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203. From blog to book

On my blogger 'blogspot' page I once saw an ad to convert my blog to a book instantly. I kept this in mind until recently when I thought I could afford such a treat.

I went to Blog2Print and went through the process of getting this blog Threefold Twenty turned into a book. I followed the instructions clicking on 'next' until I got to the paying instructions. I wanted to know how much it could cost and how I could pay for it. This information was unfortunately not stated upfront. I found out it would be around $60 and I could pay via a Paypal account. There was no currency exchange details but I trusted Paypal to do the job to convert it into Euros. I stopped the process without 'saving' my research.

When I was ready to actually have the book made and pay for it, I signed in and went through the same process again. When I got to the pay instructions, I went into my Paypal accont and asked to have the money transferred. Fine. Then a page came up asking me to prin…

195. Tramp of the South Seas (6)

As I said in 191. Tramp of the South Seas (5) I was due to leave in Fiji the yacht I was on as crew since Tahiti. It was July 1997 and I had been away from home in New Caledonia since December 1995. Sailing from Tahiti westward I was finding that Fiji had a familiar look. It felt more Melanesian than Polynesian. The yacht rally around the world counted Fiji as the end of a 'leg' for all yachts, racing or otherwise. However the finish line was not in Suva but on a small island called Malololailai off Nadi (pronounced Nandi) on the west coast.

So after a couple of days in Suva and promising to return to Suva for my next job as crew to a Kiwi guy sailing to New Caledonia, we set sails to the island of Bega (pronounced Benga) on the way to Malololailai.

I am writing this from fading memories of what happened 13 years ago without maps or charts or photos. What I say might not be terribly accurate. Maybe one day I'll check with the yacht's log if I manage to get in touch wit…

192. CREW AVAILABLE... THE SEQUEL

I'm interrupting the tale of my life as a sailing tramp in the South Pacific in 1997. Something has happened in my present time.

The sailboat I was due to join as crew in August/September for an Atlantic crossing, but that I turned down last minute, has sunk.

The story starts when I registered with a website to find a yacht as a crew member. See post 183.Crew available.

There were many opportunities. I received 2 positive answers, one from a sailboat in the eastern Med and one from Sweden. The Med one I turned down straight away because I was asked questions before they introduced themselves. Being a member of the crew is like being a member of a family. I hate being treated like an employee, especially when you have to pay for your own food on top of helping get the boat going.

The other offer sounded interesting and squarely organised. A Swedish captain owner of an elegant sloop was trying to build up a women-only crew. The planned circumnavigation sailing was from August 2010 t…

191. Tramp of the South Seas (5)

When we made it to Suva the first thing to do was to go to some administration to have the boat papers and our passports stamped. I remember waiting in a gloomy room with the captain wondering what was next. An Indian Fijian eventually welcome us and duly stamped several copies of some document saying we were now in Fiji.

I had previously heard on the news in New Caledonia of the troubles between two ethnic groups in Fiji, the indigenous Fijians and the population from India which had been imported in the 19th century for labor purposes. When I walked through the busy streets of Suva I realized what it meant. These two groups look very different indeed. I soon learnt not to greet Indians with the loud 'boulah' used by the indigenous Fijians.

Having come all the way from the Tuamotus in Polynesia I felt that these people were more Melanesian than Polynesian. I realized I was getting closer to home. New Caledonia is populated by indigenous Melanesians. They are people who lik…

190. TRAMP OF THE SOUTH SEAS (4)

Between Vavau, a northern island of the Tongas, and Suva, the capital city of the Fiji islands, there is about a week's sailing if I remember correctly. It was the beginning of July 1997. We sailed west to Fiji happy to come close to the end of this 'leg' of the Rally Around The World organised from London in which about 50 yachts took place.

I was happy to be sailing, cruising to be precise, somewhere in the South Pacific where Captain Cook roamed two centuries before. The agreement with the captain/skipper/owner of the sailboat where I was the sailing cook (...or the cooking sailor!) was that I was to leave the boat in Suva. Fiji was the end of a leg and the next one was to sail directly to the Queensland coast. As I wanted to go home to New Caledonia I had to find another crew job with someone sailing from Fiji to New Caledonia.

