It’s a Shore Thing

“If you like, I would be happy to introduce you to our cleaning woman. She does a wonderful job.”
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on

Amy Schaefer sails aboard the 57ft yawl, Papillon, with her husband, Erik, and their two young daughters. The family is making the most of cyclone season in New Caledonia

amy-schaefer---san-cristobal%2C-galapagosCROP

“If you like, I would be happy to introduce you to our cleaning woman. She does a wonderful job.”

I’m not sure what I expected when we arrived at the marina to ride out cyclone season in New Caledonia. I had a vague mental image of a halcyon world of daily showers and stepping lightly off our boat any time I wanted a fresh loaf of bread, dispensing with the unwelcome intermediate step of a wave-swept dinghy ride. I had certainly suppressed the memory of Guatemala, site of our last marina adventure, where an enormous rat moved aboard. We’d quickly disposed of the furry stowaway, but the experience still left me with mixed feelings about being tied to land. Our natural habitat is at anchor: the kids can swim, the rules are few and the price is right—our cruising attitude in a nutshell.

Alas, cyclone-force winds and life on the hook are not a good mix. Once again, it didn’t take long for me to realize that things are different in the marina world.

I took a sip of my wine and tried not to make shifty eyes at my hostess. “Thank you, that would be lovely,” I managed, my eyes wandering around their immaculate cockpit. Aside from the netting on the lifelines, there wasn’t a clue that two small children lived here. My boat also sometimes looks like that—for about three minutes. Then someone drops their cake down the grate flooring in the cockpit, or knocks over the orange juice or loses a Lego down the bilge. Not that we on Papillon live in squalor, but our lifestyle is more Erma Bombeck than Martha Stewart.

When we arrived in the marina in New Caledonia, I dusted off my cleanest shorts and T-shirt, and put on my brightest smile. As I walked the dock to share a polite bonjour with our new neighbors, I noticed that all of the women were wearing dresses—unstained dresses that post date the millennium—and the men wore button-down shirts with collars still intact. I began to entertain uncomfortable suspicions that these people own hangers and irons and other exotic clothes-tending items. On my boat, if I can’t wash it in a bucket and pin it to a stray line, it isn’t welcome.

Sartorial differences aside—this is a French territory, after all—I was optimistic. Surely my fellow dock dwellers and I had something in common; we all live aboard, and our pontoon is populated by young families. Aren’t we all comrades in the toy-bilge wars? 

It wasn’t long before a dock neighbor offered to collect our daughter, Audrey, alongside her son on the after-school pickup run. I gratefully accepted.

“And if ever you can’t get the kids,” I said, “I would be happy to walk them home.”

My neighbor chuckled and shook her head, and I mentally reviewed my offer for unintentionally humorous content. (My French remains a work in progress.) But her reaction was plain: Are you kidding me? Walk a pair of healthy five-year-olds the mile from school to the marina when you could drive? Oh, you crazy Canadians!

One morning as I hauled Erik up the mast, I noticed how quiet the marina is during the day. Our perfectly coiffed neighbors depart their boats each morning and return every evening, children in tow, to make their tired way into the galley to cook a meal. (Or warm up something their personal chef prepared; I don’t know anymore.) As I did so finally hit me: our fellow residents aren’t cruisers waiting out the weather; these are genuine grown-ups with paying jobs. Some of them were cruisers once, and most of them tootle around the lagoon on weekends, but we are the only ones itching to start passagemaking again. Everyone else is thinking about pension funds.

As the days went by, my fellow marina dwellers battered me with kindness, and I struggled to not to gape when these pleasant offers came my way. “I have a wonderful babysitter if you need one.” “We have a second car we never use—feel free to borrow it any time!”

A date with my husband? A functioning automobile? Two functioning automobiles? These were luxuries unheard of in our anchoring world.

Then, it happened, one Saturday as I was hanging up my laundry, wondering if I would ever come to understand these stylish people who so successfully straddle land and sea.“Yes! I got it!”someone cried.

Turning to look at the boat next door, I saw our neighbor, resplendent in a sweat-stained T-shirt and shorts, triumphantly brandishing the toilet hoses he had been wrestling with all morning. As he happily drained the contents into a bucket, Erik gave him a cheer, and I smiled to myself. Turns out even under an elegant veneer, we sailors are all the same after all.

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No chafe, safe stay  If you’re leaving the boat unattended for a longish period, there’s a lot to be said for cow-hitching the shorelines, as this sailor did. They’ll never let go, and so long as the ...read more

belize600x

Charter Special: Belize

It would be hard to imagine a more secure spot than the Sunsail base on the outskirts of the beachside community of Placencia, Belize. The entire marina is protected by a robust seawall with a channel scarcely a few boatlengths across. It’s also located far enough up Placencia ...read more

DSC00247

DIY: a Top-to-Bottom Refit

I found my sailing “dream boat” in the spring of 1979 while racing on Lake St. Clair in Michigan. Everyone had heard about the hot new boat in town, and we were anxiously awaiting the appearance of this new Pearson 40. She made it to the starting line just before the race ...read more

01-oysteryachts-regattas-loropiana2016_063

Light-air Sails and How to Handle Them

In the second of a two-part series on light-air sails, Rupert Holmes looks at how today’s furling gear has revolutionized sail handling off the wind. Read part 1 here. It’s easy to look at long-distance racing yachts of 60ft and above with multiple downwind sails set on roller ...read more

HanseCharles

Video Tour: Hanse 348

“It’s a smaller-size Hanse cruiser, but with some big-boat features,” says SAIL’s Cruising Editor, Charles J. Doane. At last fall’s Annapolis Boat Show, Doane had a chance to take a close look at the new Hanse 348. Some of the boat’s highlights include under-deck galleries for ...read more

amalfitown

Charter Destination: Amalfi Coast

Prego! Weeks after returning from our Italian flotilla trip last summer, I was still feeling the relaxed atmosphere of the Amalfi Coast. It’s a Mediterranean paradise, with crystal-clear waters, charming hillside towns and cliffside villages, plenty of delicious food and wine, ...read more

image005

Inside or Outside When Sailing the ICW

Last April, my wife, Marjorie, and I decided to take our Tartan 4100, Meri, north to Maryland from her winter home in Hobe Sound, Florida. This, in turn, meant deciding whether to stay in the “Ditch” for the duration or go offshore part of the way. Although we had both been ...read more

MK1_30542

SailGP: There’s a New Sailing Series in Town

San Francisco was the venue of the biggest come-from-behind victory in the history of the America’s Cup when Oracle Team USA beat Emirates Team New Zealand in 2013, so it seems only fitting that the first American round of Larry Ellison’s new SailGP pro sailing series will be ...read more