We’ve been in La Rochelle for approximately six weeks, and the time has finally arrived to set sail. Gene, our friend, and a crew member arrived in La Rochelle yesterday, and the weather will be in our favor for the next few days. We were initially going to leave on Sunday, but after looking at the weather prediction, Clive decided Saturday, March 30th would be the best time to make our crossing. Saturday morning, we rose early and decided to divide and conquer. Clive headed to the Marine supply store to pick up a few items, followed by a local sailor meeting to go over the weather and things to expect. I headed into town to the local La Rochelle market to provision. This was the first time I was attempting to go major shopping on my own, knowing little French.
As I approached the market, I noticed women with their hand-woven baskets with homemade baguettes(( peering through )). I couldn’t help but admire the vibrant array of colors that jumped from each table. One family had the most beautiful-looking strawberries I’ve ever seen. The following table had carrots, potatoes, eggplant, and ripe vine tomatoes. I jumped from the vendor to the vendor, loading my bookbag full of supplies. I bought local herbs and spices, vegetables, fruits, olives, cashews, plenty of bread, and wine to collect onboard. I was so immersed in beautiful food that I forgot all about having to transport it back to the boat. I tried to get a taxi, but my phone wasn’t working. I intended on renting a Yēlo bike, but the first station didn’t have any bikes available. I decided to hump it through town with an overflowing backpack, bottles of wine, and one full bio bag of other food I picked up. I felt the beads of sweat start to form on my lip, and I started looking for a shady spot to stop and rest. I finally made it to the bike station in the center of town on this beautiful Saturday morning. Just imagine a street lined with restaurants along the old Port and people out enjoying themselves. Without grace, I peddled through town without dropping food or breaking any of the wine. I had already decided if the bottom of the bag broke and the wine bottles shattered all over the sidewalk that I would continue peddling.
After grabbing a bite to eat, Baptiste, Fatima, Gene, Clive, and I headed back to the boat. We had yet to bless the boat and thought it was imperative to bless Jelani before we took off across the Bay. Clive elected that I blessed Jelani with a prayer and champagne. We had so many items on our to-do list before we left that I didn’t have time to get nervous. The next thing I know, we were casting off the dock lines and sailing towards the sun. A beautiful sunset greeted us as the day turns to night.
The sunrise was swallowed by the fog, and the chill in the air remained. I was looking forward to being relieved from my shift so I could go inside and warm up. I made it through the first set of night watches! I know this seems insignificant, but I am so proud of myself. I hate to admit this, but when Clive prepared me for my first shift, I didn’t know what to expect, let alone what lights of a distant boat would look like. The whole time on the watch, my head was on a swivel until I spotted my first cargo ship. Ok, now I know what I’m looking for. Gene took over for the next 3 hours, and I slept like a baby until it was my turn to take over at 12:00 pm. Clive hasn’t slept much, so I suggested he take a nap. He climbed up the teak steps to the “sky deck” and positioned himself facing me. As I sit at the helm, I can’t help but look over from time to time. The sun illuminates his red jacket and his soft smiling face as he sleeps. At that moment, I realize by remaining close to me, he’s protecting me like he promised my parents he would. I can’t help but stare at him, and I find myself falling in love with him all over again.
After 24 hours of motoring, we had the opportunity to raise the sails. Clive steered the boat into the wind, Gene was at the mast, and I managed to control the lines. Up went the mainsail, and out went the jib. Now we’re sailing!
We sailed all through the night and into the morning before the winds started shifting and became less favorable. Clive decided to start the motors and lower the sails. Heading into the 3rd night, I brought it to Clive’s attention that our AIS was no longer working. The AIS allows us to see other vessels traveling within our line of sight and helps us to determine whether or not they’re a threat. On the watch, we had to be alert and stay clear of any vessel approaching us. We kept our deck light on to remain highly visible.