What do I remember from this passage? The weather was fine. We sailed with fair winds or so, the so-called trade winds from the SW. When we go…

189. Tramp of the South Seas (3)

So we motored into Vavau and came to dock at Neiafu.  Only a few yachts there. That was in 1997 of course, but I gather it might not be much different nowadays. The Pacific Ocean is vast and islands are wide apart. You really have to be serious about 'cruising' to get there. Perhaps with the advent of automatic sailing and automatic navigation a lot more sailboats will venture that far. In 1997, however, there were not many people cruising around there. It was the end of June or the beginning of July i.e. the cool season in the southern tropical area of the world and the weather was just fine.

After mooring everyone went out into 'town' and I staid on board. As I was in charge of the galley and the cooking I figured I had to clean up a bit after the last passage. I was in no hurry to visit the place being myself a resident of a Pacific Island at the time in New Caledonia.

Not more than 20 minutes after the rest of the crew had left I get a call on the short wave radio…

186.TRAMP OF THE SOUTH SEAS (2)

I must resume writing the story of my sailing trip across the Pacific in 1997. The previous episode is told in my post 164 when we had arrived in Rarotonga. The leg of the 'rally around the world' we were doing was from Tahiti to Fiji. The stop over in Rarotonga lasted a few days, enough for me to prepare the food for the next passage and to stroll for a couple of hours in the town of Avarua. Should I write my 'impressions' here? What I will say might not be 'politically correct' now that we are in 2010 and so aware of what is acceptable for printing.

For 6 months prior to my sailing adventure, I had been living and working in French Polynesia. I had seen how local Polynesians behaved and carried on. Like the French they were pretty undisciplined and prone to have fun, wether eating or flirting. Now when I strolled in the streets of Avarua in Rarotonga the atmosphere was very different. The lawns were nicely trimmed, people were playing rugby or cricket, schoo…

183. Crew available

Last month I joined an Australian based website called Find a Crew. It is a very practical and efficient website aiming at connecting captains and skippers looking for crew and crew members looking for a boat and captain. Here's my profile:

Crew Member 57066, 66, female
Languages I speak
fluent English, French, acceptable German
My current location is in France
My home location is in France
Destinations I'm interested to crew: any country
Nationality: French
Boat types I'm interested to crew on:
Sailing Vessel
Boat length overal (LOA): 13 meters (43ft)
People aboard:
preferably a boat with at least 3 or more people aboard
Smoking: I'm a non-smoker
Sea time:
I've spent about 2 years at sea so far
Duration:
I'm available to crew preferably between 6 months to 2 years

Dear Shipmates,
Cruising is a way of life I love. I haven't been able to afford my own sailboat so that I have always sailed as a member of the crew on other people's boats.

I sailed for the …

181. Weigh anchor and set sails (3)

South of Norfolk and heading for Cape Reinga at the top of the North Island of New Zealand we came across a field of jellyfish. I say 'field' for lack of a better word. We were sailing through it, left right and center. When I sailed about the same course 2 years later they were still there! If anyone needs jellyfish for any purpose of medical research, for instance, they might still be there as far as I know. We were also visited by a weird big shark who hung around the hull for 2 days. Later on from various books I figured it was a whale shark. And last, when the weather started getting moving, we were visited by an albatros.

On board life was happy, gently flirting, efficient at driving the boat and culturally interesting. The old captain had a great sense of humor. His job was to keep the radio contact going and reporting to base in NZ. He never interfered with our jobs. But what he said was law. When we (me in particular) wanted to land on Norfolk he said no and that was …

180. WEIGH ANCHOR AND SET SAILS (2)

Dreaming of sailing again, yes, and making plans to find a crew position on a cruising sailboat, I've joined a number of sailing forums on the world wide web. On 'cruisersforum' you find all sorts of conversations between sailors in various parts of the world. It is not so diversified actually. They are mostly english speaking men. I tiptoed in one conversation the other day about a sailing plan from Cairns on the eastern coast of Australia to Auckland in New Zealand. Here's my observation:
Hi, The tradewinds are not that regular any more. I wouldn't sail that distance in a straight line anyway. Nothing is a straight line on the ocean as you know.
I sailed Noumea-Bundaberg once, Noumea-Auckland once, Noumea-Opua once.
If you could sail from Cairns to Noumea
... yes but not at this time of year. Anyway from New Caledonia you don't even have to tack once! From Noumea to Lord Howe the south easterlies push you to the west of Lord Howe and then the south westerlies pu…

