Thursday, August 11, 2011

Graciosan Swine and French Sailors - Laugh or Cry II

2011 08 04

Angra, Terceira, Azores
(were going to leave today but the neighbours asked us to dinner.)

Waking after our first night of frequently interrupted sleep on the island of Ingraciosa we were dismayed to find the pigship Espirito Santos moored off our stern.  The prow of their boat actually extended over our stern and came very close to touching our backstay.  The pigship, a stinking livestock transporter which had brought pigs and goats to the island had no need to be so close - the wall was 800 metres long and the ship only 50.  Its captain, obviously taking umbrage at our use of "his" wall, had the crew hose down its deck and the muck it was washing off itself was spraying in large quantities on the deck of our poor Meredith.

A French yacht tied up a boat length and a half ahead of us the night before had moved overnight and now its stern davits were only a foot and a half off our pulpit.  It seemed to have deliberately moved to block any attempt by us to move away from the heady nose of Espiritos.

We were pinned.

All of this came before my morning coffee and after a night of aural and olfactory blitzkreig by the pigship docking darkened my mood: it was as black as the muck raining down on our decks.

Nowhere could be found a french yachtsman with which to discuss the situation.  Probably for the best.

Aboard Meredith when things take a turn, as they so often do, we look always to the Benner family motto:"Run away".  Only ten minutes were wasted untying our two lines and casting off.  Out to sea with us it was and on to Angra do Heroismo on the neighbouring island of Terceira only forty nautical miles to the east.

In the process we lost the flag and flagpole which caught on a line from the french yacht (they had seven lines to our two) and was torn from the pushpit.  Manoeuvering was tight.

As we motored out the harbour and set the genoa in the following breeze it began to rain.  Perfect.  The Budget Committee made coffee and we sailed happily away from the Isle of Inhospitality.

An hour out to sea there appeared a sail off our stern, a big white sail which belonged, I knew without aid of binoculars, to the same french boat which proved so helpful on the wall.

One ocean empty save for two sailboats.  Only one outcome is possible: Race.

And this was a grudgematch.

Now I say this as if the crew were of one mind.  The Budget Committee was just happy to be away from the filth and stench of Espiritos Santos.  She relaxed with her Kindle while I  fell with relish to the tasks of trimming sail and adjusting course.  Honestly the BC is rarely much use in a race: she just doesn't get it.  Those double XX chromosome things cloud her thinking.

Early on I lay my sextant on its side and measured the angle made between the top of the french mast and the horizon. If this angle grew then the frenchmen were gaining on us, if the angle shrank then Meredith was treating them to what they deserved.

Five minutes later I put the sextant away.  No further sextant work was required. Every trick and bit of sailing lore in my quiver had been pulled out and set to the bowstring but my aim was off.  All that effort to no avail. That French boat was smoking us like the Hayter family smokes their turkeys.

Hayters is a family farm just outside our former home of Lucan, Ontario.  For thirty years this farm has provided us with all of our fresh turkey for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.

Like me their turkeys cannot sail.

It was embarrassing.  As the french sail grew inexorably on the horizon my mood turned further to the dark side. The other boat drew abeam, crew laughing and waving to us,  the devious buggers.  Finally it delivered the final insult and crossed our bow.

About this time the BC noted that I seemed "sort of quiet". Was there something bothering me she wondered.  One of those enigmatic smiles grew on her face; you know the kind that lets you know your wife thinks you are acting like a teenager and could use a good dose of maturity.

About then it occurred to me that throwing unnecessary weight from the boat would help our speed on the ground.  It was a fleeting and uncharitable thought but if I could have managed another half knot...

In the end the despicable french having left and hour and a half after us arrived at Angra nearly an hour before we did.  As we pulled into the marina dock to clear in I prepared a gracious congratulations to those who had bested us on the water.

As we approached the marina/fuel dock four guys lept from the cockpit of the french boat to grab our lines and help tie up.  The french captain entered the office with me.  Once cleared in and returning to the dock I spoke briefly with the captain about our shared night of horror in Graciosa and found out that in addition to our mutual grievances his boat was new and he was terrified that it, a Bavaria 50 I noted from the side, was going to be pulled under the concrete wall and destroyed.

It took a minute.

A Bavaria 50.  That meant these guys had almost 20 feet of waterline more than Meredith.  And that meant that Meredith had not been smoked at all. We were just fighting way over our weight.

And that meant these guys were ok.

As we moved Meredith off the fuel dock to her slip one of the French crew yelled an invitation to come for drinks when we were straightened away. The invitation was taken up immediately.

Drinks ran to 6 hours in which a cockpit of french, english and german sailors, none of particularly bilingual, finished several litres of wine and two litres of Ricard as we shared  horror stories about Graciosa.

The pig boat and the car ferry were great sources of mirth to both of our boats and the "wall" at Graciosa was common enemy. They, like us, had arrived at Graciosa that same day only to find no marina, no anchorage and obviously not much of a wall.

If memory serves we learned some interesting insults to the pigship Espirito Santos, each insult carrying several corollories and each of those toasted several times.   Truth be told my memory is not that clear.

Our affair ended with the exchange by us of the Canadian flag flown on Meredith across the Atlantic along with some maple syrup and by them of a unique empty container for Ricard and a bottle of what we were assured after great argument by the French, was the best Champagne.   Over our three days in Angra we met and remet our French friends always to good effect.

Damn fine fellows those French. Nice guys.

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