September 29, 2008

La Rochelle

Delicatessens and Pardon my “French” :)I arrived in La Rochelle late Friday evening.  It was a long sail in the sun from dusk to musk.  My face was caked with salt and pink from baby sun screen.  The customs agents were waiting at the dock for me as I pulled into my slip.  Flying the American flag as you go about the world these days raises flags of other types .  They were great, they asked me, “Obama, or McCain?”  I said “Obama”.  They said, “Se bon, enjoy your stay.”  It seems to be on everyone’s mind.  They are worried we won’t make change, and the World, from what I have seen is losing or has lost its endearment for America. We have an important role in the World, and our leader affects everyone and They realize it.  But this journal is not a political forum, it’s just an observation.  I am asked three times a day and even told I need to go home by November to vote for Obama.  I found a pair of scissors in the shower and there went all my hair. Se bon.I get a lot of attention for being an American.  Not a lot of us travel.  The Canadians travel.  The Australians  and New Zealanders, they travel.  Americans, we drive cross country, go to Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean.  There is so much to see without needing a passport.  In the Marina here, there must be one thousand boats.  There are three Canadian boats next to me.  I have looked, and you know I am desperate for another American right now, because everyone here speaks French but me.  No, the biggest marina in Europe and little Noche’s flag is the only stars and stripes I have seen.  You guys owe me, I could be a big jerk right now and that would make you guys all big jerks too.  At ease, please, I am rebuilding the faith in America over here. Today I took some friends sailing. It was sunny, warm with light winds and three Frenchies.  One was Christian, one Atheist, one Muslim and me. We had a ball and we worked well as a team.  Sailing is not accessible to all, but it is hugely dominant in the media and culture here. It was a treat for them.  Anyway France has such a multi cultural history, I forgot beer, and the wind was slow so we had to touch on religion.  We all connected in that little microcosm.  At that moment we felt like we were all in the same boat; hey! We are all in the same boat.I am so amazed by the French demeanor.  I used to think that they were rigid, stuck up and particular.  Now they seem gentle and focused on the finer aspects of life.  When you walk into a store they say “hello”.  When you leave they “say good bye”.  When you see someone you know, man or woman you kiss both cheeks.  If you come across a group of your friends, look out, it can be very time consuming just doing the kiss greeting to each person can hold you up for a while, so you have to pick your route through town.  The guys kiss each other too.  I have never seen a gentler group of people.  There is so much kissing going on all the time. Everyone is always kissing.  A pub is more or less a kissing booth.  If you are a bar tender you know a hundred people and those hundred people stop in everyday to say hi, and saying hi, means doing the double kiss thing.  For us the bar tender might get the nod, or a high five which is my arm and your arms length away.  Our greeting is two arms length away. What does that mean?  For me, now, here, I have to shower, and maybe consider using soap now because my bubble is no longer two arms length away.  But really, I see how close these people are and it blows me away.  You ride in a little car and your shoulders are touching.  How could you ever get into a fight when you were busy kissing everyone you were talking with. Laugh out loud, check this out, they really don’t understand why we say “Pardon my French” when we say a bad word.  I guess I don’t either, besides the roots of our language, but they get a kick out of the idea that somewhere else in the world when un couth language, fesses or vulgar terms for the act of love are mentioned, it must be excused for being “French like”.  How’s that supposed to go over? :)Can you spot Noche?