173. Departing

To comment on a post called Last Time written by one of the blogging sailors I follow, I want to write about the idea I have of dying. In my mind it is connected with the experience we have throughout life of leaving. Departure, embarkment, setting sails. As a crew member on a sailboat I derive a special joy of casting the last line off and jumping on board last. Don't know why. I love departing!

Leaving, to me, is a special step forward to a known or unknown destination. What excites me probably is the discovery it promises: new lands, new people, new climate, new food, new everything.

Like coming out of your mother's womb. Like sailing out of any harbor's road. Especially out of Noumea's road. The island of New Caledonia, off the Australian Queensland coast by 800 nautical miles, has a reef belt. To leave with a sailboat you have to sail out of the lagoon through a narrow pass in the reef out into the dark blue Pacific ocean. Like getting born. Like 'departing&#…

164. TRAMP OF THE SOUTH SEAS (1)

In June 1997, as I said before, I sailed as a crew member on the English yacht Ocean Dream from Tahiti, Papeytey harbour, to Rarotonga, Avarua harbour.

At the time it did not come to mind but now, writing this down some 13 years later, I realise that I was actually living my style of 'Vagabond des Mers du Sud', the book written by Bernard Moitessier that sent many teenagers of my generation to sea. There, as a crew on this yacht, I really was a tramp of the South Seas, without hardly any belongings, often going hungry and doing a variety of odd jobs just to keep sailing.

On board Ocean Dream the agreement had been that I would pay for my food. I hadn't been able to bargain on this issue as this yacht was my last hope in Papeytey, after having left my job in the Tuamotus. At least I was going to eat and sleep somewhere, and sail. My job was specifically to do some child minding of the 3 year old son on board and also to organise all the cooking and feeding of the 4 adults,…

162. A RIBBON ON A HALYARD

Those days when sailors crossed oceans with a ribbon on a halyard to indicate the strength and the direction of the wind... are gone. When I realised that, I got angry. A bit like someone who'd learnt how to sharpen a flint nicely to cut a sheepskin and an idiot comes up with a new tool made of iron called scissors to do the job!

So I learnt how to use the new instruments. Reluctantly. I still argued with my captain on various occasions. The last issue was with a kiwi sailor who had taken me on as crew from Suva to Port-Vila. He had programmed his small homemade yacht to enter the harbour of Port-Vila in Vanuatu by itself... and by night. I simply could not stand it! At night, you stand on deck and you get ready to react to anything suspicious. But he wanted to 'test' his new toy and see if he could rely on his programmed plot to turn into the harbour.

We argued. I went up on deck at the bow and waited until my eyes were accustomed to the dark. I saw we were heading not f…

161. Wind and stars (4)

When I sailed across the south pacific in 1997 (do I repeat myself, d'you think?)... cat's pee? you sailed to the moon?... ah!

Anyway, one night as I was on watch... I know, you've heard that one before... so one night, somewhere between Bora-Bora and Rarotonga... a nice stretch of blue water. You can't fathom how big the Pacific Ocean is until you've been on it. Anyway, one night, I was at the helm on my own and the other 3 adults and the little boy were all asleep. The wheel on that yacht was very tall and, as I am only 5 foot nothing (1m50), I had a hard time holding the damn thing. I was not on automatic. I was actually steering. The weather was splendid, a million stars above my head, some fast moving clouds, and the swish-swish of the hull cutting the waves was a lovely sound. We were doing 12 knots. I know. I should'nt have. There was a baby on board and we were not supposed to speed. But the feeling was total elation. The boat slightly on its side. The …

160. TAHITI RAROTONGA FLASH BACKS

In June 1997 I joined the crew of 'Ocean Dream' moored at the Waterfront Boulevard in Papeytey. It was easy access to anyone. I invited my flute teacher from the Music School to visit me on board. The English captain asked her if she would play a tune and be filmed for the BBC. Sure, no problem, she said, and asked for my flute. She started playing but soon decided to go and get her own flute. So, I have this fantastic memory of the bow of the yacht facing the sunset and this flute teacher playing a gorgeous traditional Tahitian song on the flute. It was duly recorded, the whole scene. I have to get in touch again!



