Adventures of s/v WILD HAIR


Our land life took on form, solidity, routine. We had mastery of a limited set of skills. We had habitual expectations of others and ourselves. Going sailing, we let go of our attachments to our roles, views, and rituals. We persist because we are growing in this shapeless and dynamic world.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


We have successfully navigated to Trois Islet on the French island of Martinique and the hometown of Napoleon’s Josephine. Our harbor is so quiet I had to check our depth last night to make certain we weren't sitting on the bottom. The town is sleepy, charming, silent. The only sounds last evening were roosters, dogs, and crickets (deafening like in Wisconsin on a hot July night). Morning brought the sounds of song birds--something you don't hear much on the ocean.

Journeying through the French islands we have purchased warm baguettes in each town. I can tell these French islands are giving me a bit of extra padding around the middle. Plus, produce at the markets has been so fresh and tender--like a home garden.

The French in France know so much more English than they do in the islands. In all our travels, we've never been THIS clumsy. We have no translation dictionary or internet. I know just a handful of French words and 10 of them are counting numbers from 1-10. Three of the remaining words are "parle vous Anglaise?" Then of course there is fromage (cheese), jambon (ham), baguette, croissant, pain (bread), and poisson (fish). I can't spell it in French, but I know the sound "ooo-ey" means "where is." To tell the deli counter lady how many slices of salami we want, I have to say "dis avec dis" (or "10 with 10," meaning 20 slices). When she says "blah blah blah?" I nod. It usually works out.

When the bread man took our order for a morning croissant delivery, I had sudden recall of my high school French class and boldly asked "at what time in the morning?" but what I really said was "what time is it now?" Forget about knowing how many euros to pay for an item. We have to read what is written down or hold out a fist full of money for them to take the right amount. There is a lot of eye rolling. Some people are kind and will go out of their way to escort us where we need to go. Some people are simply not amused.

Yesterday, we bought a bag of super tender butter lettuce. However, the bag was enormous and most would have spoiled in our fridge. So this morning, I created 2 small bags of lettuce to give to our boat neighbors. Of course, they spoke no English. Dave and I drove our dinghy up to the stranger’s boats, babbling some nonsense (English), and then chucked the bags of lettuce onto their deck. Have we crossed some line as the crazy people in the harbor?

Today we took the boat into Martinique’s capital town for refueling, Fort-de-France. Arriving to the fuel dock, we couldn’t find fuel pumps or parking slips. Spotting some capable-looking folks I hollered to shore.

“Ooo-eh le diesel?” I bellowed. Imagine the stares. I repeated with greater annunciation, “ooo-eh le diesel?” Then, a chorus of gibberish sounding words spewed from the mouths of the Frenchmen. I shook my head and held up my hands in the universal symbol of “I don’t get it.”

Finally, a bold fellow shouted, “No diesel. All gone, one hour.”
My next question was unreasonably complicated, “When diesel arrives, where will… ooo-eh it be?”

My new friends turned against me, giving me the universal gesture of “forget you.” and resumed their private conversations.

Tomorrow we'll be heading from Martinique to St Lucia. It should be pretty straight forward. But, it is a long day so we'll raise anchor at 07:30. Our problem lately has been not enough wind so we've needed the assistance of the motor. Good old motor. It is helping us get to Grenada on time so we can make our flight home to Madison. More wind is due into the eastern Caribbean early next week. The legendary trade winds will return.

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