French

I've Got No Strings to Hold Me Down

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The amount of chaos inside Swell that had accumulated over the last two weeks of projects in the marina was mindboggling. Wood and metal scraps, half used glues and caulking, bits of wires, dirty rags, random screws, washers, and nuts, broken and assorted drill bits, frayed ends of cut ropes, cans of paint and varnish and thinners, resins and fiberglass, cat food, sandpaper”¦and tools, tools, and more tools… I sifted through assorted piles of them, thinking back to their corresponding project that had eventually been tackled.

It took two full days to rummage through this mayhem. Finally you could see the floor, then you could actually walk through the cabin, but it wasn’t until I pulled the long cushion out of the forepeak and placed it on the bench in the cabin, dressed it with its cover, and laid down upon it below the fan, that it began to feel real. The projects were over! When the tools were put away, we stopped listing to the port. I swept and cleaned the floors, filled the water tanks, scrubbed down the decks, and carried a heap of things that I’d had aboard Swell for 3 years and NEVER used, and set them ashore where people could extract what they wanted. At 4:30 on Sunday afternoon, I unplugged from shore power and quietly cast off my lines, leaving a surprise for the boatyard crew so that they’d find it the next day, after I’d left.

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An Outsider on the Inside: What DOES a Chicken Say?


In the words of my Aussie friend Damien, the French really “pecked the eyes out!” of the world during maritime colonialism.  Doing this grand repair in French Polynesia has given me an excellent excuse to stay on this small jewel of the Pacific. From my view, the Tahitian-French lifestyle is a lovely fairytale of fresh fruit, rainbows, waves, clean and simple living, trade wind breezes, starry nights, friendship, love, and generosity. The ocean is a playground and a life source. There’s no big hurry because everyone is basically where they want to be. “Haere maru, haere papu, the Tahitians say, roughly meaning ‘Go slowly, go surely’. It’s no wonder they make it so difficult for foreigners to stay here; if not, everyone would! Although much of my new vocabulary pertains to boat repairing, my French and Tahitian have drastically improved. I love Monoi oil and red ‘fei’ bananas. Baguettes and raw fish and flowers are daily staples. I know that when the Polynesians lift their eyebrows, it means ‘yes’ and I’m used to the mandatory double-cheek ‘French’ kisses that make getting anything done during the day nearly impossible. When I first arrived, arrivals and exits from social situations were always awkward”¦handshake? Kisses? Slap-bump? Hug?

Now that I understand the custom, they’re just a bit time-consuming. Every time you greet a person or leave a social situation, you must kiss each person on each cheek. Imagine a twelve person dinner party”¦that’s 48 kisses just to get in and out! Handshaking happens strictly between men and hugging simply doesn’t exist!? When I’m on land I am strictly a girl (double kisses), when surfing I can get by with the slap-bump like I’m one of the boys. (There aren’t many other female surfers around, and double kisses on surfboards are wholly impractical and could be dangerous if a set comes! And did you know that French chickens don’t say ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’? An entire lunch conversation at the yard was spent discussing that in English, as far as I know, chickens say ‘cock-a doodle-doo’ while they insisted that chickens here say, ‘coco-rico’. I much enjoyed watching the entire group sound out the letters like on Sesame Street while I scratched ‘cock-a-doodle-doo’ into the old engine box cover that we eat lunch on. They’d never heard such nonsense! (My Italian friends here also confirmed that Italian chickens say, ‘kiki riki’!)

Liz Clark sails solo around the world on her 40-foot sailboat, Swell, in search of people, places and waves. Check out the rest of her posts here.