Another fabulous flash back takes place at the pontoon of the yachtclub in Bora-Bora. As I recall it, we were still approaching to moore very slowly. This mad yacht comes racing along full sails out. At what looked like a couple of yards distance from hitting the pontoon, they dropped the sails, roared the engine mad into reverse and turned around to... just touch t…

159. Wind and stars (3)

In February 1996 I arrived in New Zealand with the idea of staying there a couple of weeks visiting old friends living in the South Island. I stayed a year, now and then looking for a crew job in a marina to sail to Polynesia. I kept a journal of my days and adventures that year in New Zealand in the form of a tale now printed as the story of 'Li-Yan'. They are great memories. But my plan of sailing on Captain Cook's trail seemed to have stalled. Eventually I flew off Auckland NZ to Papeytey, worked in Polynesia for a couple of months and finally got a crew job on a yacht in June 1997.

I was on an atoll in the Tuamotus when I saw on the local TV that a fleet of 50 yachts had sailed into Papeytey harbour. I dropped everything and everybody and took the local cargo boat back to Tahiti. There I finally joined the crew of a British yacht sailing in that 'Rally around the world' organised from London. The name of the yacht was 'Ocean Dream', it fitted my purpose…

158. WIND AND STARS (2)

These sailing adventures of mine go back more than 10 years ago. I am writing them down now from memory alone. I never bothered playing journalist then. My experience was raw, rough and ready so to speak. At first I had a camera but later when I sailed from Polynesia to New Caledonia, I didn't even have a camera.

My memory can fail, of course. Thinking over it again the story about waking the captain because of the moon rise did not occur as I said in my previous post. On that sailing leg from Noumea to Bundaberg I woke the captain because I suddenly noticed a red light on the sideboard. As it happened, this red light had always been there to indicate that the mast light was on... hence the captain accusing me of being moon struck, as a joke. But I did take the moon rise for a large tanker on the horizon once. I forgot on what boat and where exactly.

After arriving in Australia in December 1995, I went to visit several friends, spent Xmas in Sydney with the family of an old Canber…

157. Wind and stars (1)

Maybe it's time I tell my 'wind and stars' story. I've kept it to myself until now as it is a precious memory and by writing it down I am scared to turn it into just a story. Precious memories can be defiled by people who take pleasure in making others feel small. My sailing years in the south pacific between 1995 and 1999 are jewels to me. Some will judge that they are useless pebbles of no value.

I wanted to go on Captain Cook's trail. However, I didn't have any means to achieve such a dream. Never mind. In December 1995 I hopped onto a small yacht with an American who needed crew from Noumea to Bundaberg. That was not going the right way as far as Cook's itinary was concerned but never mind.

The guy was drunk when I arrived on board. He had sailed from Texas across the Panama canal, then the long stretch to Polynesia and had finally made it to Noumea in New Caledonia. He was heading for the Queensland coast in Australia. It was just him and his sailboat…

156. WIND UND STERNE

Several lives I have been through during my 3x20 years of existence. They are totally disconnected one from the other, have nothing to do with one another. I found myself at ease as a ballet student among dancers and opera singers, hanging around stages and back stages. I found myself at ease as an ethnologist among African migrants, wearing a long skirt and tentatively speaking Fulah. And, as a crew member on various sailboats, I found myself at ease being a sailor accross the Pacific ocean.

Now old and resigned, I enjoy roaming in my past worlds in daydreams. Sometimes the blunt hidden feelings get stirred again by a film on TV or on a dvd.

All this intro to say that I have been recently moved to tears by the film on Captain Cook produced by the NDR (Nord Deutsche Rundfunk) and put on the franco-german ARTE television channel. James Cook is my hero! I sailed on his tracks in the south pacific as much as I could. I had no means, just the mad urge. I often went hungry just to be there…