, and did a great job at coordinating a rescue effort, enlisting other boaters to locate the boater in distress, until the emergency services showed up and started towing him and his crew (an old dog.) 


Yes, there can be drama, and comedy too. on Friday afternoon, a local yacht club anchored out in the middle of Montague harbor. It was a sight to behold: Fifteen yachts, all tied up together, in a “circle the wagon” formation. That evening, the merry (power) boaters, a cheerful crowd, decided to celebrate “l’apéritif” in style and organized a karaoke party on a loud speaker. The boaters’ inebriated voices and Beach Boys music echoed across the bay until sunset. Finally, our neighbor on the dock – a sailor – could not take it anymore. He grabbed his fog horn (these things are VERY loud in case you don’t know,) and blasted it several times, pointing it at the boat formation in the harbor, fuming. 

“The Culprits” in Montague harbor
“I set these guys straight, dang it!,” says the old sailor, holding his fog horn

That is when Le Husband joined in the fun. [What camp was he rooting for? We will never know…] He turned on the sailboat’s loud-hailer and started singing too! Pretty soon, boats anchored in the bay followed suit, and for the next twenty minutes, you could not hear yourself think: Fog horns were blasting all over the once peaceful harbor! It was July 4th without the fireworks! Fun times. 


When we are not making total derrières of ourselves to entertain friendly British Columbia, I read. A lot. Before we left, I downloaded a few novels into my beloved Nook tablet. Some of these books had been waiting for weeks, ignored, on my bedside table. The cruise would be my chance, I surmised, to catch up on my reading. Did I ever. Problem is: I got stuck in a time warp. The Roaring Twenties to be precise. 


It all started with this book, a popular selection for book clubs all over America a few months ago. 





The book started slowly, but I got hooked on the story of Ernest Hemingway’s first marriage, and his early years as a young writer, husband and father in 1920s Paris (I kept thinking of the excellent Hemingway impersonation by Corey Stoll, in the charming Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris.) If you have read the book, you know the story is mostly told through his first wife Hadley’s eyes. 


Once I was finished, it only seemed natural to hear Hemingway’s version of the events that unfolded in Paris as he struggled to make it as a writer. During these formative years, he met and befriended other expatriates, artists and intellectuals, Gertrude Stein, Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, to name just a few. As soon as I could get a decent WiFi connection (a feat in some marinas,) I downloaded A Moveable Feast, published posthumously after his suicide. 





A favorite passage from that iconic collection of Paris vignettes focuses on Hemingway’s friendship with Francis Scott Fitzgerald. One story in particular drew my attention and made me smile often: a road trip both men embarked on from Lyon to Paris, and the drama that ensued. 


This got me thinking I had not read old Fitzgerald since college, and off I went. Seconds later, I had downloaded the next book in my ever-growing list…





Once again, I became engrossed in Jay Gatsby’s tragic story, and the novel only took a few days to read. 


I did not know it, but the Roaring Twenties were not finished with me quite yet. As I was catching up on my blog reading a few days ago, thanks to an accommodating – and much appreciated – WiFi connection, I found a glowing review for another book, Laura Moriarty’s the Chaperone. I had to get my hands on it. I was not disappointed, and devoured the story of the woman who chaperoned a young Louise Brooks (the future silent-movie star and fashion icon,) to New York city in the summer of 1922. A quick read, the novel is still a page turner, and I dare anyone to put it down after the first two chapters. It seemed I was doomed… I was going to be stuck in the 1920s for the rest of the trip. Hadn’t I just been reminded of Louise Brooks’ autobiography, Lulu in Hollywood, at the end of Le Chaperone?

Louise B. and the most perfect “Bob” ever to grace a feminine face
(photographer unknown)



Something had to be done. When I started calling Le Husband  “old sport” (à la Jay Gatsby,) he took matters in his own hands: He walked up to the  marina store, and there, on one of the five dusty shelves, between canned corn, toothpaste, and paper towels, he found this little book. “Voilà,” he said proudly when he returned to the boat (I was standing in front of the mirror, trying to style my hair like Louise’s – a lost cause…) “A small gift for you. This book is autobiographical, and the woman just wrote it. She lives on a boat somewhere on the Coast. You will like it.






I opened it and read the first page. I did like it. Thank you, husband. For the next few days at least, Ernest, Scott, Jay Gatsby and Louise Brooks will let me return to the year 2012. Well, that’s the plan, n’est-ce-pas? Tell you what: Why don’t I download Lulu in Hollywood right now while I still have decent WiFi… just in case? 


A bientôt.

