‘Oh Nicole’. ‘Ah Papa’.

Ruffian with her new livery.

28th March 2022

Prickly Bay, Grenada – St Annes, Martinique via Tyrell Bay, Carriacou

As a child of the 90’s nothing says France like the cheeky conversations between ‘Nicole’ and her ‘Papa’ before she slips into her Renault Clio and zips off to pick up a baguette or something else typically French. We wanted to see ‘Nicole’, we wanted to revel in the Frenchness of the French Caribbean and with our new sails and company in tow we were off to meet ‘Nicole’ and find out what her ‘Papa’ was so concerned about.

Waving goodbye to Grenada, for our first step towards France, Ruffian was enveloped in new sounds. As sheets were tensioned the new Genoa was unfurled and it crinkled like money fresh out of a printing press. Ruffian felt alive once again, with every gust instead of the sail stretching Ruffian sped up (just a little but) and when Ruffian pointed too high, instead of the sail sounding like a flogging sheet, it cracked and shook bringing Ruffian back on course.

With tension in the sail there was also tension on board. We’d been given a head start by Adam & Cindy on Bravo, a Bolero 52, but we were being chased down by the minute. All their sails were new and they played with every combination while we resolutely stuck with our crinkly new one. Entering Tyrell Bay we called it a draw as our anchor hit the seabed first but they’d decimated our head start.

With a new day dawning Iain was like a kiddie at Christmas with a new boat toy to install that would help us get to see ‘Nicole’ and her ‘Papa. Iain had always wanted a remote control for the autopilot, but could never justify the $500 cost. In Grenada in the depths of a boat jumble, surrounded by broken motors, worn wind vanes and dangerous dive gear he stumbled across one, still in its box, still with its barcode and still with its warranty, but priced as you’d expect from a boat jumble.

Getting his technical head on he pondered the intricacies of SeaTalk, SeaTalkNG, NMEA, data transfer rates and network power degradation. After all this, he simply plugged it into the network, powered it up and woohoo, all those first world problems of having to move 3 feet across the cockpit to change course would be a thing of distant memories.

The weather was starting to look great for a sprint to France (Martinique) but before we could leave, we had the simple task of checking out of Grenada to complete. As the sun was just peeking over the horizon, we found an early bus to zip us across the island to Hillsborough and to the customs office we had visited in 2014.

Walking around town either our memories were fading or the customs office had simply disappeared and as buildings don’t disappear, we sought local advice. With the help of this advice, we discovered that the office had simply moved and was now situated in Tyrell Bay, within sight of Ruffian.

Toasting our stupidity before our long painful romp home, we settled down for a consolidatory coffee in the most picturesque coffee in the world. Under our feet water gently lapped onto a perfect beach, under a clear blue sky where the water was all shades of perfect blue, but we couldn’t loiter as customs was still calling.

As the sun beat down on u, we started the walk home, we scaled hills, crossed graveyards and were overtaken by truck after truck, but never a bus and then something dawned on Fiona. Her bag was missing and was clearly back in the coffee shop, enjoying the view, enjoying the cool and enjoying the trauma it was causing. All those hard-won miles under the searing sun had to be undone.

After many miles on foot and many miles on busses we found ourselves finally checking out at the customs office. Ruffian nestled within spitting distance and we’d turned this simple process into a 7-hour science project.

Now legal allowed to leave we could start our sprint north. The mystical islands of Union, Mayreau, Canouan, Mustique, Bequia, St Vincent and St Lucia all slid by us. Between the islands we thrashed through the seas, played every windshift and worked hard. In the lee of the islands we rested, ghosted along and took respite. This was thrilling sailing but not relaxing and finally we were in France where ‘Nicole’ and her ‘Papa’ resided.

Stepping ashore everything was so French. The formal process of checking in was completed over a beer in a café and as the forms were printed out the customs officer, ahem café owner, seduced us with tender French streak wrapped in homemade artisan bread. As we sat eating our delectable hard won meal* Renault Clios sped by, all driven by potential ‘Nicoles’, clearly on errands that would give ‘Papa’ something to be concerned about.

* The meal was all the more delectable as we were celebrating our 13th Wedding anniversary.

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Author: Iain & Fiona Lewis

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