September 24, 2008

September 23, 2008

Bon Apetite

“France”. I grew up with the idea that to go to this place it calls for a distinguished and well cultured, even wealthy individual. lol... I also remember from our own history that they gave us a statue, taught us about liberty and helped us fight for our independence. These days they have a reputation for being rude when you don’t attempt to speak their language while in their country, and they turned on US recently when they didn’t believe in the fight. hmmm... A good old traveling friend of mine, “English Owen” and I set off for France from the south coast of England last week after being refused entrance to the UK. In the mariners world the “French” are sticklers for safety, insurance, and paperwork. In the English world, the French are traditionally second best and overall rude. Owen and I set off with low expectations for the crowd ahead. We crossed the channel, dropped anchor, and slept till a squad of customs duardos knocked on the hull. We endured an exhaustive but friendly shake down, and then set foot in the land of tiny coffee and fresh bread. We walked around the old Napoleonic streets and grinned at the refined cafes that stretched out onto the sidewalks and into the public squares. Owen tried his luck with the native tongue and instantly this older couple was walking us around the town in search of the best Creperie. We were on our heels how nice everyone seemed. Then we sailed to the next town… where a local drove us to a Saturday Farmer’s market to do our shopping, bought us coffee and toured us around an entire Island. At our next destination upon landfall we were invited to a potluck and disco party by a stagecoach driver. Then in the next town we met a large group of air traffic controllers who were unexpectedly interesting and fun. The next day a bicyclist in full leotard zoomed past as I stood on a foot path admiring boats in the bay. He screeched on his breaks and came back to enjoy the view and have a chat. It worked great; since I couldn’t speak he would! Shoot you don’t both have to speak French, just one, and he was able to keep the “conversation” going the whole time. I learned all about his bike schedule and the walking trials around the town of Brest. That evening Owen and I met a group of students who entertained us for hours singing and humming hundreds of songs that we all knew from the eighties, nineties and today till the Bars closed down. The day after that a couple of organic farmers picked me up hitch hiking and we ended up going out for dinner, playing pool and having drinks till two in the morning. Owen, being full blood English is particularly upset. Day after day were having astonishing ease with travel. Without coming here it’s easy to boycott French fries and generalize about a people. Having this past week’s experiences we would say that the Frenchies are lovely. These folks will stop what they are doing and spend their entire day with you. I guess a snear in Paris is the same as a honk from a New York cabby, don’t take it personal, go beyond Paris when you’re in France, and get out of the way when you’re in New York. Renewed and excited about the French, Owen took a bullet train to Paris and then a flight back to London and I caught some easterly winds around the Finistair peninsula to Belle Ile. Today I discovered I am living my dream. I look out at my view of the world and I want for nothing. Maybe its because the people I often meet are on their dream vacation. Sailing is a lot of work, I put in more all-nighters than any sixty hour a week guy on Wall Street, but the reward is direct and intrinsically evolving. Sailing offers little control, and it’s the slowest means to do anything, but somehow I feel I get to go directly for what I am after. It’s a lifestyle where one doesn’t have to wait fifty one weeks doing something unrelated in exchange for a week of the dream. Every day is a view that a camera cant capture and my big screen comes with all the sensations of smell, temperature and emotion. Now I am dead broke but I feel like I am the wealthiest guy on earth. I hope to avoid the lifestyle of buying a car to get to a job that pays my car payment. Please help to remind me of all of this if I get lost because it’s time to get a job, so I can afford to buy some time off again.

September 14, 2008

The First Flight Across the Atlantic!

Here’s a bit of forgotten history: Eight years before Lindberg’s solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, Franklin D. Roosevelt while serving as assistant Secretary of the Navy persuaded the Navy to fly an aeroplane from the Eastern Seaboard across the Atlantic. The Navy built four planes, the NC-1, NC-2, NC-3, and NC-4 for the mission, and stretched a fleet of naval ships every fifty miles all the way across to England. The ships were to aided in navigation, provided weather and stand by for rescue. Four planes set out, one made it. It was a primitive era for flight: 60-70mph navigating by sight, compass and new prototype aerial instruments. To cross the ocean at low altitude meant big waves and dangerous fog. The NC-2 never made it off the coast of North America. NC-1 and NC-3 were disabled by rough seas near the Azores, embarking on adventures of their own. While the one remaining NC-4 meandered out of contact lost in the fog. The mission had seemed to flop when through the fog the NC-4 sighted the high volcanic landscape of the Azores, the group of Portuguese islands in the mid Atlantic. The NC-4 landed safely in Horta, on the Island of Fial. From there they flew to Portugal, Spain and then to Plymouth England! They flew Across the Atlantic. It wasn’t solo and it wasn’t continuous but it was a first for the times. In Horta I found a propeller from the NC-3 hanging on the wall of a museum. It was there as a memento, from a failed attempt to cross the Atlantic by plane. The rest of the story went untold. It looks as though along the trail I am the only one who talks about the first transatlantic flight. As Morning Glory and I sailed across the bay in Ferrol, Spain, public television in America flashed a clip of the story on TV. But in 1919 the streets were parading as these guys approached. They went on a victory tour after the flight and it lasted for days. My Great Grandfather Jim Breese was on that party tour, because he was the Co-pilot and Engineer of the NC-4. But it seems like the party began before the crossing because before the planes set out from Rockway, NY, Breese and his ‘boyhood friend’ Roosevelt, rigged an extra seat on the NC-3 and went for a fifteen minute ride.

