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23 July 2009

Glissant sur la Med

If I have ever been sailing, it was so long ago that any vague recollection of it has long since been erased from my mind. Of course, I've been on boats that have been sailed by other people but never involving me having to actually do anything. Today was my last morning in Cannes and I got up early so that I could go for my run and then meet the parents at Palm Beach for a swim and breakfast before Papa's and my date with our sailing instructor.

Tom was a beach bum who looked as though he spent nine months of the year in the sea or on the beach 24/7. Papa has done a few trips on the little Hobie Cats whenever he's been able to persuade visitors to Cannes (my brother and young cousin, mainly) to join him. I, meanwhile, know nothing. Exhilarating therefore as I found the outing, I felt extremely incompetent throughout. It didn't help that Tom tended to give instructions that only make sense to people who have a vague understanding of how one might get the boat to move in the right direction, such as, "poussez la barre," (yeah, all right, Tom, which bar (Papa eventually clarified that this was what WordReference.com translates as the tiller (possibly))? And in which direction?) and "lachez!" (release what? And how?). I was, naturally, completely confused and so just tried to follow any commands as best as I could.

It was incredibly windy today and I was impressed at how fast the little boat was travelling. At various points, the waves were pretty huge and I had to hold on pretty tightly to avoid falling off (not least because I was gripping Papa's waterproof camera in one hand, which was also threaded through one of the hand holds, and the barre in the other). Eventually, though, I sort of got the hang of it and while I still don't think I understand the principles behind going the way you want to go, I did at least learn the rules for doing this in given situations (I am, at present, an autistic sailor).

I managed to make the damn thing go in a straight line, between two boats that were fairly close together, and even from the Ile Sainte-Marguerite back to Palm Beach in a vaguely direct fashion, no mean feat given that a) my sunglasses were practically opaque from the salt water and b) there were many obstacles such as giant cruise ships and little police boats, fishermen and ice cream boats. I'm sure Tom thinks I was a complete muppet but I had a good time anyway--definitely enough for a repeat performance (preferably after at least one training session en anglais so I can at least attempt to get the vocabulary right)...


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