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?!”
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.]
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
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?
|The Gulf Islands, B.C.:
land of glorious sunsets and stubborn WiFi connections…