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78. SAILING LUST

In October 1997 in Noumea when I was about to cast off the mooring line and sail to New Zealand, I was 53. I had started crewing yachts in the Pacific when I was 50 after a serious operation where I laid half dead in a bed next to that of a woman who ran a yacht charter business in Singapour... I don't believe in coincidences!

Normally in 1997 after two years wandering at sea I was due to 'settle' and expected to be contented. But I experienced a strange feeling every time my eyes met the horizon which is, in Noumea, the dark blue high seas of the South Pacific.

A very strange feeling, this longing to be out there on the ocean. It is hard to explain and hard to be believed. Don't know where it comes from. In my case I had absolutely no family background leading me to this longing for the sea. If it is genetic, then I must have inherited a stray chromosome somewhere along the line.

In my early teenage years at boarding school I craved for adventures. In my mind then it mea…

77. Yoties food

During my years of sailing across the Pacific between 1995 and 1999 as a crew member on other people's yachts, and being French as well as being a woman, I was often asked to help and even take charge of the food on board.

Feeding strategy is very varied among yoties. Actually it would be more accurate to say there isn't a strategy.

On an 8 day crossing from New Caledonia to Australia with an American guy who simply opened a tin when he was hungry I decided that it was not the way to do it. On another boat with an American couple sailing from Vanuatu to New Caledonia the policy had been to eat cold all the way, except for the odd cup of coffee, in order to avoid opening the gas bottle, for safety reasons. I decided that this was not the ideal way either.

Captain James Cook had figured out, a couple of centuries earlier, that if you wanted a reliable crew you had to give them reliable food. It seems obvious enough. You have to have a food strategy as well as a 'proper cours…

76. A SENIOR TRAVELLER

In October 1997 when I met Harry on his sailboat at Port Moselle in Noumea, he was 79 years old, going onto 80. He was slim, fit and in full possession of his mental capabilities. Managing the present and planning the future. He had plans. He enjoyed the challenges of his present life to the full. When I met him on the deck of his homemade yacht, he got talking of a problem with his main sail and of some rigging that gave him trouble. He asked where in Noumea he could find an English speaking chandler. And to whom he could talk to about his sail. We finally found a bilingual South African sailmaker and a chandler able to fix his problem.

His yacht, a cutter called Aureo, did not come from some expensive boat yard but from his back yard. Around the age of 50 he started building it in his spare time at the back of his place in Auckland, New Zealand. It took 10 to 12 years of work and when he officially retired from his work as an x-ray technician, he got it put on the water and declared …

74. WEIGH ANCHOR AND SET SAILS (1)

From June 1997 I had sailed as crew on three different sail boats, making it back home to Noumea in New Caledonia in the middle of August. I had been away for 18 months. The next thing to do was to ‘settle down’, have a job and lead a decent life. The adventure was over.

Was it? Everyday with the pretence to look for second hand books at the marina, I’d go and hang around there for a while. One morning I overheard a conversation between an American and a couple of other sailors. The American was saying in broad accent: “I hear you are looking for crew to sail down to New Zealand”… I jumped into the conversation. Sailing from Noumea to Auckland is known among yachties as being for sailors with experience only. By then, I had plenty of it and could claim for the job. A man said: “go and see my father, he’s the captain, the boat isn’t far from here.”

The boat was moored with her stern to the dock, with a cat walk like board between the two. As I jumped on deck an old white head man greeted…