The Gulf Islands, B.C.:
land of glorious sunsets and stubborn WiFi connections…



Unless otherwise noted, all photos by French Girl in Seattle
Please do not use without permission

39 Responses to Stuck on a boat during the Roaring Twenties (Cruise log #2)

  1. Donc , même au beau milieu des fabuleuses Gulf Islands, on peut être embeté par des voisins bruyants !!!:o)
    Fabuleux voyage , ceci dit, les images sont fantastiques, et quelles aventures! References aussi bien à Delivrance qu’à woody Allen , belles rencontres ou drames, que c’est riche!
    je suis juste étonnée par tes choix de lecture , je crois que je me serais plutot replongée dans Jack London ou un autre aventurier du même genre, peut-être même Melville, histoire de vraiment couper les ponts avec la civilisation..
    Le bouquin choisi par ton capitaine parait plus dans le ton! :o)
    Mais l’important, c’est de se faire plaisir, et tu as l’air de te regaler!
    Que les vents continuent de vous être agreables, à toi et ton equipage! Bises!

    • Contente de te lire, comme d’habitude, Marie. Je me doute bien que tu aurais choisi d’autres auteurs “du coin” mais que veux-tu… comme le personnage interprete par Owen Wilson dans le Woody Allen, je me suis completement perdue dans les Annees Folles. Un detour fort agreable d’ailleurs. J’ai pris qq bonnes photos de bancs canadiens, que je te transmettrai apres le retour. Bisous.

  2. Our son lives in Everett, WA and we often visit the San Juans. We love it there! It’s nice now to get a glimpse of the Canadian island, too. Enjoy the adventure!

  3. Just remember, to use the loo, you might need a loony to get in! You’re welcome. 😉

    I know what you mean about being stuck in a time warp–how often have I found myself looking at the modern world with medieval-English or 18-century-Japanese eyes? Bonne lecture!

  4. Dearest Véronique,

    Great stories and it did bring back memories about the photos we received from Mama Thelma, the biological mother of daughter Liz. One photo in my post is of her on the ferry, just pulling out from Horsebay on the way to Nanaimo. You probably know where that was…
    Oh, that is a perfect ‘Bob’ even better than Mireille Mathieu’s!
    Love to you,
    Mariette

    • Dearest Mariette. Thank you for stopping by. I do remember that post of yours a few months ago. A touching story as I recall. This is a beautiful area, and a great choice for nature lovers. There are also some quaint little towns, fortunately for moi, the city girl 🙂

  5. Hello Veronique

    I am so impressed by all the reading you are doing. The interruptions and singing from the power boats made me smile. During our boating days, at our Marina, was a very handsome young man, who had a sleek boat and no trouble getting different girls each week. He, too would play his music loudly and as he left the marina, I noted he used his foot to steer is boat. From then on, we called him Joe Cool.

    Continued joy as you explore the coastline of BC

    Helen xx

    • Dear Helen. I am impressed by all the reading I have been doing too 🙂 It seems I never have enough time at home. Loved the story about your boating days. Will look around for “Joe Cool.” I might get lucky and meet him in person 🙂

  6. Would have liked to have heard the cacophony for a moment… Looks and sounds like you are up to your favorite pastime again : Having entirely too much fun.

    Happy travelling. Let me know if you see any abandoned houses or other rusty old items out there… 🙂

  7. I’m glad that you are taking in so many impressions and adventures. It’s very tempting to read all the books you have named. I have seen all of them in our bookstores, where they have a whole section for all to do with France. For me, the time of Hemingway, when he lived in Paris, is something like a special perfume. As soon as it’s mentioned, it appears in the air.

    • Then definitely start with “The Paris Wife.” You will love it, or take a short cut with “the original:” “A Moveable Feast.” Happy reading, dear Olga. Hope summer is beautiful in Toronto and you are enjoying your new home!

  8. a very fine post indeed -the one book leading to another- to another happens to me often! i get obsessed-love le h’s rebelious side too funny stay safe enjoy until next time ….

  9. Cela m’a fait plaisr de voir les jardins de Bagatelle en photos car il y a bien longtemps que je les ai visités. Your photos of Paris are super – c’est bien Paris ça. What a lovely trip you are having in the Pacific Northwest. We have been to Vancouver Island 3 times but never with a boat – there is so much to see there that I am sure you will bring tons of pictures. I read the Hemingway book and the Paris Wife. If she was as depicted in the book je l’ai trouvé un peu molle. J’ai lu des rapports sur elle dans d’autres livres de cette époque là (au moins 10) et il parait qu’elle n’avait pas inventé le fil à couper le beurre, si tu me comprends…

    • Dear Vagabonde. I truly enjoyed your bilingual message this morning, on lovely Thetis island, BC. I was quite interested in Hadley H, a complex character, certainly. I would agree with you on the “molle” assessment, but she was madly in love. This explains that, don’t you think?