September 11, 2008

Deported from :)

Catchy title eh? We made it to England!!! You have to read through all my stories to get to the deported part.

So the trusty I-touch got us into Sunny England where we found red carpet and never ending hospitality(I don't want there to be any confusion, England was wet and grey, the only reason I would ever go back is because there are people from New Zealand there.) Jon, Smarti, Jas, and Nae (All Quiwis)gave us a roof over our head, transportation passes for our pockets and a cell phone for our social lives. It was great, they invited us to parties and one social event to the next for our entire stay.

We had some adventures to note:
:)Twenty miles off the coast of the Isle of Wight the back-stay from Noche landed in a nice coiled pile on deck, disrupting my movie and waking up Glory. This could have ruined the entire day, but the mast stayed up and we were able to reinforce it with two spare halyards and motor the rest of the way into Brighton.
:)Jon and I caught wind of a wedding happening some three and a half hours drive away so we got our dancing shoes and a tent and fully crashed it. We got to see some really good friends from Habitat for Humanity Ireland, all the bar peanuts we wanted and a full half days worth of dancing. We were the last men standing, in fact it was so chaotic, I woke up in a field with some tee-pees and a Gypsy caravan next to Jon, and there was only one shoe between the two of us with our car keys in it. Smiles were glued to our faces the whole time.

:)Jon brought a life raft to the River Thames,(the river that runs through London) and set it off. He Smarti, and Jas jumped in and floated away... for about twenty minutes till it sank!!!! Life rafts provide too much piece of mind and in fact this one was worthless. It was the best possible use of one. The whole stunt was awesome and would probably have made the news if three people hadn't parked their cars below the tide level for the Thames to take away on the same day.

So good times and here is the chase. We entered England by boat and with out a conventional set of answers for the bureaucratic block heads at the gate, we were turned away. We had no return tickets, so "no plans to leave".Well we don't print tickets for passages on the sail boat, I never thought about it. They didn't seem to understand why an American couple would sail to England. We tried to explain that for us, when crossing the Atlantic, England happens to be on the other side. Its an English speaking country and London being progressively vibrant and the transportation hub of the western world, is an ideal place to land and leave ones boat. Nothing got through. They didn't believe a word of what I said. In our experience the immigration officers were not well trained, lacking continuity in the information they provided us, and carelessly un-thorough. In the end during our third meeting they were so shifty and un-professional that when they tried to finger print us and take our photos, we thought they were being abusive and stepping out of protocol. Morning Glory lead the march right out the door. On the day of my departure they delivered my passport to the boat with a two stamps in it. One with a subtle hand scribed "+" across it and one with a larger hand scribed "+" across it. What daunting technology.

Morning Glory flew back to Colorado, and I sailed to France with an old friend from England. The food is once again inspiring, and the French immigration welcomed us upon arrival, saying "thanks for having all your paper work in order and in 18 months if your still in EU waters, send us a check for the tax on your vessel". The greatest part about all of this is the great ideas that come out of it. Now I am going to drop the mast and cruise through the French canal system across France to the Mediterranean.