  10. I loved ‘Paris Wife’ and the Woody Allen film…and like you, Veronique, I start pulling a thread and keep going. One of the best books ever read was about Gerald and Sara Murphy on whom Fitzgerald based ‘Tender is the Night.’ They were rich American expats who started the Juan-les-Pins Jazz festival–and a casino. In fact the elegant waterside hotel that exists there today was Fitzgerald’s one time rented home. (I met Marcus Miller one of the principals of the festival today in a Carmel-by-the-Sea cafe with his beautiful wife.)

    Love your pix, story….thanks for taking us along! Glad the boater was rescued!

    • Bonjour Suzanne. Some threads are worth pulling, I guess. 🙂 This thread is the thread that keeps on giving. What a great story you had for me this morning. Loved it. I will have to check out the old Fitzgerald rental home next time I drive through Juan les Pins! Take care.

  11. Enjoying your fantastic photos and descriptions. Loved reading “Paris wife” and,like you, it prompted me to read Hemingways “Movable Feast”. Hadley and Hemingway had a bit different take on their Paris experience. Have a safe trip!

  12. I’m glad you are having such a wonderful, if kind of rustic, 🙂 sailing vacation. And you are a reading dynamo! I too loved ‘The Paris Wife’, and i have ‘The Chaperone’, but haven’t yet read it. And i read ‘A Movable Feast’ quite a few years ago, but perhaps i should reread? I did enjoy it. Isn’t the Pacific Northwest gorgeous in the summer?! And god knows we wait long enough for this weather, don’t we, Veronique? 😀 I think i’d love the sailing part of your vacation, but perhaps not the ‘iffiness’ of a hot shower. I think i’m quite spoiled.. Have fun on your continuing travels, and keep us posted!

    Mary

    • Bonjour Mary. Yes, you are right, we DO wait long enough for this wee bit of summer weather! Life as a liveaboard is similar in many ways to camping: You get close to nature, but a bit too close sometimes. Some of the “washrooms” or marina facilities would not work for everyone. Water restrictions are also hard to deal with for all of us spoiled Americans, but what does not kill you makes you stronger, they say, right? Come back soon… and happy reading!

  13. That last shot should be my screen saver. It’s gorgeous. I loved the map as I’ve never really known exactly where my blog friend Victor’s Gabriola Island was located. Smooth sailing my dear.
    V

    • Bonjour V. Great to hear from you. Glad the map helped (it helped me too, as I am a bit directionally challenged…) Good thing we have a knowledgeable skipper to steer us through all these islands and shoals! A bientôt, amie d’Alabama.

  14. It all sounds like a fabulous adventure…………..nevertheless, I was born a city girl (Paris, New York, Philadelphia) and I will probably die as such. I’m not very adept at roughing it at this stage of my life, although I have fond memories of backpacking around the world in my youth.

    Living rough for me these days is a Holiday Inn.

    Happy sailing. Love the Logs.

  15. I forgot to add that one of the most wonderful weeks we ever spent on vacation was on a péniche in the canal du niverny in Bourgogne. It was fabulous!!! We were the only guests on board, so we had this beautifully refitted boat and a personal chef at our disposal. It’s what is referred to as luxury hotel barging. I guess it doesn’t exactly count as “roughing it,” does it?

  16. Dear M-T: From one “city girl” to another, I will happily be reunited with my comfortable home in a few days (and my beautiful American bathroom 🙂 The scenery around the islands is breathtaking, but I could use a few more stops near towns 😉 As for your luxury hotel barge, you’re right, it doesn’t qualify as “roughing it” — Then again, neither do three weeks on our beautiful Hunter Legend. Baby steps for us, city girls, right? 🙂

  17. Sounds like quite an adventure! Love your book list…I have read most of those novels and loved them; however I have not gotten to The Paris Wife yet. Now, thanks to you, it has shot to the top of the list!

  18. Ummmm I was obsessively looking up The Chaperone, only to discover that the author lives 40 minutes away from me and teaches creative writing at the local university. AWESOME. So, that is definitely the next book I’m going to read.

    Please let me know how Lulu in Hollywood is as well. I want your opinion before reading it because you’re honest in reviews and I appreciate it.

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